10 Reasons All Children Need Good Manners

You have ignored me, rolled your eyes at me and thrown up your arms in protest as you insist that the world has changed and that manners, etiquette and thank you notes are from a bygone era.  You are young and you are wrong. The way we communicate has transformed and, all the more because of that, gracious behavior, the kind that shows consideration and thoughtfulness towards others is important.

So, put your phones down, close your laptops and for god sake get off snapchat while I offer you a few reminders…

1. Manners suggest gratitude rather than entitlement. The rap on your generation is pretty bad, don’t prove us right. You can still be lazy and undirected, you can live in our basements and forestall adulthood, but if you appear gracious and grateful, much will be forgiven.

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2. Manners are even more important in a world that is neglecting them. Standing out from the crowd is a good thing. Making eye contact, shaking hands, giving proper deference, offering assistance and putting your phone away at the dinner table are still appreciated, if sometimes neglected, habits.

3.  You have seconds to make a good impression. We meet hundreds or thousands of people in our lives though most of those meetings are brief and superficial. A decent haircut, clean face, genuine smile and good manners will all be noticed. Don’t make me remind you to wash your face.

4. Manners still reflect on your family and what your parents and teachers taught you. Don’t make me look bad.

5. Manners may have changed but people haven’t and being appreciated will never, ever go out of style. I have yet to meet a single person of either gender, from any nation, of any age who does not like to be appreciated. You may meet someone who breaks this rule, but until then, remember your manners and thank people.

6. Someday, somewhere you may want something from someone. Manners and proper etiquette are like good will in the bank when you go to make a withdrawal. Wanting something in return is NOT a reason to use good manners, but sometime in life you may need to call on another’s kindness and it will help if you have been polite.

7. A great many adults have done some pretty wonderful things for you. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and teachers have all given of themselves to improve your life. Do not disrespect them by failing to use good manners.

8. In your early childhood you were taught at school to show adults respect, to answer questions either “yes, please” or “no, thank you” and to send handwritten thank-you notes. There is no excuse for forgetting all that your teachers drilled into you.

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9. Manners are even more important in a world where relationships may never involve eye contact. We meet people online or by email every day. They will never see our faces or hear our voices. Our words will need to say who we are; choose them wisely.

10. Manners are something that people will remember about you, even if they don’t remember what they remember. Manners make an impression and while someone may not recall why they thought well of you (or badly, if you have ignored this) it may have been your courtesy. Don’t take a risk, remember what you have been taught.

I have said it a thousand times, I have said it in the face of your pushing back, shouting “I know Mom, stop it.” and I will say it one more time. You can never say thank you too many times.

About the writer

Still licking our wounds from middle school, Mary Dell and Lisa stared into the jaws of high school and did the only thing two moms could - we started a blog.  With two families, five children and 92 years of parenting, we may have learned nothing but that doesn’t stop us from sharing it with you on Grown and FlownFacebookTwitter, The Atlantic, Forbes and the Huffington Post. 

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Joan 7 months ago

Two of our grandsons are living with us – temporarily they say. Both are adults…one swears a lot and uses the “f” word the most. How can I get him to stop? I feel it’s so disrespectful. My husband is no help.

Melissa Harris 7 months ago

I agree 110%!!!!!!!!!!!! Its a big southern tradition for us.

Tammi Coen 7 months ago

“Grace and courtesy” lessons every morning in my Montessori preschool are one of the little ones favorite times.

Jennifer Personius Zipoy 7 months ago

Love this!!!!!

Lori Lette 7 months ago

Perfect!

Allison Helder Hartsfield 7 months ago

Amen!!!

Laura Hohm 7 months ago

PREACH! love this!

Michelle Pulliam 7 months ago

Yes yes yes!!! Amen!

Tobi Speas 7 months ago

I disagree with #8 – teachers did not teach my kids this. My husband and I did.

Also, they hand write thank you notes for all birthday gifts. We bought them personalized stationery.

Jane Hall Greene 7 months ago

Truth!

Heather Painter 7 months ago

I am embarrassed to admit that I am horrible at thank you notes. Of course I thank in person, and/or make a phone call. And if I see the person regularly, I will reference the gift and how I use it, but I am awful about the thank you notes. I did recently buy a package, though,and already stamped a few of the envelopes…so now there is no excuse not to write the damn note!

Felicia Freiberg 7 months ago

Stopped reading at number 1. I wholeheartedly disagree that manners trump being lazy, undirected and unproductive. IMO being a productive member of society is more important than whether you write a thank you note or hold the door.

