This piece is a collection of great parenting stories and tips from a wide range of everyday parents, with the hope of offering some valuable advice and food-for-thought for new parents. To put this together I put the following query out on the journalism sites I belong to:
For parents, what’s your attitude towards parenting and raising a child, and what do you think is the most important thing you practice to ensure your child is well-mannered, behaved and a joy to be around?
I’ve included the best responses to that below, and recommend you have a read through them. While I am not a parent myself (maybe one day?), I can definitely see myself reading, and re-reading, many of the great submissions people sent for ideas and inspiration. 🙂
Here’s a quick summary of how different parents approach raising their children and some of the points made. There are many more, but I’ve just listed the most important points (in my opinion):
- Lead by example (link, link)
- Set boundaries and expectations (link)
- Have time for your kids even if you’re busy or stressed (link)
- Once your child is old enough, make sure to teach them to wait their turn to speak (link)
- Parent in a way that promotes creativity (link)
- Discuss matters with your partner (link)
- Always treat your children with respect (link)
- Teach your child that actions, small or great, have consequences (link)
Finally, as a disclaimer, the stories and advice below may not apply to you, and should not be utilized as a substitute for professional advice or service in specific situations. Please remember that these are mostly submissions from normal parents, not necessarily certified parenting experts or counselors.
The most important thing to raising a well mannered child is to lead by example. If your child seeing you acting kind and using manners, they are more likely to mimic that behavior. Also explaining the importance of respect and using manners will help them understand why they should act like that.
Leading by example is always the best method, kids are sponges and soak up things you may not even have talked about. Kids watch and observe how to act in certain situations so definitely showing them is better than just telling them how to act. This helps my positive attitude towards parenting, to hopefully contribute to raising a better tomorrow.
--Amelia Zamora, MamaBear Reviews
My parenting style is fairly relaxed, although we do parent with a loose schedule and clear expectations so our kids have a sense of security and routine.
In my experience, these are the most important things to help raise a well-mannered child:
1. Model appropriate behavior, including how you speak to adults as well as how you speak to your children.
2. Validate their feelings and emotions and model ways to manage stress, new situations, excitement, and mistakes.
3. Provide an outlet or opportunity for kids to burn off energy.
4. Set clear boundaries and expectations, with predictable and consistent consequences for misbehavior.
5. Praise appropriate behavior and encourage good choices.
As a mom of four, these are definitely not things I have always done. I also at times forget and make mistakes in my own parenting. But I have found that when I do these things, I tend to see better behavior from my children and have an overall calm and positive environment in our home.
--Amanda Seghetti, amandaseghetti.com
Currently, I am the father of a 5-year-old girl and a 3-year-old girl. They are very well-disciplined and sweet. Adults already, young children with an eager look at life.
Children usually do what their parents do towards them or show them to. Let’s just say they are like photocopy machines that copy what you do. That’s why I was very careful about my attitude to them. I teach them responsibility for their actions, there’s this one time where my oldest girl was trying to take all of her sister’s toy, in return, my younger daughter throws anything she touches to her older sister. This was not right, but I didn’t scold them or punished them for doing it. I let them sit on the couch and let them speak their sides. After that, I explained to them how to give and care for each other. They’re still mad at each other, then after some time they playing with no more arguments.
If I punished them immediately after that situation, they might end up hating each other more, and I think nobody wants that to happen. The most important thing I always do is having time for them even if I was very busy with work or stressed. Having a good time, laugh, and have fun with them. This is important because they will not forever stay as a child. Training them the way they should go, and when they get old enough they won’t forget about it.
--Keith Myers, TheHempire
I run a parenting blog for new dads. I have a small boy toddler at home and keeping my little one behaved is a full-time job at the moment:)
Waiting for one’s turn doesn’t come naturally to most young children, but you can teach them. But don’t start too early. Babies don’t yet understand you, and young toddlers lack physiological self-control mechanisms. That said, older toddlers are ready to follow simple rules.
Our boy is almost three, and he constantly interrupts my conversations. When this happens, I usually wait at least 5 seconds before interacting with him. The plan is to start small and gradually increase the time, so he learns to be more patient.
--Gert Mikkal, DadProgress
We have 2 children - 1 biological girl who is almost 5 and a 1 and a half year old adopted little boy. Both of our kids have entirely different personalities, but we parent them the same. It's often hard when you have adopted children to favor them or let them get away with more, but we got some incredible advice early on and it was that we treat all of our children different, but special in their own ways. Parenting girls and boys is a whole different ball game (boys are way tougher and we have a super sensitive girl) but honestly parenting is all about being in tune to how they respond to positive and negative reinforcements and doing what works best for the child.
Do not center your life around your child, but bring them alongside you. They're not the coach, they're a teammate. As long as you're trying to be the best parent you can, that's all you can do!
--Carmen Smith, Living Letter Home
I tend to read a lot of parenting books to help me make sure I am raising my daughter to be a loving, kind person. She is three years old and I know those early years are so critical to emotional and cognitive development.
A few things I am particularly passionate about in my approach to parenting are:
1. Raising her to be an intuitive eater, Diet culture is so pervasive in our society. I try to avoid talking negatively about food and my body. I really hope to raise her to be an intuitive eater and avoid all of the disordered eating that I grew up with.
