I wrote a post about boys’ manners last year and I’ve had it on my mind to write a follow up about girls’ manners. You would think that with three daughters a post on girls’ manners would come naturally for me. But I suppose I put a lot of pressure on myself to make this post really impactful. After all, one of the purposes of this blog is to teach loveliness, grace, and refinement to this next generation.
As with the boys’ manners post, some of these manners are relevant to all children. And let me preface this by saying my girls do not have perfect manners! These are the just things we are always teaching and encouraging.
1. Gracious Greetings
I know the “Yes, Sir” and “No, ma’am” things are definitely southern. That’s what we (try) to teach our girls. But if you don’t want to go that route, teach children to say, “yes, please” and “no, thank you.” It shows the same level of respect in my opinion. You can start this as soon as they learn to talk!
2. Eating Etiquette
My grandmother used to jokingly say that children were like wild little animals and it was our job as mothers “to mold them into something presentable.” I think table manners are the surest sign we have done that!
As for teaching them, I believe good table manners are best taught with the drip, drip, drip parenting technique. Yes, the classes and cotillions are helpful, but children really learn by constant (gentle) reminding and encouraging throughout their childhood, expecting more from them as they get older. For example, my three-year-old is learning to always put the napkin in her lap and close her mouth while chewing, I constantly remind my six-year-old not to slurp, and my nine-year-old is trying to master cutting her food the proper way.
Side note: I try not to embarrass my children them by correcting them in front of friends, but always make a mental note to address something later on at home.
3. Pretty posture.
It may sound like I’m trying to raise mini Scarlett O’Haras with this one but having good posture not only gives girls confidence (or at least the appearance thereof) but it also is a sign of respect. When your child is in school or invited to a friend’s house, they are showing regard for that space or that person by not slouching over the dinner table in a careless manner. And good posture is not just mealtime either. Starting this young will serve them well later in life (hello, job interviews!).
4. Respect for elders.
In other words, not interrupting mom when talking with other adults (nearly impossible, I know!) and looking adults in the eye. (Read my boys post to see how we train this difficult manner!).
Teaching children proper titles (Mr., Mrs., Ms, etc.) is another way to lay the foundation for a lifelong respect for elders. I wrote an entire post on this subject, but in very few circumstances should a child call an adult by their first name.
Teaching respect for elders begins at home. If children don’t treat their own parents with respect, and view them with authority, then they probably aren’t going to show much respect for other adults. This leads into parenting philosophies (which I won’t delve into!) but bottom line: how we teach our children this will affect their future interactions with teachers, employers, even a police officer that pull them over for speeding (this is where “yes, sir” or “yes, ma’am” is very important!).
5. Good Dress and Hygiene Habits
Whether your daughter dresses in clothes from Neiman Marcus or the Target sale rack, the important thing is that she learn that taking care of herself, and her God-given beauty, is actually a sign of respect toward whoever she may be around that day.
My mother instilled this in me at a young age . Growing up she always had out hair brushed and pulled back with a bow or barrette and dressed sweetly. Aside from maybe a daddy-daughter donut trip on Saturday mornings, I do this for my girls, too, hopefully helping them to form good, lifelong habits.
Girls should be taught to eventually do all these things in the morning before leaving the door:
- Hair brushed and out of face (either a barrette, bow, ponytail, braid, or just tucked behind ears)
- Face washed each morning (because it’s just not cute to have syrup or toothpaste or crusty stuff in their eyes when they go to school!)
- Teeth brushed
- Clothes and shoes clean and neat (i.e. no stained t-shirts, matching socks)
- Check that nails are trimmed and cleaned (i.e. no dirt under nails; it’s just gross!)
Our children are not little trophies to be paraded out in perfect clothing and curled hair just for the sake of appearances. But from a mother’s standpoint, I believe we are being good stewards of the gifts God gave us by taking care of our children in this manner and teaching them to do the same things.
6. Modesty Matters
Modesty is a virtue, but it is also an important part of teaching manners to young girls. We start planting the seeds of this when we put bloomers over their diapers and underwear. Yes, those frilly things are cute, but they also start our girls on the path to modesty, translating into other coverings like biker shorts when they are in elementary school and sports bras when they are on the cusp of middle school and have to deal with gaping arm holes in Old Navy’s’ tank tops!
Learning to keep legs or feet crossed is another modest manner to train young girls. Even if my girls are in the privacy of their home, I don’t let them sprawl out on the couch with their underwear showing. Why? Because they might think that’s okay to do that a friend’s house and that friend might have an older brother or her father might walk by. Thus may sound harsh, but like I said above, manners are best learned at home (and we are reducing their incidents for embarrassment by teaching them these things!).
My oldest daughter and I starting talking about “what is appropriate” when she eight years old after she would inquire about girls she has seen in movies or at the mall wearing crop tops and bras peeking obviously through tank tops. Like it or not, our “what is appropriate” talks often lead into topics related to sexual education (yes, awkward). Teaching your daughter to have respect for her body and her beauty is directly related to teaching her the birds and the bees. So before you start talking to your daughter about modesty, truly think about (with your spouse) your plan for teaching about sex. (I recommend Mary Flo Ridley’s book to at least get the discussion going!).
7. Polite Conversation
In my post about boys’ manners, I wrote about how important it is for children to learn to carry a conversation. With girls, I want to take it a step farther.
We see it occur when a third-grade girl talks about her birthday party in front of classmates she didn’t invite. And we also see it when a 30-something-year-old mom who talks about a girls’ trip in front of another mom who is in the same circle of friends, but who didn’t get the invite. It’s called impertinence. Otherwise known as being rude.
Now, I am a realist. Life is hard and we can’t always protect our girls (and ourselves) from getting hurt feelings. But we can teach our daughters not to be rude, right?
The first thing we can do as mothers is model inclusivism and kindness when we are with our friends. They are always listening to our conversations on the phone (or reading our texts!) and lurking nearby when we are talking with our friends at school pickup.
Second, we have to train them how to have polite conversations. It’s hard to do that when girls are young, but as they get older having mock conversations with them is helpful. My nine year old and I have had many a pretend conversations about how to deal with talking about a playdate or gossiping. How to say, “We probably shouldn’t talk about that right now” or “Leah is a really nice girl” or just how to walk away. Also, asking them thought-provoking questions like, “How would that make you feel if someone else posted that on Instagram?”(Teen girl moms would love your advice on this one in the comment section below!).
8. Being gracious, especially when no one is looking.
Yes, teaching please and thank you is good. But let not our focus be on creating little polite robots, but rather cultivating gracious and generous hearts in our girls. This is not an easy task and requires much teaching and modeling (and prayer!) from parents.
Children learn the act of being gracious and kind in everyday situations: perhaps responding with grace when wronged (i.e. given the wrong flavor ice cream at Baskin-Robbins) or offering a smile to a new student at school. Two phrases we use often in our family: “put others first” and “lead by example” (both learned from a very influential pre-k teacher!). But even at nine years old, my daughter hears those things on a weekly basis. Having a few of those family mottos or even a verse really help in reminding children who are often self-focused to focus on others.
And to close, I’ll share another word my girls hear often (that I did, too, growing up) and that is refinement. It’s not something absolutely necessary to teach your girls, but it helps put a name to what I want my girls to do and that is claiming a higher standard for their actions. I remember my grandmother often used to quote Philippians 4:8 to me: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
I would love your feedback below! Any tips for teaching girls’ manners? Or funny stories?! Love reading them all! You can read my boys’ manners post here.
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