Last Updated on April 21, 2020 by Kinacle.

Teaching Manners To Your Toddler - Tips That Actually WorkLet’s be realistic – you’re never going to be able to get your toddler to fully understand and practice certain manners. For example, getting them to chew with their mouth closed just isn’t going to happen! However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things your toddler is ready and willing to learn.

First and foremost, it’s important to focus on teaching your toddler the idea of manners, rather than the manners themselves. They already have a general idea of what manners are, but if you can expand on what they already know, they’ll find it much easier to practice manners when they’re old enough.

So, here, we’ll focus on the best ways to teach the idea of manners to your toddler. Remember, as with everything you try to teach a toddler -patience and persistence are going to be needed!

Don’t Overwhelm Them

There’s a lot of manners you’ll want to try and teach your toddler, but it’s important to focus on one thing at a time. If you try and teach them too many manners at once, they’ll end up feeling overwhelmed. It’s simply not possible for them to remember everything you try to teach them, so be sure to stick to one manner lesson at a time.

Start with the basics such as saying “please” and “thank you”. Even if your toddler can’t talk yet, you can still teach them basic manners via sign language. Now, you don’t need to go out and learn sign language; instead you can just make up your own sign. That way, they’ll be able to start using the sign once they’ve grasped it, before they can use the words.

Other basic manners include politely greeting and saying goodbye to guests. This one may take some getting used to; especially when they’re going through a shy phase. It’s also not going to be a consistent thing! Some days your toddler will politely say hello, while others they may flat-out refuse to say it. However, if you can just focus on getting them to understand greetings, you can eventually start to expand into the “nice to meet you” phrase and more extended greetings.

Be A Good Role Model

As with anything you try to teach your children, it helps if you follow your own rules. Toddlers learn from their parents. So, if they see you being rude or not following your own guidelines, they’ll think they don’t have to either. As they say, toddlers learn more from what they see than what they hear.

Be a good role model and be sure your toddler sees you saying please and thank you. Basically, whatever you’re trying to teach them, make sure you’re showing them how it’s done.

Toddlers learn more from what they see than what they hear. Click to Tweet

Keep Table Manner Lessons Short

One of the most challenging manners to teach a toddler is table manners. The trouble is, many parents have unrealistic expectations of their toddler at the table. They expect a picture-perfect, enjoyable sit-down family meal. However, the truth is your toddler just isn’t capable of sitting at the dinner table for an hour. They’ll struggle with 20 minutes so if you’ve been trying to get them to sit at the table until everyone has finished, you’ve more than likely failed so far.

While a very small minority of toddlers may wait it out, most will either wiggle to get away, or throw an epic tantrum to leave the table. It’s not them being defiant, it’s simply their short attention spans.

The best way to teach table manners therefore, is to keep it short. Start out by telling them they need to sit with you for 15 minutes at the table. Then, focus on an individual lesson, such as holding and eating with, a spoon or fork.

Provide Positive Feedback

If your toddler does manage to use their manners, whether it be to say please, ask if they can leave the table politely, and hold their fork correctly, don’t forget to praise them. While you definitely don’t want to over-praise them, letting them know they’re doing something right is key to them continuing to do it.

Toddler’s feed off your praise. So, if you give them positive feedback as they do something, they’ll want to do it more often. If on the other hand, all they hear is negative statements, they’ll be less inclined to listen to you, and they definitely won’t want to carry on learning manners.

Make It Fun

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why manner lessons fail, is because they’re not exactly fun for your toddler! While older children are perfectly capable of learning things that aren’t fun, toddlers need that fun element to stay focused.

The more fun you make the lessons, the more they’ll listen and more importantly, want to learn about manners. So, how can you possibly make manner teaching fun? Well, you could get creative and create your own “manner songs”. You basically just need to write a little song which is catchy and teaches your toddler what manners are.

If you’re not very creative, why not use the sticker chart system? This reward-based system can help add excitement to the lessons. Each time your toddler does something positive, add a sticker to the chart. Once they’ve received a set number of stickers, hey can then have a treat. You’ll want to start off using a small number of stickers, then gradually increase the number required before they do get a treat.


The above are just some of the best ways to teach toddlers manners. Most importantly, you need to ensure you don’t have unrealistic expectations. There’s going to be days your toddler appears to have forgotten everything they’ve learned. However, that’s a natural toddler behavior. The lessons you teach now will stick, you just need to be persistent and patient.

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  1. Teaching toodlers about proper manner is easy. Based on my experience, the basic thank you, welcome, please are always commonly used. The more the toodler heard those words , the easier the adaptation it would be for them. So it’s also depending the environment the toodler is into. It’s no use of reminding them those magic words if they didn’t see it being applied in their home. Being a role model is the easiest way for them to learn.

