Signs & Symptoms


Is your child displaying bad manners in public?

Some children do not seem to mature as quickly as other children in terms of social niceties and manners. Some children seem to need more direction and supervision when meeting new people or going out in public. You may have no concerns academically, but you may wonder, without your support, if your child might ever be invited to a play date or birthday party. Perhaps her manners are just terrible and no matter what you promise for good behavior, she will have an extreme reaction in the grocery store, yell in the library and run around at the neighborhood pool.

Some children simply seem to have poor manners. This struggle can be excruciating for parents, as parents are often the ones blamed, judged and spoken about in whispers at the playground. Indeed, social ridicule in the neighborhood can be a huge motivator for parents to get their children to behave. Unfortunately, children don’t tend to be so motivated by what the neighbor thinks. You may find yourself snapping and reacting in a negative way to your child’s lack of appropriate manners and coping skills, which will only make the battle between you and your child all the worse.

Many possible reasons can explain why some children have more difficulty with manners than do other children. Immaturity, impulsivity, hyperactivity, emotion regulation challenges and a lack of awareness of social norms and expectations are a few reasons your child may struggle in this domain. Understanding these clinical concerns may help to step back, reel in your own emotions and make a plan to help your child.

What do challenges with Manners look like?

  • Seeming immature for his age?
  • Crying and melting down in a moment, yelling because the library doesn’t have the book he wants?
  • Standing mutely when you try to introduce her to the new neighbors?
  • Chewing with his mouth open?
  • Picking his nose in public?
  • Running screaming down the aisles at your church service?

Why is Manners happening?

Children are not born knowing to say “please” and “thank you.” We find that some children have easy-going temperaments, follow rules and quickly recognize what is and is not appropriate behavior. Other children are louder, more active, more boisterous and are very challenging to parent. These children may not try to understand the rules and expectations for them. One reason a child may demonstrate poor manners is Impulsivity. An impulsive child is not thinking before acting. Words and actions come right out without passing through the brain to screen for appropriateness. Children can be driven by emotions, impulses and gut reactions. Children who are impulsive are unlikely to regulate their emotions because that step of thinking and considering words and actions just does not happen. We often say children need to “Stop and Think.” This approach is a way of training children to use that step of reviewing words and actions before just going for it. This strategy is hard to teach, but with support and practice children can make these improvements.

How can I manage Manners at home?

If your child has poor manners, challenges with emotion regulation, and is unable to follow social rules, it may be helpful to provide some structure. Work with your child to determine “manners” and rules for various settings, and let him or her choose rewards for exhibiting this good behavior. The consequence should be a natural reinforcer. If you scream and run in a restaurant as an adult, you are asked to leave. Thus, it makes sense that if your child is making grand social mistakes, the outing should end.

In order to continue to do fun things, certain manners within a child’s control should be expected. As a parent, don’t set your child up for failure. If you know he or she cannot do the library on a day with no nap, don’t do it. If your child will be calmer after walking to school to burn some energy, plan to walk when you can instead of making that 4-minute drive to school.

A social skills group may be a great idea so that your child can practice good manners and social skills and perhaps earn praise and rewards for demonstrating these skills. Set children up for success, and praise their successes. This approach will help with self-esteem and confidence. Children who feel successful tend to do better across the board.

How can Clear Child Psychology help with Manners?

If your child is struggling with this symptom to the point that it is getting in the way of his or her learning, relationships, or happiness, it’s time to seek professional help.

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