Should You Force Etiquette? -- Ask Mrs Manners

forcing manners on children

Photo by lilmama466

The toddler years are the perfect age to start teaching your kids manners and good habits. And MrsManners aka: Angela Pitre, owner of the CM group Manners for the Modern Family and, is here to help.

I want my toddler as polite as possible, but how far should we push them to use manners? For example, I try to make my son say "please" when he wants food or a drink. But I feel like if I hold out too long, it can cause an unnecessary tantrum because he is just learning. At the same time, I don't want him to learn that if he holds his own, mommy will give in. -- chillemi78


MrsManners says:

There is a fine line between emphasis and overkill. That threshold is usually pretty dependent upon the individual child, though, and their current set of circumstances.

Keep in mind they are toddlers and have a naturally short attention span. They are also developing at an almost alarming rate during their toddler years, so as they grow older you can expect a little more from them. In other words, scale the length of your efforts based on their age. They don't have the ability for lengthy instruction till age 6 or so.

Also, consider their mood and situation at the moment. Are they hungry? That might not be the best time to hold out until they say "please" unless you actually like major meltdowns. In these cases, a "three strikes and you're out" rule is better. If they refuse to say "please" after asking three times, gently prod them by saying it for them: "Mom, may I please have a snack?"

So, what's the best approach for teaching manners? Should you rule your manners kingdom with an iron fist? No. Constant nagging will leave a bad taste and rebellious tendencies. Above all, remember my mantra: "Be the person you want your child to become." But you also need to make it a little bit fun. In addition, you need ...

Patience Your toddler will be hit or miss with using their manners for years to come, so it is best to try and be as patient as you can be.

Gentle reminders  These will go a long way.  Some day, when you least expect it, another parent will look at you and say, "Your child is so well mannered!" and it will all feel worth the effort.

Repetition, but not all at once. Pace your teaching and know that by being consistent in your approach and constantly using manners with your toddler, they will at some point fall into using them naturally. 

Best of luck to you in your quest for a well mannered 22 month old. In the coming months I predict you will see some serious payoff for your efforts!



Got a question for MrsManners? Leave it here or PM her, and she'll answer it in a future column ...


Past Ask Mrs Manners columns:

Making Embarrassing Comments

Taking Other Kids' Food

Dealing with Trash Talk

Refusing to Pick Up Toys

Dining Out With Toddlers

Attention, Please!

Spoiling vs. Nurturing

Strangling the Dog

Please Don't Interrupt!

10 Signs Your Toddler Is a Brat

Banish the Burp

Should Kids Be Forced to Share Toys?

Winging the Pacifier

Should Parents Say 'Thank You'?

Toddlers Eating Everything

Throwing-Obsessed Toddlers

Are You a Hypocrite?

Pushy Toddlers

Taming the Messy Eater

How to Have Well Behaved Toddlers

My Son Won't Stop Touching Other Moms' Breasts!

Is Shyness Impolite?

Stop Peer Pressure Early

Read More >