Manners Article

Homelife Magazine


Headline/deck suggestions

Respectfully Yours: Giving Your Kids the Gift of Good Manners

Teaching Kids Manners: Fun Ways to Sharpen Social Skills

Mind Your Manners: Teaching Kids Respect the Fun Way


Is there anything better than hearing someone praise your child for acting politely in public? A multitude of sins are forgotten when a kind-hearted observer turns to your little one and exclaims, “What nice manners!”

All parents experience moments when cultivating well-behaved, respectful children seems an impossible dream. Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries in Richardson, TX, says, “We seem to be living in the midst of an epidemic of rudeness,” but don’t lose hope! Romans 12:21 tells us, “Don not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Training your child to be others-centered instead of me-centered is a lifelong, infinitely rewarding endeavor. Someone has to accept the responsibility of being the ever-present instructor of this generation of children, and as a Christian parent - you’re it! What a privilege!

Follow these simple tips, and you’ll be on your way to shopping trips full of approving smiles, encouraging nods and compliments on your child’s admirable behavior.  


Teaching Common Courtesies: the beginning is a good place to start

Dr. James Dobson suggests the best way to teach good manners is to model the kind of behavior you’re striving for. Start early by emphasizing the “magic word” when your child asks for more juice or reaches for a toy. In your sweetest voice coach her to say, “Please” any time she asks for a snack followed by, “Thank you,” when she gets it. Repetition will work wonders, so continue to say these pleasantries in your home until they come automatically. When you leave the table, sneeze, cough, or bump into someone, say, “Excuse me.” Your children will absorb your positive behavior into their own. For more practical instructions for modeling positive behavior, check out the Focus on the Family website at


Working from the inside out: cultivating good manners in your home

            Children who come from solid, loving homes thrive in every area of life. Statistics prove that children who regularly eat meals with their families have higher test scores in school, and it makes sense. When parents take time to sit and talk to their children, they’re cultivating a loving, supportive environment, an essential foundation for teaching considerate behavior and admirable manners. Donna Jones, author of Taming Your Family Zoo: Six Weeks to Raising a Well-Mannered Child, points out, “Homes in which manners are practiced as part of everyday behavior are less stressful and more harmonious…good manners should be the goal of every family.” (15) She also offers a few practical tips for making your home a place where manners come naturally:

Require siblings to ask before using a brother or sister’s personal item.

Require older kids and teens to knock before entering a sibling’s room.

Have your child replace, repair, or pay for any item she damages.

Have your child clean up his own messes

Give your child the responsibility of household chores, like taking care of his own room.


Dealing with Grown-ups: simple expressions of respect

Manners expert Donna Jones also addresses the problem of children who act shy around adults and either avoid eye contact and verbal communication all together or respond inappropriately to adult attention. She says, “It is very important for children to learn to greet adults when being introduced…The best course of action is to practice at home, especially immediately before your child will be in a situation where he is likely to meet others.” (190) Jones also points out that adults should always be addressed as Mr., Mrs., or Ms., followed by either their first or last name. (90)

The preference of first or last name varies from region to region and depends on the type of relationship the adult has to your family. The school principal, for instance, probably won’t appreciate being called Mr. Joe, but a long-time family friend may prefer it. Although equally valuable, children are not on the same level as adults. Teaching children to know their place is one way to maintain social order.

When a child is introduced to an adult, it’s appropriate for them to stand, and they should always respond when addressed instead of looking down, shrugging their shoulders or simply not speaking. Children shouldn’t interrupt adult conversations unless it’s absolutely necessary, in which case they should preface their plea with, “Excuse me, Mom.” Your child’s definition of “necessary” may differ from yours, but the point is that the child recognizes the importance of waiting his turn. (91)


Introducing...Polite Conversation Starters

            Inspirational speaker Zig Ziglar recommends Judi Johnston Vankevich as a positive role model for teaching proper behavior and civility to children. Judi is internationally known as The Manners Lady and has been featured on CBS This Morning, Canada AM, The Boston Globe, The Toronto Star and Focus on the Family. She makes teaching introductions easy by narrowing the task to five easy steps kids can count on their fingers: 

1. Look directly into the person’s eyes.

2.  Smile and be friendly. 

3. Shake hands firmly with your right hand – not like a dead fish.

4.  Say, “Hi! It’s nice to meet you,” or “Hi! My name is ____________.”

5.  Enjoy good conversation!



The Teen Years: Dare to Rear a Gentleman   

Joe White, author of “What Kids Wish Parents Knew about Parenting, describes teenagers as, “a lifetime of possibilities wrapped up in hormones and acne.” (170) With all the confusing signals our culture sends teens about sexual roles, they need instructions about dating. June Hines Moore, author of You Can Raise a Well-Mannered Child, encourages boys to graciously assume the lead and to put forth an effort to treat their dates like ladies. Among her many publications, Moore has written a workbook and teacher handbook entitled, Manners Made Easy, a practical guide to help children understand the deeper reasons behind practicing good manners.

