wikiHow to Teach Manners to a Toddler

It’s never too early to teach little ones good manners. Even kids who cannot yet speak can learn to communicate by signing words with their hands. While learning to share is a life-long lesson for all of us, it's especially crucial during the tender ages between two and four. Likewise, greeting others warmly is a trait that many youngsters can manage when encouraged on a regular basis. Like all aspects in parenting, teaching manners is never easy, but here are a few tried and true tips for sticking with it and being successful.


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    Begin with two or three nice words such as "please" "thank you" and "excuse me" and then introduce more as your child begins to grasp their understanding. Children who cannot speak yet are still able to communicate these words by learning a little sign language. For example, when you say "please," make the sign for it at the same time. This reinforces the sign and the verbal word while giving your pre-verbal child a way to communicate back. As you repeat this often, your child will pick up the sign and begin to sign "please" when she asks for something.
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    Be persistent and consistent. This means once you introduce manners, stick with it and rehearse the trait several times a day. Make it a part of everyone's behavior. It may take time, but young ones are smart and will get it. Teaching manners early in life will pay dividends long after they’re out of the house (not that you want to think about that yet!).
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    Model the behavior and language you desire in your child. Children make you better people because they mirror the way you act.
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    Provide plenty of positive feedback when they’re signing their words or demonstrating self-control such as waiting in line patiently or helping a friend put away toys. Let them know how polite and thoughtful their actions are to others.
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    Have fun with it. Remember that teaching manners is often the first step in getting young ones to think beyond themselves. Some families have "anti-manners" dinners where all rules are thrown out the door. Try sticker charts to reinforce positive behavior or a "manners" month for those who may need a refresher. It won’t happen overnight, but when you see them in action, you’ll be so proud. It’s not uncommon to first see the fruits of your labor when you’re out of the house, around others, or visiting Grandma and Grandpa.


  • Keep up with the praise, practice and patience.
  • Use every opportunity to teach the importance of being well-mannered. With most young kids eating three meals and two snacks by 12-months of age, there will be plenty of practice.
  • Be your child's role model. Children generally follow their parents' examples, so be that good example.
  • The benefits of teaching your children sign language are immense. For example, you'll then be able to non-verbally remind your child to say "please" and "thank you" from across the room once they’re able to talk.
  • Start signing to your child as a baby. You can start as early as six months. Once they sign and understand some basic words such as "more," "eat," and "all done," then introduce "please," "thank you" and "share." You can start teaching first word signs as early as six months of age.
  • Say and sign "please" and "thank you" when talking to others in your world -- your spouse, relatives, friends, etc. -- so your children will witness and value what you’re teaching them. Ask caregivers to join in as well.
  • You are their role model. Show them that you care about their manners!


  • Never punish a child for not picking up on manners at an early age, especially physical punishment (i.e. spanking, etc). Only positive reinforcement should be used, as small children are prone to making mistakes. They are, after all, just learning.

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