How To Raise a Well-Mannered Child

By Alexa Joy Sherman

Whether they’re hurling spaghetti across the room, announcing that they farted or running wild through the supermarket, toddlers make life highly entertaining—not to mention exasperating, disconcerting and downright embarrassing. “Toddlers are like little cavemen, and it’s our job to make them more civilized,” says Harvey Karp, M.D., author of The Happiest Toddler on the Block (Bantam, 2004; also available on DVD at

“They’ll get there by the time they’re 5, but it happens gradually—every six to 12 months—as they learn to walk, talk, figure things out and form friendships.” If you can keep that light at the end of the tunnel in sight, teaching manners to your toddler won’t just be a rewarding experience, it might even be fun.

Show and tell

Unfortunately, even adults don’t regularly exhibit good manners—whether they’re using a colorful response when getting cut off in traffic, talking on a cellphone during dinner or losing their temper with toddlers. But raising a well-behaved child begins with being a good role model. “When they’re about 1, children become increasingly interested in watching and listening to you,” says Karp.

So it’s particularly important to treat people—including your toddler—with dignity and respect. All disciplinary efforts are more effective in the context of a loving and stable relationship, notes the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Keep this in mind as you play with your child, respond to his cries and especially when you direct and correct manners.