Alison 7 months ago

I am a 40 year veteran school bus driver. I say good morningto a grand total of about a hundred and thirty kids on two runs.maybe 10 of these children say good morning back.when I reprimand children for standing up or being too loud I always add please at the end.I always thank them when they do what they’re told.At the end of the trip, maybe 25 say thank you. I always say have a great day or night or weekend. Only the same few respond.I am not complaining, I love my job.But it is nice to know that they appreciate the ride.

Teresa Stokes 7 months ago

Your dang right! Same here!

Shauna Wilkinson 7 months ago

My mom always told me-people might forget what you do, forget what you say, but they will never forget the way you make them feel.

Andrea Michelle Parker 7 months ago

Yes ma’am, it is!!!

Taara Datta Donley 7 months ago

I actually agree with you about thank you notes, Lisa. My mother was REALLY into writing thank you notes and made me do it growing up but I think it actually undermines the spirit of giving something sincerely and without expectation. A verbal thank you upon receipt of the gift should suffice. If you expect a thank you note for your gift, then your gift comes with strings attached. I know I’m in the minority on this one, but had to agree with you.

MyLove M. Barnett 7 months ago

I know a bunch of grown-ups who need a refresher on this one: Manners are even more important in a world where relationships may never involve eye contact. We meet people online or by email every day. They will never see our faces or hear our voices. Our words will need to say who we are; choose them wisely.

Linda Lane Walters 7 months ago

Handwritten thank you notes are NEVER out of style or date.

Chris Becker Omerod 7 months ago

I’ve received many compliments over the years as to how polite my two boys are. When they were young I often wondered if people were really talking about my boys.

Lisa Burrows 7 months ago

I’ll make a phone call to my grandma if i can’t see her in person but she’s the only one who can’t work technology lol. I just feel like thank you cards are very stiff and to formal. Most people do them out of obligation vs gratitude.

Molly Grace 7 months ago

That’s so weird! I’ve read articles on people being anti manners or whatever but I’ve never seen that in real life. Huh. My son’s first consistently used word was please lol

April Sumner 7 months ago

I am happy as long as I get some kind of thank you, but if I don’t hear a thing by email, phone, verbal etc than that will probably be the last gift you ever get from me. Because I assume it got lost or you don’t want gifts from me. But there is nothing more pleasant that getting a handwritten thank you note. It makes me feel special so no, its not a waste of paper. Especially for older relatives that don’t do email so that is one of the only ways to contact them

Katie Lazzelle-Baily 7 months ago

What a great article. We need more like these.

Teresa Howick Wilson 7 months ago

I know but ppl do think manners are antiquated. My sister said she doesn’t expect her kids to say thank you. Our parents did a lot in one day so to keep saying thank you is dumb. So I told her that at the end of the day, say thank you. But say it.

April Sumner 7 months ago

agreed. Manners that have gone by the wayside but should not have are handwritten thank you notes, always rsvping yes or no. One should never ignore an invitation. If you say you are coming, then come. Do not be greedy about showers or parties putting strict demands on what kind of gifts are to be given like saying cash only or bring a pack of diapers and a gift. That is rude.

Teresa Howick Wilson 7 months ago

And soooo appreciated

Teresa Howick Wilson 7 months ago

I feel if someone says thank you to face or on phone it’s enough. But I agree, if neither of those can or have been done a note is sweet. And it can be on recycled paper 😉

Teresa Howick Wilson 7 months ago

Lol Ya kids mix up their pleasantries when small. It’s cute though

Teresa Howick Wilson 7 months ago

I seriously think it’s the only thing I do right as a mom. Thank you for complimenting me :)

Amanda Orozco 7 months ago

Its good you say it too. I see so many adults pushing kids to say please and thank you, and forget to do it themselves. 😉

Lou Jean Denton Clampitt 7 months ago

Judging from your beautiful picture I am much older than you – probably your grandparents age. When I was much younger I agreed with you about the thank you notes not being necessary, however, with age, I’ve realized that the giver took their time to think about what I’d like, make a trip to the store, spend their cash on a present and gas just for me. The least I can do is sit down and write a short note of gratitude (whether I liked the present or not).

Elsa Kuhr Rock 7 months ago

Well said!! Worth POSTING, and re-posting. <3 Thank you. <3

Molly Grace 7 months ago

I have never heard anyone say manners and polite words are antiquated or not worth using. I personally agree with a previous poster that thank you cards are a waste of paper, but my children will write them until they are on their own and can make that call for themselves.

