Manners are shared rituals that cut corners and simplify social behaviour. They make life easier and cut out social bumbling. For example, shaking hands when we meet someone avoids having to make decisions about how to behave. It makes an awkward situation easy.

Many schools have taken on the role of teaching these sorts of rituals. I admit, in the past I thought surely that’s a parent’s job! But it was pointed out to me recently that perhaps parents aren’t sure of these skills themselves. We are the product of a generation who associates ritual and manners with ‘old-fashioned’. Perhaps we have forgotten how easy manners can make life.

Thank you for having me

It doesn’t matter how reasonable and understanding a person is, they want to be thanked for good turns. If your child stays at someone else’s home or attends a party…they need to thank the host while looking them in the eye. If you’ve taught your child the words to say, you make this expected behaviour easier.


I have a friend whose three year old is a quirky little fella. Whenever he meets someone he holds his hand out to shake and says, “Hi! How are you? I haven’t seen you for ages.” He says it whether he has ever met you before or not. Of course he’s mimicking his dad, but this one action and line gift Jacob with confidence and charm. How can you not shake his hand and smile? He knows automatically what to say and do, so he feels no stress or embarrassment. His greeting will evolve, but he has already nailed the skill.

Stand up on public transport!

You are bucking evolution if you don’t teach your child to stand for the elderly, disabled and pregnant. The young and fit stand for these people to protect them. It’s the herd caring for its own. It’s also the law. Children pay reduced ticket prices on the proviso that they give up their seat if there aren’t enough for adults.

Introducing people

I taught at a boys’ school where we use to explicitly teach students how to introduce people to one another.  It was done on the day before a father-son breakfast so that they knew how to introduce their dads to their friends, teachers and other fathers. It saved a lot of bumbling and social awkwardness. If you can teach this skill early it saves years of discomfort. Your child will learn much more quickly if you teach them directly than if you wait for them to absorb it by osmosis.

Phone etiquette

A whole blog post could be dedicated to phone etiquette for children…and adults. However, I think one standard rule is enough…Don’t use your phone when there is an actual person around to talk to. Enough said.

Which manners do you think are important?

Linda Stade has worked in various teaching and management roles in education for twenty-five years. She has worked in government and private schools, country and city, single sex and co-ed. Currently she is the Research Officer at Santa Maria College, Western Australia. She has a Facebook page here.