Manners Make’th the Child

Manners are every parent’s minefield as sometimes what will be perfectly acceptable for one parent will be frowned upon by another.

All parents will agree though, that teaching manners matters. And the best way a parent can teach is to show how to:

Be on time

If you are on time to pick them up from school, from a friend’s house or their grandparent’s they will begin to appreciate the importance of being prepared and on time. If you can keep time, you also show your child how to manage transitions from one activity to the next and they learn to tell the time.

Being on time shows them respect for other people; teachers, playmates and family members.

Acknowledge others

Some children do not like to speak with people they don’t know especially when they are pressed to. And some children will shift to stand behind the parent. When this happens draw them out by introducing the person you are talking to and asking them to say hello. A polite smile is very much OK as it is acknowledging the other person and is polite.

If you make it a habit to introduce them to people you meet as you go about doing your errands, they will find it easier and less daunting. 

Tone it down

Sitting quietly and speaking in low tones are all things they will learn from you. By watching how you behave in different locations. Of course, when they are outside children can behave the way they want (to a certain extent) and can be as loud as they want but in some locations this behavior needs to be dialed down.

It is up to a parent to teach the child early on how to moderate their volume and tone based on the location. The location could be a place of worship, on a bus, restaurant or the supermarket.


Children are natural interrupters but they need to learn that sometimes this is not acceptable behavior. So make it a habit to not acknowledge them when they interrupt you in the middle of doing something. Every time they do interrupt, calmly remind them it’s rude to interrupt and teach them early that a tap on your arm will get them quicker attention than a scream for attention. And that, sometimes, they will have to wait patiently for you to acknowledge them. However, it goes both ways; so offer your child the same courtesy and don’t interrupt them when it’s their turn to talk.

Remember, waiting can also be extended to meal times where children can be taught to wait several minutes for everyone else. Whether  dining at home or in a restaurant, it is only proper to wait to eat until everyone is seated and served.

Thank people

Saying “thank you” is the foundation of all good manners but these days many children (and adults!) overlook thanking the people that help them in many little ways each day. Teach children to recognize and acknowledge people that serve in restaurants, shops, schools, and health facilities. As it’s not just about being polite but also about acknowledging that people’s contributions are valuable.

In the same vein, many children (and adults) will habitually say nothing when thanked. This is impolite. The polite thing would be to say something like,  

 ‘You’re welcome’ or even ‘It is my pleasure.’”


A Zambian site sharing quick read articles around work, money and adulting life with selective interviews and quotes.
The founder, editor and lead writer who left university with a good grasp of public administration, economics, money, banking and international relations is also qualified in journalism and creative writing. She has been published in Drum and The BBC Focus on Africa Magazine and has been featured in several local and international publications.
An avid bird watcher with an extraordinary fondness for chikanda ( a Zambian delicatessen that vegans and non-vegans world-wide are putting on their bucket list ) she often tweets in poetry and short prose @kwachalelo