“I want orange juice!”
“Yuck! I don’t want carrots!”
“You’re in my way!”
If these no-manners words and phrases are coming from your kid, you’re not alone. You might be wondering how your child can sound so rude at such a young age. But is it really your child who is saying these words or is it the manners (or lack thereof) that they are picking up from others?
Manners play a very important role in our lives. Teaching manners to our children at an early age is essential as they can make or break relationships. Small gestures such as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ or ‘no, thank you’ go a long way, as does learning not to interrupt. Developing these habits in kids early on sets them up for success and gives parents a few less headaches, too!
Don’t forget to build self-worth with books like I Am Good in My Heart while you’re encouraging good manners!
In the classic book and best seller Manners Can Be Fun by author Munro Leaf, children are introduced to proper etiquette and manners. Even today, many parents find it useful. However, as this book was originally published in 1936, you can imagine how dated many of the concepts are. The stick-figure type illustrations in the book can be hard for children to relate to into today’s digital world. And not many kids are saying, “How do you do?” and taking off their hat unless they are trying to be funny. This Munro Leaf classic may be a good place to get started, but most parents will need more than books – we need new ideas for today.
Currently, we are dealing with a manners issue related to receiving a compliment. When someone tells Will he does something well, he responds, “I know.” It may be funny and cute coming from a confident 7-year-old, but not so endearing when it’s a 27-year-old who doesn’t know how to simply say, “Thank you!” Because habits ingrained in childhood are often hard to break as we get older, it’s important to keep kids on the right track when it comes to manners no matter how adorable (or not) their words or behavior may be as little ones.
Good manners open doors and add opportunities to our lives. Teaching your child manners will pay off greatly as they grow older, and it can even be a lot of fun as well!
But, like in Munro Leaf’s book, sometimes manners are taught in an old-fashioned way that makes it hard for kids to remember. Rather than making children remember the countless rules of politeness, it may be better to take a fun and interactive approach. If you can’t think of any ways that teaching manners can be fun, don’t worry. We have some ideas for you!
7 Ways Learning Manners Can Be Fun
Interactive manners sessions can be a challenge, especially when you are busy with other aspects of your life. As parents, we have a lot on our plates – a schedule filled with details that Munro Leaf couldn’t have imagined when his book was published in 1936. After a night of interrupted sleep and a busy day at work, it can be tempting to let bad manners slide because we are simply exhausted.
But what if, as Munro Leaf tells us, teaching manners can be fun? What if it could fit smoothly into your daily routine? Here are seven ideas to try with your children and see which ones are best and most effective for your family.
Reward your child for exhibiting good behavior
After you’ve gone over the right behavior for a given situation (saying please and thank you, excuse me, not interrupting, etc.) reward your children when they remember to use those good manners throughout the day. You might let your kid pick an item from a mystery surprise box or stay a little longer at the park. You can also create a rewards chart where using those good manners adds up to a big reward. Manners can be fun when kids see that even greater things will come when they remember to use them.
However, it is essential that the reward be specific to good manners and not just given out randomly. Come up with something new or an item they really enjoy and reserve that treat for proper behavior only.
Encourage group participation
If you, as a parent, don’t think that teaching manners can be fun, try doing so in a group. This is a little bit more formal and intentional, but when taught in a group, it may be easier for your child to participate and learn in a new and different way. For instance, you can try interactive storytelling. Here, your children will get a chance to tell their own stories about specific situations where exhibiting good manners were helpful to them. With live discussions and interactive participation, your child can also improve his or her speaking and listening skills.
You can also plan these events with another parent in case you are short on ideas. For example, you might plan a proper tea party with real drinks and snacks, making a big show out of using good manners and proper table etiquette. You may end up agreeing with Munro Leaf – manners can be fun (and delicious, too)!
Model proper social skills
The manners that your child learns best will be modeled after what they see from you. When the right skills are taught and exhibited by parents, children tend to follow that behavior unconsciously. While at home, be conscious of using proper manners yourself so that your child can follow the same behavior when in public. In addition, when your child exhibits good manners, make sure to give them a compliment and praise them, offering a boost of immediate feedback. Everyone loves encouragement and it helps them see how manners can be fun! Munro Leaf would be proud.
Share stories showing how good manners help
Storytelling is an easy way to teach good manners and behaviors to your child. Start by sharing stories of famous people who have displayed bad manners. For example, celebrities who were rude on the red carpet or politicians who used foul words during a debate that backfired and led to embarrassment. Let your child know that not following proper manners does have consequences, even for grown-ups.
In addition, you can also share tales from your own childhood where either you or someone you know missed out on an opportunity due to bad manners. Just make sure that the story is short and exciting enough to capture your child’s imagination. Teaching manners can be fun when you have a list of amazing short stories, books, and other resources that can be used to teach your child.
It’s also important to show your children how good manners can help make life easier when it comes to developing friendships. In my book I Am a Good Friend , your child can learn about how using thoughtful and caring behaviors toward their playmates helps everyone have more fun! It has been observed that children who know how to behave appropriately have stronger friendships and are well-liked by their peers. And we all want to see our sweet babies having a rich life filled with healthy relationships!