2. Raising her to understand her emotions and communicate those. I think we are really quick to say you're okay when kids fall down or are upset, instead of letting them process through what happened. Saying things like that hurt, huh? helps them know why they are sad and helps them process through what happened and why they are crying. We try really hard to validate my daughter's feelings so she can learn to communicate those now and later in life.
--Amy Motroni, The Postpartum Party
When my daughter was growing up we kept waiting for the Terrible Two's. She is now 29 and we are still waiting for them. I was not certain at the time that my wife and I were doing the right thing. But as it turned out I guess we were. I just used common sense and did what I thought was the right thing to do. We started when she was less than two by instituting strict rules of behavior. No backtalking, no being ugly. A strict adherence that bedtime was at 8 p.m. As she got older that was moved to 9. Not 9:01 0r 9:02. When she was in high school and still had homework then we allowed her to stay up until 10:00, but no later. I wanted to make sure that she was well-rested for the next day. As soon as she started talking we started teaching her how to say Yes/No Sir/ Ma'am. Yes or No was only half a word. She still shows this kind of respect to both of us and other people that she works for and with. I could not be happy about this.
When she was 15 I overheard her say to one of her girlfriends. Margie, your Dad sure is strict. She replied Yes, he is. But he is also fair. She once told me after she had an assignment about who she felt was the most dependable person in her life. She said that she wrote it about me. When I asked Why. She told me Dad, I always know that you will be there for me when I need help. Regardless of what has happened.
During her young years, I always preached the value of a good education. She must have taken me seriously because she not only graduated high school with an IB Diploma ( International Baccaeaulaurte. You have to be invited to get into this program. It is the academic level above AP ) with a 3.9 GPA. She graduated from the University of North Texas with a Psychology degree with Honors. She is now in grad school working on her MBA in Strategic Management and has a 3.4 GPA.
Her list of accomplishments is far too long for me to write out here. But here are a few of them. She was a nationally published poet at the age of 10. She got her 2nd-degree Black belt in Tae Kwon Do at 13. She was writing a monthly teen Op-Ed column for The Dallas Morning News at 15. She was Captain of the Drill Team once, starting point guard on the basketball team twice. She even received a High school letter jacket based solely on her academic record. This is only a portion of what she has accomplished.
I am not completely sure of what we did. But it must have been the right thing to do. She is an extremely confident, well educated thoughtful, respectful, honest to a fault and responsible young woman. She is the kind of daughter every parent hopes and prays for. But again she had one heck of a role model. Mom graduated from medical school as the Valedictorian. I am the black sheep of the family. I did not complete the eleventh grade. But I have been self-employed with three different businesses since 1974.
--Markus Horner, bullyingdosanddonts.com
With my son, my husband and I parent in a way that promotes creativity. When we were both growing up, our parents would constantly tell us no in an authoritarian way. We weren't allowed to play in the rain, splash in puddles, play in mud, etc. This shaped how we parent a lot.
We've taken a stance that if there isn't a safety concern or other legitimate reason, why shouldn't our son get dirty and experience life. By saying yes to a lot of things, it actually makes me as a parent feel better than constantly needing to be the bad guy. Of course, I'd never be permissive in allowing things to occur that could hurt our child but I think that experiencing nature and getting dirty is a part of childhood that many kids miss out on.
Even though we say yes to a lot of things, that doesn't include material objects. Our family focuses on experiences and I think this helps prevent an entitled attitude. My son doesn't expect to get toys whenever we go to a toystore. In fact, I think because we have many open-ended toys at home (blocks, balls, dress-up, fort-building supplies) he gets bored with toys that have pre-programmed outcomes cush as noises and lights.
--Stephanie Mantilla, Mommysaurus
In my opinion, there are 3 important factors to raising a well-behaved child:
1. Lead by example because children are highly observant. If you are rude and negative towards others, your children will repeat that.
2. Parent with confidence. Kids can easily sense if you are unsure or insecure as a parent. This is what inspired my business.
3. Follow through on consequences of bad behavior. If you threaten no screen time for the rest of the day, you need to have the patience and stamina to follow through on that. Otherwise, you will not be taken seriously the next time.
--Oksana Korsakova, The Baby Manual
I am the mom to three girls, ages 8, 6, and 4.
My thoughts on parenting shifted when my daughter entered kindergarten. She was suddenly away from us all day long. She was tired when she came home and still had homework to do - in kindergarten! She also seemed to become more disrespectful and lost all the manners we had so carefully taught her.
For many other reasons, I wrestled with the idea of homeschooling my children. Well, I gathered up all my courage and pulled my daughter out of school the next year.
Three years later, I find homeschooling helps me tremendously to be the parent I want to be and raise my kids the way I want to. My kids get so much more sleep, time with their parents, and time with their siblings. We have more time to talk, connect, and be present. I am continually told how well behaved my kids are and I think that has everything to do with the fact that I am the one shaping them all day long. I know it is a privilege to homeschool, and I am thankful I can give my kids this investment of my time and energy.