Nancy Welker Fortais 7 months ago

I have been teaching a long time- almost 28 years- and I’m happy to say that I see better manners from children now than I did 10-15 years ago. I have children who thank me after a class or a rehearsal, or hold the door for other children in the morning as they walk in. Many parents must be reinforcing politeness and good manners- they do go a
long way!

Judy Jones 7 months ago

Some of the first words we’re teaching my son in sign language are “please” and “thank you”. He has a severe expressive language disorder, but it’s still important to teach him manners!

Helena Kobiela 7 months ago

My girls have been taught to say please and thank you since before they were 2. I swear by thank you notes as well!

Trish Davies 7 months ago

Good manners will take you far! It’s a good quality to have. Manners maketh the man/woman!

Alaina Justice 7 months ago

My kiddo is 11 and it’s always been sir and ma’am to every adult. #4 still holds true to me and my upbringing today. Nothing drives me batty faster than hearing kids say huh or scream what at their parents. A bit of respect never goes out of style

Andrea Michelle Parker 7 months ago

Amen!! My daughters have said yes sir/ma’am and please and thank you since they learned to talk!! They might have gotten it backwards at times, but I would rather them say yes sir when talking to a female than not being respectful at all!

Jennifer McDonald 7 months ago

Even at 2.5 my daughter is starting to remember to use ‘please’ & ‘thank you’ without prompting. It’s so important!!

Cheryl Britton 7 months ago

As for #1 it merely suggests it. I cannot stand an insincere “please” and “thank you.”! It takes a lot more than a please and thank you to have manners as well.

Katy Lear Latta 7 months ago

Yes, please. And thank you. Being good to each other is just. The. Best.

Rachel 7 months ago

Totally agree! I admit that I am guilty of just now sending out thank you notes THIS week for the gifts we received at Christmas. However my mom had already called last week asking if we received the gifts my aunt sent, because she told my mother that “she was wondering if we had received them, since she hadn’t heard back from us”. Happens every year!

Tia Maiolatesi Welsh 7 months ago

In the age of entitlement… Yes. My 3yo now reminds me when I forget ‘thank you’. Mission accomplished.

Christina Chubb 7 months ago

My 11 year old was complimented by a waitress on his manners just the other day. And when he was younger I had another adult tell me thank you for teaching him manners.

Dinene Knighten 7 months ago

Love this!

Alia Huda Mahidin 7 months ago

In this age of cockiness…

Sarah Koebler 7 months ago

I had a Nerf party at my fathers house for ny 11yr old son. One child out of 6 was polite, sincere and grateful. One was completely appalling. There rest were eh. But seriously, my son might suck at home, but he always gets invited back to events/homes, and I have been complimented on his behavior more than once. He’s a pretty genuine kid. Very little ass kickin needed. Lol

Elise Gatti Deegan 7 months ago

I wish I could LOVE this.

Lisa Burrows 7 months ago

I am very big on thank you. I think please is kinda dumb. I use it and so do my kids but i would never require them to. I find thank you notes to be a waste of paper. I’ll say my thank yous in person.

Jessica Bonds 7 months ago

#2…yes.

Krissy Defrancisco 7 months ago

I drill manners into my 4 yr old at every opportunity. Excuse me, thank you, and the like for whatever the situation calls for. He’s getting pretty good at not having to be prompted :)

Tanya Caskey 7 months ago

My kids my not always behave at home, but by God when they go out of this house they do know how to behave and be respectful!!!never had a behavior problem with my kids at school either .

Teresa Howick Wilson 7 months ago

My 3 yr old knows how and says “thank youn”. I think we all can. I’ve drilled it into my kids and i say it too. Everyone likes to feel appreciated. And why not be that person to help boost someone’s day? Some ppl are uncomfortable when I say it but I forge ahead :)

Lauren Cadiz Roberts 7 months ago

Amen.

Sagarika Sahana 10 months ago

Teaching a child good manners has been a subject of debate for long. How the parents can approach has many times been ensured with many tips. Values are always seen changing as per bygone decades and generation gap should also need to be filled with wits and patience. A forceful method of teaching our child the best manner will rather be ruled over by something gradual and sensible approach to them. Tips provided here in are on par. Making our child mannerful achieves him or her great values – nicely explained here; appreciate!

Jake Eagleshield 11 months ago

With all due respect,dear woman,it is easy to show your children respectful behavior and manners when they are three and four years old. It is when they get to school,and fall under the influence of nasty little rug rats,whose parents could not be bothered that is the problem. I was recently at a shopping mall with my ninety-three year old father.when a kid about 12 came tearing down the concourse,and nearly knocked him down. I expected an “Excuse me sir,I am sorry.” Instead I got ‘Yo old dude get the F out of my way,dumb a–. My first impulse was to throttle the little creep,but instead reported him to mall security,something I should have not had to do.