And lastly, you still may want to invest in Munro Leaf’s classic book. Different approaches resonate with different kids, and who knows. Maybe your little one is a classic book lover and would love a book published in the 1930’s! You may be able to find this book at your local library, but you’ll have a better chance on Amazon which carries both the 2004 edition hardcover and paperback versions. If you don’t like the price of a new book (I get it) you can see if you can pick up a used copy of the Munro Leaf book at the online book seller Thriftbooks.com. As an author, you know I love books! Thriftbooks is my favorite used book seller and I find all kinds of great bargains there, including a new item or two from time to time! I also like spending money with a small business instead of always going to a big box seller for books.
Watch interactive manners videos with your child
Especially if books like Munro Leaf’s classic best seller isn’t vibing with your kiddo, watching entertaining interactive videos with your child is another way in which learning manners can be fun. For instance, you can watch Sesame Street’s manners video series which features Grover. In each episode, Grover details a different polite behavior such as sharing, apologizing or being courteous . These videos are not only enjoyable for children to see, but they also teach important social skills in a way that is easy to understand.
You can also see if this classic take on table manners resonates with your kids. It will definitely tickle their funny bones and show them that yes, learning manners can be fun! Then you can conveniently reference back to the details of the video when your child forgets in order to remind them of what good manners look like.
In addition, as you come across them you can also share videos that showcase celebrities or sports figures that your child is familiar with who have excellent manners. Ask your children if they can see how that behavior helps this person have better relationships with others or what might have happened if they hadn’t used good manners. Details matter!
Consistency, while maybe not fun, plays a significant role in any kind of training. Children learn better when they are taught something on a daily basis. Repetition, staying consistent, and incorporating fun ways to teach manners during normal life will often deliver better results than formal lessons. Also keep in mind that while teaching manners can be fun, too much of something can have the opposite effect. If it starts to feel like you’re constantly correcting your child or they are becoming frustrated or bogged down by the details, take a break and change direction for a while. Read a book about something else or play a game. Just remember not to drop your own polite behavior – the more you pay attention to the details and use good manners yourself the more children will pick up on them and add them to their daily routine.
Hire an expert, if required
If a child isn’t responding to the above techniques, the behavioral problems may be a sign of deeper issues and they could benefit from seeing a child behaviorist. A professional will be able to get into the details, evaluate your child, and give you advice that can help them work through these problems.
The good news is that most children with behavioral problems are not defiant or intentionally mean-spirited. They simply need some direction on how to handle situations in a new way. Behavioral specialists might suggest starting with the basics of manners training for your child, such as how to apologize when required, share toys and books with peers, and other easy skills that can be taught through fun games.
Teaching manners in a fun way: Can this approach actually work?
Munro Leaf couldn’t have dreamed of the world we live in today. His best seller went a long way for many years in imparting lessons in polite behavior to children, and we are thankful for these classics! But as we navigate the waters of the 21st century, we experience new challenges that must be met where and when we live.
Instilling manners in children can be a complex and lengthy process (ask any parent with teenagers). While some parents feel it is fully their responsibility, others think that manners should also be taught through preschool and elementary school teachers. However, the most critical stakeholders in this effort are ourselves as the parents. At the end of the day, we are the ones who have to live with (and sometimes pay the price for) our kids’ behavior.
Yes, manners can be fun if taught interactively to children. If you take the right attitude, rewarding them, encouraging group participation, or reading stories and books as to how good manners help, it will definitely help your children learn manners more effectively. If you focus on certain basics like please and thank you, saying excuse me, holding open doors for others, and sharing toys, there is a good chance your child will learn them and these good habits will stick with them into adulthood. Let’s carry on the tradition of books like Munro Leaf’s classic and see if we can make manners fun again.
For books that demonstrate the impact of good behavior, build confidence and promote healthy values, check out the full line of Author Belle Green books here.
Need a new item or two in your toolbelt? Don’t we all! Here are some books from authors a little more current than Munro Leaf to possibly add to your home collection. Find these in paperback or hardcover on Amazon or another online seller, or at a brick-and-mortar book seller near you For an even better price, check out a secondhand book seller like Thriftbooks.com! I’ve included the books’ ISBN numbers so you can make sure you’re getting the right item.
ISBN -10: 1641520957
ISBN -13: 978-1641520959
With all those five-star reviews and published in 2018, this book is worth a look for kids in the 7 to 12 range. The author goes beyond please and thank you and offers quizzes, examples, and practice exercise you can add to your routine. While not published in a hardcover edition, you can choose between paperback, spiral bound, or e-book. The Kindle edition is free if you have Kindle Unlimited, which means the price is right – that makes it an easy item to add to your virtual cart!
ISBN -10: 1575422336
ISBN -13: 978-1575422336
This book in the Laugh and Learn books series takes a lighthearted approach to the serious subject of social tact. Teach kids age 6 to 11 power words and e-tiquette details (polite behavior for the online world). Find it in e-book or paperback edition – sorry, no hardcover edition at this time! Because it was originally published in 2007, I’d love to see the author add some value here and come out with a new, updated edition for this book. Check the current item price.
What Should Danny Do? (The Power to Choose Series) Hardcover edition.
ISBN -10: 069284838X
ISBN -13: 978-0692848388
This choose-your-own adventure style book isn’t exactly about manners, but it does give kids a solid and engaging grounding in the power of their choices. For ages 4 to 7, this book helps kids see the impact of what they do and can aid in teaching them the importance of manners in a fun and relatable way. Published in 2017 and with nearly 22,000 reviews, this book by author Adir Levy is tried and true. It looks like this book is only offered in a hardcover edition, and you can see today’s price for this item here.