    1. You’re right, sweetpot81. Children mimic what they see in adults so if they see adults practicing good manners, they will also become good-mannered kids. You cannot teach a child to do something good if you do not practice what you preach. The child will be very confused and may turn out ill-mannered instead.

      And yes, teaching them the basics – “thank you, welcome, please” – will be a good start 🙂

  2. From my experience since I was a child, I have always been shy. I am now grown and greeting people is really a task and so I agree with you that parents should be patient with their toddlers.

    I have always been thankful and my parents taught me this and it was never hard. From your explanation, words like please, sorry and thank-you are easy for toddlers to grasp.

    Being the best example is a must for every parent. Children copy what we do and they then learn from it.

    I agree with you that parents should make learning fun so that toddlers can learn manners and enjoy to be respectful without feeling it is much work.

    1. Yes, I totally agree with you that parents should be the best example or role model for a child – I would say ‘you cannot expect an apple to bear a banana fruit.’ Same thing as the adage, “The apple never falls far from the tree.”

      And yes, making it fun would be the better way to teach a child manners. I do think a child can better remember something taught to him/her if he/she remembers it as something fun.

  3. We are just new parents. And like all first timers, there’s a lot to learn! A lot!!! So finding these kinds of posts really are helpful for us so i want to say thank you and please keep up this work. My lo is just turning one this coming November, 2017 and we have trained here to do some kind gestures when it comes to greeting people when she sees them. She is always able to do it, most of the time, when she’s in the mood. Hahaha so we know we got a long way to go. About discipline, she is very kind and not a lot of troubles are to mention when it comes to her manners. Yes there are times that she throws things, then looks at it as if she wants you to pick it up and give it to her. And when you do, she throws it away again and continues on and on. And there’s the nipple biting with pulling then smiles and laughs which then you couldn’t get angry because of those. Not to mention those little palms smacking you in the face while you’re sleeping when she woke up ahead of you. I mean, how could we get mad at that?! So i believe that we really have to step up and really teach her manners, to address “true” concerns. And i hope and pray to GOD to always help and guide us in this incredible and Herculean task.

    1. Indeed, raising a child is a Herculean task, particularly so with teaching him/her manners. Sometimes you just feel clueless and wonder how your parents taught you to become good-mannered.

      The fact that your child is someone kind is already a good start. I do believe kids have positive personalities that are inborn and it’s up to us to nurture that personality.

      You’re very much welcome to use these tips. Thank you for appreciating our efforts to help parents like you. We do hope we could help more.

  4. I believe it’s an accurate statement that it is more effective to teach children the idea of manners rather than simply informing them of how to perform them. Native English speakers all know the word “please” and understand the concept behind it – it demonstrates that we are polite and we are respecting the person who we are addressing – but there is no actual meaning to this word, and there are several languages in which it does not exist (e.g., Korean). To add on to this, the manners of every culture differ, so it’s also important to teach our children that they must respect these differences.

    I also agree that we must be role models to our children – like raising a dog, the only thing our child looks up to is us. They want to copy our actions and be like us, so it’s extremely important that we act in a way we would like them to also. I remember when I was young, I read a book about manners… probably about 100 times. It was because of that book that I always tried to be as polite as possible, so I think things like books and television shows that enforce the concept of manners are also important for our children.

    1. I totally agree with your comment, hanseung. Thank you as well for mentioning the importance of “books and television shows that enforce the concept of manners”. I believe these are effective ways to teach kids about manners because they can better understand the concept this way rather than simply tell them about the idea. There are also a lot of materials online, like in YouTube, where kids could watch videos about good manners.

  5. I live by the saying “Don’t do unto other what you don’t want other to do unto you” and that can also be used in teaching your child manners. If you are talking to them in a mannerly way, then they would understand that the right way to talk is to be polite and use a soft voice. I believe that toddlers follow what they see and if they experience kind gestures and kind talks, then there is a huge chance of them acting the same.

    1. Yes, very true. Kids copy what they see or hear from adults so we should watch our words and actions. We are their role models, they look up to us so we should act the way we want them to act when they grow up.

  6. Kids often follow what adults do or say, they did not have any sense of what is right and wrong yet, so you have to act and do the good stuff for them to follow. I have read one in the comment “DON’T DO UNTO OTHER WHAT YOU DON’T WANT OTHER TO DO UNTO YOU” I also grew up hearing my mom says that , and until now I have learned to consider everthing I say with that wisdom in my mind. And the use of po and opo while talking to someone old or someone with respect is what I love in our local culture.