Kat 2 years ago

Yes, yes yes to all of these points!

Allie Smith 2 years ago

So, SO , SO true!

Nina Badzin 2 years ago

LOVED THIS and passed it along on FB and Twitter! Thanks for writing it @GrownandFlown!

lemead 2 years ago

AMEN. AMEN. I make manners a huge priority and often feel like the only one. My children are among the only ones I know who write thank you notes and who default to Mr and Mrs. Routinely I’m made to feel like a weirdo for continuing to feel these are priorities.

tanglelocks 2 years ago

Thankfully my children have nice manners (most of the time, they are still kids). I’m always surprised when people are flabbergasted that my children use them with out being asked. I do prompt quite a bit, but normally they have already beaten me to saying thank you. Even in pre-school, I have had other adults comment about how nice my son is to other children. I am left wondering why common courtesy is fading so quickly. Maybe it’s just me, Mom said my first word was Please. 😉

Sue Shea 2 years ago

keep it up deva! they will appreciate it someday!

Sue Shea 2 years ago

my mom always made my brother and me. i may not get them out in a week anymore but i’m glad my parents instilled manners and good values in us. i don’t have children, but my brother and his wife are doing a great job at teaching my nephew great manners. people seriously remember you and appreciate your good manners.

Sue Shea 2 years ago

i wouldn’t bother if you know they are truly ungrateful. for reals. quit wasting your time, money, and energy. use all those precious resources on yourself or a favorite charity.

Btorris 2 years ago

Oh my goodness…thank you. I am so glad to hear someone else say thing.

Jenelle 2 years ago

I fully agree and we are striving hard to instill this in our children (though they are only 5 and 1), they write what they can and “sign” the cards in whatever way they’re capable.

Soap box time: I REFUSE to engage with people who demand a thank you. The road is a two-way street and if you can’t give a gift for the joy of giving, maybe you shouldn’t be expecting a thank you. Times have changed and as nice (and necessary) as it is to remember our manners, we also need to realize that sometimes others are busy or on a different time-scale than us. If it takes me 3 weeks to get a thank you out (yes sometimes it happens) I don’t want to hear about it before then. Maybe I’m wrong…but I find it extremely rude to be demanding a thank you a week after the exchange.

suz 2 years ago

Every time someone compliments my 3 and 5 year old on their lovely manners, or i hear them use their manners unprompted I am always so thankful for the 1000 times I reminded them to use their manners even if it is so annoying and tiresome prompting them over and over.

Lisa M Smith 2 years ago

Year after year I stress over feeling the need to send Xmas gifts or b-day presents to what there is no other term for but ungrateful relatives. If you say something there is the defensive retort, nobody asked for a gift… Which I suppose should settle it. Makes me just nuts how these kids avoid the “thank-you” concept altogether. If one happens to be in front of them, you might get a whimsy yet faux thanks, but that is it. I applaud all of the commenters who teach their children manners – thank you!!!

Deva 2 years ago

I always make my kids write thank you notes. It’s an exercise in torture because they fight it, but it’s a must in my opinion! Thanks for the list!

Abandoning Pretense 2 years ago

I INSIST on manners from my kids. I make them say all the expected P’s and Q’s, and on top of that I make them say “ma’am” and “sir.” I was advised many times growing up that I shouldn’t care what others think. Now that I’m older I know that is bullsh*t advice. It DOES matter what people think of you, because, as this thoughtful post mentions, you might need something from someone one day. And if everyone thinks you’re a callous, aloof douche-wad, no one’s gonna want to do jack-squat for you.

Linda Wolff 2 years ago

Great list! I’m a big fan of the hand wrtiten thank you note. My kids look at me like I’m from another planet.

Monica 2 years ago

could not agree more.

Charisse Oates 2 years ago

AMEN! I Love it. We teach our daughter manners and make her send thank you notes and sign cards, herself. Right now most of her thank you cards are template cards but she is only 8. And while it is NOT fun to write them….we know that it IS fun to get them and it IS nice for the giver to know that you appreciate the things you received.

ccassara 2 years ago

Yes, start them young because you’re right, manners are disappearing today! I love a well-mannered child, to get a handwritten thank you from a kid, to be treated with respect. It’s lovely.
Carol
http://www.carolcassara.com

Susan Bonifant 2 years ago

I liked every succinct, no-nonsense item on your list. But above all, I like your point that manners are on par with class. An appreciative, gracious nature makes a person hard to forget and it’s far less expensive than other things people do to be memorable. What a great piece.