Teaching Toddlers Manners

Teaching Toddlers Manners

I spend a good part of each day thinking about how to raise the little people in my life.  I want them to be good citizens.  I want them to treat others with respect, to be kind to others, to have empathy, and on and on the list goes.  I know that NOW is the time to teach them or to train them, if you will.  Now.  Not tomorrow or next year.  Day in and day out they are picking up on the things I say and do and are adding that to their repertoire.  They may carry some of those things with them the rest of their lives.  Oh, how I long for those to be good things!

I am the farthest thing from being the end all, be all parent.  I don’t have it all together and I don’t want to pretend to.  I’m not an extraordinary parent who knows all the right things to say at the right time but I am parent who cares.  Cares immensely.  Here is a list of things that I’m currently trying to teach my three year old toddler.

What I’m Trying to Teach:

  1. To say “please,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” “God bless you,” and other niceties.  So far she’s doing pretty good at all of these except for when someone compliments her dress or hair and then she’ll just say “I know.”  Sometimes she’ll correct herself though so I know she’s making progress. : )
  2. To speak politely.  Example: “Mommy, may I have more water please?” instead of “I want more water.”
  3. To have basic table manners.  Chewing with her mouth closed, not playing with her food, using a napkin, etc.
  4. To “play nice” with others.  Learning to take turns and put others before herself.  Adults still have trouble with this, don’t we?
  5. To not interrupt an adult when they are talking.  She has a ways to go on this one.  A friend of mine has her daughter touch her arm to let her know that she wants to talk to her and will keep her hand there until her mom is finished talking with a friend and turns to talk to her.  I think this is a great idea!  I’m excited to try and put it into practice with my kids.
  6. To make eye contact when talking and to practice good listening skills.  Good listening skills are critical for learning and social interaction.
  7. To say “excuse me” when she needs to get past someone.
  8. To say “I’m sorry” AND mean it.  Not only “I’m sorry” but also “Will you forgive me?”
  9. To say “Hello” and “Goodbye” at appropriate times.
  10. To try and cheer someone up when they are sad.  A hug and a kiss is sometimes all it takes at this age. She does this one wonderfully…too much so sometimes.  She knows that it makes Daddy sad when she does something she’s not supposed to do and she’ll try to kiss her way around a punishment.  She thinks that her kisses will make Daddy happy and he’ll forget about her punishment. I gotta give her credit for trying!
  11. To address adults as “sir” and “ma’am.”  I’d like to be totally old school and have my kids address adults as Mr.Milton instead of Joseph or Mr.Joseph but that’s proving challenging since that’s not what my daughter watches us say.  Which is just another reminder to me that manners are caught rather than taught.
  12. To wait till everyone is served before eating and to ask “may I be excused” after they’re finished eating.  We still make our daughter sit with us until we’re finished so we have one less toy mess to clean up after we clean up dinner.
  13. To clean up after herself.  Toys, dirty clothes, tissues, books, etc.  Everything has a place and if they pulled it out I want (my enormous goal!) is for them to put it back.
  14. To cover her face when they cough or sneeze.

How I’m Trying to Teach Them:

Learning manners

1.)  Kids emulate what they see.  I want to do my best to allow them to see good manners as often as possible.

Don't Allow Your Mood to Dictate Your Manners

I want to practice good manners even when, no, especially when I don’t feel like it.  Don’t allow your mood to dictate your manners.

2.) Kindly remind them of what they need to be doing and why before hand.  I’m trying to remind my daughter what the Bible says about kindness, obedience, etc.  She has memorized verses about kindness but going over them in the car as we’re on the way to a friend’s house for a play date will help remind her to be kind.  Will it always work?  Certainly not but I’ve found it to help.

3.)  Kindly correct wrong behavior.  Sometimes asking what’s the correct way to chew will do wonders for my daughter’s table manners.  A soft tone and a hand on the shoulder doesn’t hurt in these circumstances.

4.)  I want my kids to understand what they’re feeling and be able to talk about it.  Closely related to that, I want them to observe how others are feeling.  If my daughter sees a friend fall down I want her to go over and ask her if she’s alright.  I feel that raising and developing a sensitive child who cares about others will do more good than a hundred etiquette classes.  Manners and caring about others is far more important than etiquette…in my book anyway.

5.)  I try to acknowledge my child in all surroundings.  When I’m with my friends, when we’re in a social gathering with many adults, at church, anywhere!  I want my daughter, and one day my son, to know that I’m still there for them and that they are part of the action.  I’ll stay physically close to them and occasionally make eye contact and smile.

6.)  I try to make eye contact with my daughter when she’s talking to me.  As a multi-tasking mom it’s not always easy but I want to make sure she knows that she is important to me…even when she’s just rambling on about a dream her stuffed animal had.  If it’s important to her, I want her to know that I’m listening.  I also want that same respect back.  Sometimes I’ll say, “I can’t hear you if you’re not looking at me.”  That’s not true and probably confuses the dear child but she’ll look at me and continue with her request.  {I also do the same thing with a whiny request.  I hate whining.}

7.)  Praise good manners!  I won’t always give in to a request but if it comes from a polite smiling child I’m a whole lot more likely to.  Even if I don’t give in it’s a great time for me to acknowledge their good manners.

I’m sure I’ve left off a dozen or so manners I would like to include on my list and one or two ways I’m trying to teach manners but  I think this is a good list to start with.  What are the manners you’re trying to teach your children or what ways have you found to be successful in teaching them?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

About Ashley

Ashley is very happily married and the mother to a beautiful little girl and handsome little boy. She is the main voice behind Embracing Homemaking.