    1. Thank you for pointing out that kids do “not have any sense of what is right and wrong”. They are innocent beings and are like sponges so they absorb everything we tell them and everything they see us do.

      Indeed, the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a very nice way to teach them manners. I do believe most parents would have told their kids about this.

  7. My little girl is just turning one. And i believe that giving her positive feedback for everything that she does correctly really do have a positive impact in her. Because by doing so, she incorporates the behavior that she just did with our positive feedback. Like for example she claps and dance and kiss and do “mano” we always praise her and she tends to respond with a smile and claps and with a high pitched happy voice. So i believe that as early as 1 year old, babies already have the sense of positive and negative feedback. We tend to lean more on the praising and not really on the negative feedback because she really has no sense of right or wrong yet. So we like to concentrate more on giving positive feedback as of now.

    1. That’s true. Positive words can go a long, long way. And this does not apply to kids alone, even adults tend to display positive attitude if they hear a positive comment from others, especially in the workplace.

      Just keep praising your daughter for good behavior. It will eventually pay off and you’ll have a well-mannered kid.

  8. I like the tip about being a good role model. I think this is the most important thing when teaching a child manners. Children pay so much attention to how the adults around them behave and absorb so much more than we think they do, even when we think they aren’t listening. Things as simple as always saying please and thank you are likely to make your child do likewise even if you haven’t explicitly told them to do so.

    1. I totally agree with you, ecole11j. Kids are very observant and mimic what adults do. As a saying goes, “Practice what you preach,” so if we want our kids to grow up well-mannered, they need to see or hear us say please and thank you. We cannot tell them to say or do the same if we’re not doing it.

  9. Teaching the kids some manners remain one of the best ways to help them become better citizens both to the home and the country in general. I could recall how mom taught us the way of greeting and that has enabled someone like me to not depart from it for I always greet irrespective of whether I’m older than the person and that’s the reason it’s hurting to see some kids of nowadays lack these basic manners that should help them to live lives of emulation. Sadly, some weren’t taught by their parents or probably the parents thought they would learn as they grow, which didn’t happen at the end.

    1. I totally agree with you, Henrywrites. And yes, kids will not learn manners as they grow. The parents have to teach them manners, explain what is right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate. I do believe if all parents instill respect for other people no matter what their situation in life is, I think this world would be a better place.

      As I often tell other parents, no matter how famous, rich, or successful one is, if he/she does not have manners, he/she is nothing. People are often disappointed to see people they admire become arrogant or boastful, or treat other people with disgust.

      1. Lack of respect for others has caused damage and brought crisis and crime to our world and I have to admit that some parents failed in that act of teaching their kids the right way to live and once they pick up the bad habits while growing, it’s hard for them to drop them at the end.

        1. I totally agree with you, Henrywrites. Parents are the primary teachers of their kids when it comes to manners. If they fail in this task, then we’re doomed. That is why we have terrorists, killers, rapists, etc. They do not have respect for other people. They were never taught to respect other people.

  10. I will have to remember these time-tested tips because soon my child will become a toddler. They say toddlers are difficult to raise. Before my child is a toddler, I need to know how to handle situations. My sister who is raising two toddlers says the best way to handle your toddlers is by diverting their minds.
    Thanks for this useful and informative article

    1. You’re very much welcome, vinaya.

      You’re approaching your child’s most difficult stage – toddlerhood, a time when you have to be REALLY patient because a toddler still do not understand much of what you’re saying, particularly with regards to discipline. But rest assured you will eventually get past through this stage, haha. Best of luck!

  11. It’s easy if the child is not mischievous, but if she’s a bit naughty looks like you have to start everyday and keep on reminding her about her manners.
    For me, what I do is, I don’t give her what she wants if there is no “please”, just pretending to be deaf in front of her.
    At least she knows how to appreciate things and say thank you.
    Sometimes if the child is sleepy, tired or lazy then she’ll really annoy you. Keeps on whining, crying and worst throwing tantrums. So, if needed then I have to adjust. It depends on the situation on how I would consider it.
    Praise and reward for good deeds.
    She can absorb easily all the things that is being taught to her but she really has her own naughtiness. So, I just let her be and discipline her. Give responsibilities to be accomplished.
    Taking care and teaching a child requires a lot of patience. All the best.

    1. I totally agree with you on the last bit – that “Taking care and teaching a child requires a lot of patience.” They are so adorable but they could drive you nuts at the same time, haha, especially if you have a mischievous child.

      Rest assured this is just a stage and you will get through it 🙂

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