Making Manners Matter....sometimes.

Posted by Shaunessy Martin at

Making manners matter to children and teenagers is part of our parental duties. One reason we do this is because we want our children to grow into respectful, kind and empathetic adults. And the other reason is we do not want them to embarrass us in public! 

We, the parents of individuals with ADHD, Autism, Asperger's, Anxiety and Sensory Processing Disorders, spend so much time on anticipating, avoiding, re-directing, accepting and managing behaviours that arise due to their complex needs and underlying issues. So where do manners fall into play? 

The quick answer: Always. Whenever appropriate. Sometimes not at all. 

Warning to others: you may not like/understand/agree.

I am reminded of a time when we did a family outing to the museum. My kids did fantastic! We managed to do the entire museum without running, shouting or touching the untouchables (or climbing them!). They listened to the presentations and participated well. Next step was the cafeteria for some lunch. As we ate, my son with a diagnosis sang. And he sang some more. Albeit, it would get a little on the loud side but with gentle reminders he would bring the volume back down temporarily. BUT he had just handled the museum experience so magnificently well that this sensory release (of signing) was totally fine with me! Then the bubble was burst when a woman walked up to us in disgust and informed us that she had a headache and that they were trying to eat in peace. Her perception of the situation was that we did not have proper manners. Was she right? 

My response is no and yes. 

No, because I have taught proper table manners. And singing excessively at the dinner table is not typically endured in our household. 

BUT she was right in the fact that I was not, at the present time, enforcing that table manner. In fact, I was purposefully ignoring it. And somewhat enjoying it. He had controlled his verbal outbursts, energy level and impulses all morning and was signing which indicated he was HAPPY. This was after all, a cafeteria and not a fine dinning restaurant. So sing away, baby!!

I will continue to work on polite social behaviour with all of my children so below are a list of resources and tools that you can use to help your kids/students/campers over the summer. Just note that the "proper" behaviour is not always the most important! :)

1. Do2Learn is a great resources that has activity ideas and print-outs that parents can work on with their children and teens.They address over a dozen topics in the areas of improving social behaviour and increasing communication. 

Here is a sample of an activity on how to properly end a conversation. (and not just walk away, change the subject or say "stop talking"!)

You brainstorm ideas together to fit in the bubbles. Appropriate things like; smile, make eye contact, nod your head, say "that's great", etc. Inappropriate things like; looking away, walking away, interrupting, etc..

2. Here are a couple videos for younger children - especially children with developmental difficulties that require reinforcement for their positive behaviour - to learn table manners with visuals. 

Table manners

Eating in a restaurant

3. Listening is a hard one for many children. Not interrupting, sharing ideas and appropriate times to talk are especially difficult things for those with impulsivity. 

Here are a few pages from a book I put together for some of my students. It's about 12 pages with clear and concise language.


This comes from It has numerous downloadable social stories as well as free downloads for Speech and Language, following directions, fine and gross motor skills, psychology, literacy, visuals and so much more. 

4. We must not forget teenagers. Teens seem, at times, to be purposely impolite and defiant. With school ending and parents spending more time with their teens, it is important to understand and guide their behaviours. Here is a good powerpoint I came across that may help you in helping your teen develop responsible behaviour. 

With summer holidays approaching and more outings on the agenda it is a perfect time to work on politeness and manners. Whenever we deem it appropriate!! Above all, I believe it is important to teach our children grace and acceptance. 

Good luck to all!

Thank you for reading :) 

Hope and happiness, 



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