Good Manners Begin at Home

By Carol Josel

Rudeness has a trickle-down effect, and it all starts at home. Parents are role models, and what kids see and are taught early on is what we all get- and it’s not always pretty. Too many folks- and not just youngsters–walk in front of each other without saying “Excuse me,” make requests without the requisite “please,” and let others in on their “private” conversations by chatting loudly into their cell phones. You get the idea: we’re basically an ill-mannered bunch.

A Public Agenda survey found that “79% of Americans say that lack of respect and courtesy should be regarded as a serious national problem, while 62% say that witnessing rude and disrespectful behavior bothers them a lot.” Nevertheless, 41% admit to being part of the bad manners problem.

It goes without saying then: parents must take the lead. Says journalist Cokie Roberts, “I think children who have attentive parents learn from their parents all kinds of behaviors. Everything from good table manners-which count, by the way-to how to be a good husband or wife. I think children take their example from their parents even when they don’t realize they are doing it. Raise children you like because, if you don’t like them, nobody else will, and you’re going to have to spend the rest of your life with them.”

To set the stage for success, establish an early, easy rapport with your children, make family time a priority, and gather together at mealtimes and in-between times, all the while modeling good manners and acceptable standards of behavior. Include these reminders:

1. Never forget to say “Excuse me” whenever it’s called for.
2. Say “please” when making requests or asking a favor.
3. Always show gratitude by saying “thank you.”
4. Accept others’ opinions graciously, agreeing to disagree if need be.
5. Never make disparaging comments regarding race, religion, or lifestyle.
6. Refrain from interrupting when someone is speaking.
7. Promptly return what you borrow and in the same condition as when it was lent.
8. Don’t be pushy.
9. Pick up after yourself.
10. Always leave a place better than when you happened upon it.
11. Behave so that people are glad when you arrive, not when you leave-and that includes home.
12. Always lend a helping hand-and offer before being asked.
13. Exercise patience.
14. Share whenever possible and think of others, not just yourself.
15. Give up your seat on a train/bus to someone in need.
16. Run-don’t stroll-to the morning school bus.
17. Open doors for others.
18. Greet friends at the door and walk them to it when they’re leaving.

Add the editors of Middle Years: “There is no reason to accept rudeness and disrespect. When your children behave in an unacceptable way, remind them that it’s NOT okay.”

Carol is a learning specialist who worked with middle school children and their parents at the Methacton School District in Pennsylvania for more than 25 years and now supervises student teachers at Gwynedd-Mercy College. Along with the booklet, 149 Parenting School-Wise Tips: Intermediate Grades & Up, and numerous articles in such publications as Teaching Pre-K-8 and Curious Parents, she has authored three successful learning guidebooks: Getting School-Wise: A Student Guidebook, Other-Wise and School-Wise: A Parent Guidebook, and ESL Activities for Every Month of the School Year. For more information, go to or contact Carol at

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  1. This is a great article! What a good reminder.

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