12 answers

Teaching Manners

I want to know how I can teach good manners to my son. We've made him say please and thank you. We also have taught him to be helpful when he sees someone needs help and for the most part he really is good. Now I'm trying to teach him to answer me when i talk to him. I know he can hear but I'll ask something simple like "do you want chicken?" and he just stairs at me it drives me nuts. What can I do to get him to talk to me and answer questions? I talk to him and tell him that it's important to answer me so i know he's okay and that I can help him do things and get what he needs.

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A lot of the suggestions I have already done. When i ask him questions I give him time to respond and even ask it in different ways and make sure that he looks at me and that I look at him in the eye when we speak. I feel it's just a battle all the time. But I appreciate everyone's input and hopefully with work he'll start responding better.

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Simply don't respond when he doesn't answer you. If you ask him if he wants chicken and he just stares into space then don't give him anything. Maybe giving him choices that require a response. Or maybe he just needs more time to think. If he's staring at you maybe you could say something like "Do you need a little time to think about that?" and see what he says. Does he have a cold or allergies? He could have fluid in his ears preventing him from hearing everything you say to him. Try making a point of making eye contact every time you talk to him and see if that helps.

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I'd be concerned if my child just "stared" at me. It may not be them being "rude" some kids have ADD without the parents or any other adult (daycare worker, teachers,ect.) knowing. My friends sisters daughter would do the same thing & still does at 9 years old she was finally diagnosed with ADD. They refuse to put her on medicine but are working in different ways with her that help. Also some kids with Autism act that way. Not to scare you, but I would talk to the doctor first just to rule out ADD/autism or anything else before calling your child rude or what have you. But then again I also do not have a 3 or 5 year old just a 2 year old. But it was just a thought due to my friends sisters daughter.

There are lots of really good books about manners out there geared to your son's age. There is a series of books that have the Winnie the Pooh Characters that deal with manners and emotions that my kids loved. But, the best way to teach manners, and indeed almost any behavior, is to model it yourself, which I'm sure you are doing. Please and thank you are the first to start with, not interrupting when someone else is talking often comes next. It's been my experience that sometimes kids of your son's age stare blankly when they are asked a question like "do you want chicken" because processing "what do you want" can be hard for them, sometimes they know they are hungry but they don't know what they are hungry for, I'm sure you've felt that way at times too. I also found, especially with my daughter that food items like chicken, macaroni, vegetables and things that can be served a variety of ways can confuse them when you ask do you want chicken, because they're not sure what you mean by that. Making sure he's not distracted at the time you are talking to him (like - watching TV or playing with something) may help you get a faster answer too.
When I found that my kids at that age were having trouble expressing themselves I made a bunch of picture cards of foods, activities, basic needs and even chores (since they aren't really reading at that age) and gave them choices with the visual cues of the pictures to help them. This helped my daughter immensely. Most importantly, no matter what you are trying to teach, lots of positive reinforcement help so much. Letting them know when they do a good job boosts kids up so much and it's such a simple thing to do! Good luck!

Hi P.,

If you give your son appropriate responses then he can choose one. For example: You: Would you like some chicken. Son:Staring You: You can answer, "Yes, mom. I would like some chicken" or "No, thank you. I wouldn't like any chicken", but I need you to answer me, please.

If he still doesn't answer, ask him, "Are you still trying to decide?" If he doesn't answer then model the answers for him. Yes, mom, I'm still trying to decide or no, I'm thinking about something else.

Kids that age still need help communicating their choices because they have to get used to making decisions. Maybe he doesn't want the chicken and wants cereal but doesn't know how to tell you. Ask about the something else and verbalize the options he may be thinking about. I know you can't read his mind, but you know what he likes.

The best way for you to show him how to respond is to model the appropriate responses for him.

Good luck!


Your 4 year old son you say - sounds like my 21 yr old son. Ha. Sorry I can't be of more help.kk

Simply don't respond when he doesn't answer you. If you ask him if he wants chicken and he just stares into space then don't give him anything. Maybe giving him choices that require a response. Or maybe he just needs more time to think. If he's staring at you maybe you could say something like "Do you need a little time to think about that?" and see what he says. Does he have a cold or allergies? He could have fluid in his ears preventing him from hearing everything you say to him. Try making a point of making eye contact every time you talk to him and see if that helps.