--Lauren Schmitz, The Simple Homeschooler
I have a five year old son and I’ve spent a ton of time investigating different parenting approaches. I’m a mindfulness teacher and I’ve settled on an approach called authoritative parenting.
This is a parenting style that takes a meet in the middle approach of all the other parenting styles.
Authoritative parents still enforce rules, maintain authority and hand out consequences, but they are much more emotionally responsive, warm and also listen and explain the rules.
I aim to seek a healthy balance for my child’s desires and my authority.
This parenting style is linked with superior child outcomes throughout the world!
Here are just a few of the approaches I take using this parenting approach:
-- Put a ton of effort into creating and maintaining a positive relationship with my child, explaining rules and consequences and responding to feelings with empathy
-- Taking my child’s wishes and feelings into consideration
-- Encouraging my child to talk about their feelings Trying to help my child work through tough emotions Provide reasons for rules and expectations
-- Respect my child’s opinion and try to compromise, even if it differs from mine.
--Tina Williamson, mindfulmazing
For new parents out there… IT IS HARD… but it’s not impossible.
Babies start to show dominance as early as 15-18 months but on average, at 2 or 3 years old. My son Jeremy showed signs when he was around 13 months.
It’s easy to miss these signs, especially when most parents regard these attitudes as “cute baby things”. It was until Jeremy was at the age of 2 when I took matters into my hands.
This is our secret to ensuring our child Jeremy is well-mannered growing up:
-- Discuss matters with your partner
Coming up with a plan both of you will agree on is essential to ensuring things will work out. This also limits how far you can take when you discipline your child.
Americans, unlike Europeans, believe spanking is good. And it’s true-- as long as you carried this out accordingly and is justified.
-- Discipline according to their wrongdoing
Spanking isn’t the only way to discipline your child’s wrongdoing. There are situations where talking is the more appropriate way to help your child understand what’s going on.
In our case, I spank only when he did something really heavy-- like a straight up inappropriate and uncalled for act of rebellion.
But every after a spank, we let Jeremy cry out the pain (very important). When he calms down a bit, we then talk to Jeremy about what happened to let him realize what he’s done.
-- Say sorry
It’s important (for your child) that you say sorry afterwards. This allows them to see that spanking isn’t a form of hatred or some sort, but rather a way to remind them that they’ve done something wrong.
These are the 3 golden rules my wife and I have been following and we’ve seen a significant improvement a year later. Tantrums were not even a thing during Jeremy’s childhood.
We’ve been successful with this strategy and we believe new parents can do it, too!
--John Howard, CouponLawn
I have high expectations for my 2 young children's behaviour, but I think the most important thing to do as a parent is to always treat your children with respect. If I need them to do something, I always explain why it's important rather than just expecting them to follow me blindly, and I speak to them calmly and politely, setting an example of the way I expect them to talk to others. They are entitled to their feelings, so if my toddler's having a meltdown, I don't ever punish her for that - I wait until she's got it out of her system, give her a cuddle, then we talk through how she was feeling, and how she could have handled things more calmly. This method seems to be working out for us so far - she's not quite 3 years old yet, but she's already very polite, incredibly fun to be around, and seems to throw far fewer tantrums than a lot of kids her age! Ultimately she knows she's loved, and she's learning the right way to behave by mirroring the respect we show to her, so I consider that a huge success.
--Becca Heyes, Easy Cheesy Vegetarian
I would say my wife and I were fortunate enough to have parents that were the right balance of strict and fun. We agree on the balanced approach, for the most parts. Kids have the right to explore and grow independent, but they need to know there are limits in all things. The trick is teaching them to respect those limits themselves, so that you don't end up in a situation where you're on top of them all the time.
One of the major things I emphasized with both my boys when they were little is to always remember that actions, small or great, have consequences. I wanted my kids to have empathy for everyone and everything around them, to treat others as they would want to be treated, and as they would want their parents and friends to be treated. I asked my shyer son if he would be upset if his friend from school ignored me when I said hello, and he said yes. Then I explained that's why he should always say hello when a guest speaks to him because it might hurt their feelings if he doesn't reply. It didn't work the first few times, but he worked on it and tried.
Kids are remarkably intelligent, and they pick things up quickly if you're consistent. My wife and I made sure to be consistent, and after a time we had the boys self-disciplining each other - I don't think that man would appreciate you running up and petting his dog without asking first! I heard my 9-year-old tell my youngest one time.
My boys are much older now - youngest is in high-school and the eldest is off in college - but I think we did a pretty good job with them.
--Steve Thompson, Boot Mood Foot
As a mother, it was important to me that my daughters developed a sense of self-worth early on. When children feel respected and valued as family members, it becomes the foundation of how they see themselves and other people. The family is the first little community a child knows, which is why it's critical to make it a compassionate and loving one. Children need to feel heard, accepted, and know their opinions are valued. Once kids develop a positive sense of self, they will become confident, more independent, and proud of who they are. This will help them grow into well-mannered, resilient adults. These are the kids who become advocates for others and institute change.
--Amy KD Tobik, Autism Parenting Magazine
RELATED: Check out also our piece on how to cope with parenting stress.