How To Teach Your Toddler Manners

Mon dieu! I recently visited my own blog and realized I’ve neglected it for OVER TWO YEARS. During my long siesta, good taste has eroded at an astonishing rate. I really have to get back to work before there’s a Kardashian in the White House.

Now, I’m no forensics expert, but it appears my hiatus perfectly coincides with the arrival of this little guy. Meet my angel, Baby J!


Here’s what I’ve gleaned about toddlers and manners thus far:

Set a Gracious Example

Kids learn the rules of engagement by imitating the adults around them. Ask anyone who’s ever read a parenting book. The surest way to raise courteous children is to use impeccable manners yourself.

Greet your Starbucks guy with a warm “good morning” before placing an order. Say “excuse me” when you slide past your seatmate on an airplane. And always use the kind of table manners you’d like to see reflected back. Those short people who share your DNA are taking notes.  

Put It On Repeat

When my son demands milk, I reflexively reply, “Milk please, Mommy” even if it happens 99 times per day. When someone hands him stickers at Trader Joes, I remind him to say thank you. And I try to deploy the old, “How do we ask for that?” before caving in.

Being a parent is kind of like being a GPS. You have to keep repeating yourself in a calm, consistent voice until you reach your destination. (In this case, a milestone called “Children Who Aren’t Rude Little Convicts.”)


Reward Civility

Another classic parenting move that applies to etiquette? Liberal, effusive praise. When my son says, “You’re welcome,” I tell him how much I appreciate hearing his lovely manners. When he follows, “I want to go to the park” with a hasty, “Park, please!” I tell him I couldn’t possibly deny someone who asked so nicely.

This kind of round-the-clock vigilance isn’t easy — especially when you’re busy making sure nobody drinks bleach or burns the house down. When you need a break, read this deliciously funny piece titled, “10 Ways Living With A Toddler Is Like Being In Prison.”

And remember, it will all be worth it when your well-mannered child holds the door for his teacher on the first day of kindergarten. My son recently said, “Thank you for tuck me in” at nap time. I nearly died of pride!

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