Don't get down about him not speaking to you. I just came from a parent teacher conference for my 6 yr old and I asked the teacher is listening skills were at school and it felt as though she was talking about a different child. She said she has the same problem with her daughter..listens at school but at home its like she's talking to a wall. I go nuts when I try to talk to my son. I ask him things and he just stares at me with a blank expression his teacher says he's one of the best listeners and politest kids she has in class and that kids tend to behave different at home. I don't really have any suggestions but if you find away to get your son to answer you please pass it this way.

I love the manners part, not enought parents even teach them to there little boys anymore...It was about this age that i taught my oldest and middle child was 2 the manners game..
But the not listening and the blank stares...that really should be looked into..i would call your pedia first and make an appointment, and jot down about a weeks worth of notes before going to the appointment, i would also ask for a referral to a pedia ear specialist..its always better to air on the safe side when it comes to our kids

good luck to you

Hi P. -
I had this problem with one of my daycare children recently, she is 2 1/2 and in our house we've always taught the please and thank you and to say I'm sorry when needed. And your welcome.....
She came in and did not say anything, even when I asked "would you like some milk" - nothing just a blank stare. So I finally was at my wits end b/c my children, especially my 2 1/2 year old, was picking up on the fact that she still got things (food, drink, etc) when she didn't say please or thank you - obviously I cannot withhold food... So, I spoke to the parents about it and they agreed to help more at home, but here at the daycare setting - I started giving her stars halfway through the day and at the end of the day if she said her please and thank yous. She loves the star stickers and loves to wear them in silly places, cheeks, hands, forehead, shirts, or on her backpack to bring home. Not sure if this helps, but I thought I'd share. It has been a month that we've been working on it and she has gotten 99.9% better!
Good luck

Hi P.,

You are commended for trying to instill manners early on. So many young people today seem to have forgotten basic manners.

I don't have any major enlightenment, but as you describe your situation, I would say be sure when you are talking to him that you truly engage him. Kids that age are so easily distracted. Make sure you are at his level and face to face when you ask a direct question. I know this seems like extra effort and unnatural; but I think once he understands you expect a response every time he'll catch on and you won't have to "get in his face" so much.

With my two girls I realized they couldn't screen out extra stimulation as effectively as we adults. When I sat and listened to my house there was a tv on in one room, people chatting in another etc. By turning off the tv and other distractions and by on occasion getting n their face. (occasionally I actually turn their face to mine with my hand on their chin it's pretty hard for them to ingore you then) communication has been much easier. Best Wishes.

J. L.

Hi, P., The addition of a new baby (even though it's been 9 months now) may still be affecting your son. He doesn't get as much attention from you as he used to...I think one of the ways to help stop his behavior might be to do the same thing you would do if he were whining. When my kids whine, I say, "When you're ready to talk to me in a regular tone of voice, I'll be ready to listen." And I don't respond to the whining. It works! I wonder if he's refusing to answer because when he does, you pay more attention to him (even though it's negative attention). So it may stop if there's a way to praise him when he does answer and basically ignore when he doesn't answer--just go on talking just like we do to infants who can't answer. You might also make a big deal out of your 9-month-old responding to your questions, even though the little one will respond in babble (in front of your older one), then ask the same question to the older one--maybe he'll answer you if he sees how much attention you give the younger one...?
As I'm sure you know, all little guys want to feel as though they have choices and have some power. He's exerting what power he feels he has: he can talk or not talk. So maybe providing choices will help (but only if he responds verbally!). When getting dressed, if you ask what he wants to wear but he doesn't respond,you can say, "Well, when you're ready to answer my question, you'll have a choice: the red shirt or the blue shirt. But if you're not going to answer me, I'm going to decide for you."
Hope this helps (and works!!). Best, L.

First of all, make sure you are near him, even bending down onto his level, and looking into his eyes while you ask him a question. Secondly, maybe you could pose it as a choice, "Would you rather chicken or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?" That's all I got. lol. :-) Boys/men are not necessarily the "master communicators" are they? lol

Hi P.,

My 5 1/2 year old will do the same thing. She is involved in her own thoughts or just plain out ignores me and it drives me nuts!!! We've let her know that it's rude and she knows what rude means and she doesn't like being "rude" so that has helped with her not answering us. We also let her know that she can not just ignore us sometimes due to her own safety. I would just keep talking to your son about how that kind of behavior is not acceptable. Also, manners are a HUGE part of our lives and we try to instill them into our own children the best way we can. Like saying "no, thank you" to things you do not like that are happening, to please, and thank yous. Keep up the good work, as soon as your son "gets it" it should work itself out... this is just possibly a phase as it was with our oldest.

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