  1. These are such wonderful ideas! I’m in the process of teaching my toddler good manners, too.

  2. I love that Fred Astaire quote. I think teaching kids manners is key to changing the world. I love your tips.

  3. These are great reminders! Sometimes it’s difficult to help lil ones understand the importance, but as long as we are displaying them, they should pick up on those cues.

  4. Seriously! I love this! I wish more parents would teach their kids manners. We work so hard to teach our kids good manners and to be polite but I see so many kids that lack these basic life skills.

  5. It’s not just toddlers who need these reminders! Teens and tweens do, too! Great advice!

  6. Very true, this is not just for toddlers. Wonderful advice. Thank you!

  7. I cannot tell you how passionate I am about this topic! Kids really need to SEE good examples to learn manners well.

  8. All good lessons! I try to have my kids say what they are apologizing for and look someone in the eye, to encourage meaningful and sincere apologies.

  9. I think more parents need to do this! Teaching manners is becoming a thing of the past as kids are getting more out of control and parents don’t say no. Kids need to learn respect and display their best manners.

  10. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says

    Those are all great ideas. It’s definitley challenging sometimes, but I always say that practice makes perfect.

  11. We are big on please and thank you here.

  12. Teaching your kids manners at an early age is so important.

  13. Yes. Love this post. I agree. Teaching manners at a young age is KEY!

  14. We still struggle with the interrupting! Unfortunately I sometimes give in and address his concern before continuing talking to the other person and I know that isnt helping the problem any.

  15. I am huge on manners. Before my kids could even talk I was teaching them manners. I do not accept anything less.

  16. Manners are so important, yet many parents fail to even remotely teach their children any! Great tips!

  17. This blog post is really a full hour parenting class! Thanks for this, even though my son is 11. I do have to say that sometimes these lessons kick in when you least expect it, these days my son can be very polite with strangers and I stand there in disbelief! Quite funny I am!

  18. We tried really hard when kiddo was younger to teach her manners. For the most part she’s a really good kid. Until she goes to grammies, then that rudeness and sassy pants comes out. It makes me sad. One shouldn’t disrespect their elders, especially one that does so much for you.

  19. I totally agree with teaching our little one manners at an early age. Lots of older kids sound so rude to me compared to kids when I was in school. Thank you for posting.

  20. I was raised with all of these manners and rules and am teaching them to my children now. I think manners and being considerate are very important.

  21. I feel like not enough people teach their kids manners these days. Too few people even have good manners themselves! It’s great that you are trying to set a good example for your kids to follow.

  22. My mother made sure to instill pretty much everything you wrote into me growing up. Manners are important. When you have good manners everyone around you just feels better.

  23. It’s so important to teach manners at an early age. I am always so surprised to see how some children have a complete lack of manners.

  24. These are such great tips. My twins are 18 months and I feel like it’s going to be hard when they are toddlers!

  25. Starting the work on building good manners early is so important! We did so with our girls, and we get MANY compliments on how well behaved they are. Great tips!!

  26. I find that manners are lacking in kids more and more each . Our culture just doesn’t see this as a priority

  27. It warms my heart to see good manners being taught these days. It unfortunately seems to be a dying art!

  28. I try my best to use words like please and thank you with my children and I like to compliment them when I see them showing kindness. GReat ideas for working with toddlers.

  29. Ole Fred was a smart cookie, huh? I love that quote!
    Kids learn what they see. Really great tips!

  30. My almost 3 yr old made me so proud yesterday checking out at the grocery store. He had a great manners which charmed everyone.

  31. Those are great tips! It’s an important reminder to parents to lead by example.

  32. Kids learn what they see much more than what they are told. I want my boys to be kind.

  33. You are so right that kids emulate what the see. It’s best for parents to teach by example. Thanks for the great tips!

  34. Beautifully written post and quotes. I’m in the beginning stages of this with my young toddler and I have to keep reminding myself that he doesn’t get it yet, but with time he will. Thank you for such an informative post.

  35. That is definitely a great list of manners to teach your children. My daughter is already great at saying please and thank you. I love it.

  36. Wow, that’s a long time ago if Fred Astaire said it. It’s true though, it’s hard to learn what you cannot see being practiced.

  37. We were at a park earlier this month. My 21 month old couldn’t get past a grandpa on the play steps. he looked up and him and said “Excuse me”. The man looked up at me and said “Did he just say excuse me? Well done mom!” Manners are so important! My boys know them from the get go with signing.

  38. I love it! It’s never too early to start!

  39. I’m still working on this with 5 year old. Her school tells me she’s one of the most polite in her class, so it must be going well! Lol. I like the hand on the arm idea. I taught her to say excuse me if it’s an emergency, but our definitions of emergency differ a lot!

  40. When you list it all out like that, there’s really a lot we do on a daily basis to have good manners. I can see why it all takes time to learn!

  41. i have a two year old so this is right on target for me. He already has such a personality!

  42. This is such a great post. There is no perfect parent – we can only do our best. I definitely agree that kids need to see the parents with manners as well.

  43. Great ideas here. My oldest teaches his baby sister her manners. Well, he re-enforces them anyway. It really is sweet.

  44. It’s so good to teach them as early as possible. My girl says please and thank you by 2nd nature now and I love it!

  45. Such good tips! I think teaching by example is a huge one. If kids see you interacting kindly, saying please and thank you, etc, they tend to follow suit!

  46. Great post! I always made my kids say Mr., Mrs. or Ms. when speaking to an adult, even if they use the first name. (Mr. Mike) – I just think it’s more polite. And I like the idea of saying, “I’m sorry” along with, “will you forgive me” – that’s a great idea.

  47. This is a great post! I am trying to set a good example with my 19 month old. She is such a sweet child and really tries to be kind and inclusive as well.
    Do you mind sharing some Bible verses you are using that relate to manners? Ones that your toddler has related to?

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