Teaching Good Manners in an Afternoon

While rinsing off the lunch dishes, Jovie said, “Today, my teacher kept asking me to use the magic word…” (long pause) “…Hey Mom, what is the magic word?”

Not exactly sure if I should giggle or feel like an epic failure, I put the last dirty fork into the dishwasher and closed the door.

I decided to reveal the universe’s secret and tell her the magic word. She looked disheartened, as if she was expecting something more elaborate like Abra-ca-da-bra! while a unicorn pranced around our kitchen throwing confetti and wishing everyone a happy birthday.

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Thinking that that would be pretty interesting, not to mention motivational, I made a mental note to hunker down on the manners-training, right away.

I kissed Jovie and shooed her off to bed for her afternoon nap.

When the kiddos slowly meandered out into the living room a couple hours later with disheveled hair and rosy cheeks they had no idea what was waiting for them…

Thats right… Manners Training 101.

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I don’t know why I do this, or if I’m the only mom who does. But if I get something stuck in my craw I get a hankering to remove it. A ‘let’s just fix this right here, right now‘ mentality.

You don’t know know what a pattern is? Ok Honey, grab those blocks and a box of noodles and let’s tackle it.”

I know it’s not realistic goal setting and probably not the best method of teaching, but in my mind, I’m convinced if I don’t start now I’ll never get around to it.

So I start…

I sit the kids down on the couch with their water cups and a few apple slices. I jump-start our manners crash course by throwing out some meaningful vocabulary like ‘courteous’ and ‘thoughtful’, along with a quick explanation of differentiating between the words ‘unselfish’ and ‘selfish’.

They watch their manner-crazed mother with wide eyes and apple-chomping mouths. They are quiet.

The get-er-done mommy in me feels somewhat accomplished at the rich content I am filling their little minds with, while the down-to-earth mother in me is thinking I should just check out a picture book about social etiquette on our next library trip.

Beginning to sense a lack of assimilation and participation, and feeling somewhat deflated…I concluded our three-minute crash course.

The kids hop down and immediately ask to play with Mad Matter. In a last ditch-effort to raise my children into wholesome and polite citizens this afternoon, I reply, “May I PLEASE play with Mad Matter?”

I quickly move onto other affairs of lesser importance like cleaning up chewed apple pieces off the couch and opening and closing the refrigerator door twenty times to decide what to make for dinner.

By the end of dinner I had completely moved on from our manners course. (Not that it didn’t matter anymore, but I had resigned to spread out the wealth of propriety over the course of their childhood rather than an afternoon.)

As I cleared the table Jovie so sweetly said, “Mom, thank you for making dinner. That was so unselfish of you!” To which our two-year old added, “Yeah Mom, you selfish!!!”


Baby steps, Mommas. Baby steps. 😉 <3 


Have you ever held a ‘less than successful’ crash- course for your kids?

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  1. Hahaha. Awwww…. Trust me as a Mama, I have gone over the manners crash course over and over. At times when I think I have it in my pocket, we take a few steps back. The joy of raising little ones ?❤

  2. Oh boy… manners is such a work in progress! Our 4yo is quite courteous, but at home she forgets her manners. If she asks for something without the wording, “Can I please….” we will straight up ignore or say, “What?” until she says it right! And we always demand a thank you. And I always request my 4yo look at my 10mo when she talks to her, especially to say, “Have a good nap!” Lol… Yes, baby steps!

    We are working with our 4yo to stop her from taunting her little sister, but now she will say we are taunting her or each other (my husband and I), even if it’s not anything like taunting! It’s a hard concept to learn, I guess….

  3. H Jessica, I love this crash course you did! I have never sat them all down like you did, but it is a great idea. We always get them to use their manners which they need reminders from time to time. Sometimes at dinner they shout “corn” and not please before it , but we do wind our way around to it. That was so sweet of Jovie to say how unselfish of you to make dinner , but your 2yr is not on board with it !! Take care , Terri xo.

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