Teach your son that exercising proper etiquette around the opposite sex is a crucial step in becoming a considerate, respectful human being. Let him open the door for you. Call his attention to elderly women, pregnant women and mothers of small children. He can make a difference in their day by carrying part of their load, helping them cross the street, or picking up a dropped item. Train him to pay attention to the needs of people around him, and his sincere efforts will be recognized, praised and appreciated.


Sidebar 1

Setting the Table

One of the best ways to teach your children table manners is to practice them yourself. Sharing a meal together as a family is statistically proven to benefit children socially, psychologically and academically.

Basic place setting (the kind used at family dinners or casual meals)

The knife and spoon are placed on the right side, while the fork is placed on the left. The knife is placed on the inside next to the plate, blade facing in. The glass is placed on the right side above the knife and spoon, since most people are right-handed. The napkin is placed on the left either beside or under the fork.

Informal place setting


The dinner plate is placed in the middle with forks and napkin on the left; knives, spoons, goblets, and glasses on the right. Except for the dinner plate, all plates are located to the left of the diner.

The salad plate is placed to the left of the forks.

The bread and butter plate is placed above the forks, with the butter knife atop the plate, blade facing down. 

Goblets and Glasses

The water goblet and wine glasses are placed on the right above the knives, with the water goblet slightly behind the wine glass or glasses.

Forks, spoons and knives

If no appetizer course is to be served, the salad fork is placed on the far left. The dinner fork is placed next to the salad fork. Finally, a dessert fork may be placed on the left next to the plate, although more commonly it is placed above the plate, with the handle pointing left and the tines pointing right.

The soup spoon is placed on the far right of the dinner plate. Next, closer to the plate, is the dinner spoon. The dessert spoon is placed above the plate, with the handle facing right and the “bowl” of the spoon facing left toward the forks.

Knives are placed next to the plate, always blade facing in.


Napkins at informal dinners are usually found under or to the left of the forks, but they may also be decoratively folded in the center of the dinner plate or even in a goblet.

Sidebar 2

With Christmas right around the corner, it’s a good time to consider rules of conduct for gift giving and receiving. June Hines Moore stresses the importance of writing thank you notes to teach children gratefulness. Here are a few tips for making the task enjoyable!

Be prepared for the big even with paper and pencil. Record who gives what so that you’ll have an easy list to work from when you write the thank-you notes.

Offer your child a variety of materials to make writing notes more fun, like colorful stationery, stickers, markers and stamps.

Don’t make it feel like homework! Allow them to watch TV or listen to the radio while working. If they have to write more than ten cards, let them spread the task out over several days.


Sidebar 3

Nine Table Manners Children Can Learn

Never reach for any food that is not right in front of you. Ask someone to pass it. And if you are passing something, don't help yourself along the way.

If your food is too hot, wait for it to cool. Don't blow on it.

If you put something in your mouth that's too hot, don't spit it out. Reach for your water and take a quick swallow.

Don't talk with your mouth full.

Bring your food up to your mouth rather than bending over to reach it.

Don't pick up your silverware if you drop it on the floor. Ask the waiter to replace it for you.

Don't put packages or handbags on the table.

Don't comb your hair at the table.

Don't use a toothpick in public.

Sidebar 4

Judi Johnston Vankevich, also known as The Manners Lady, encourages kids to bring joy to others by treating them with kindness and respect. Children can join the Manners Club, attend live Manners Lady performances and participate in great learning activities by visiting her website at


Anderson, Kerby. “Civility,” Probe Ministries. Focus on the Family Ministry.  Copyright 2005. Article title: Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten: How Can I Help Him Manage His Own Behavior?”

 Jones, Donna. Taming Your Family Zoo: Six Weeks to Raising a Well-Mannered Child. Grand Rapids: Revell, 2005.

Moore, June Hines. You Can Raise a Well-Mannered Child. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996.

White, Joe. What Kids Wish Parents Knew about Parenting. Monroe: Howard Publishing, 1998.

People interviewed:

Donna Jones –June Hines Moore

Nancy Bell