Someone once said to me I was lucky to have such nice children. I politely thanked her, because my own manners are pretty well ingrained, and then went on to rail at a friend that this was not luck! It took years of nagging, badgering, and issuing friendly and not so friendly reminders to produce these barely civilized beings! We hand-write thank you notes. Come on, that takes commitment!
Lest you think my children are perfect, let me dispel the myth. Footballs are thrown indoors, bedroom walls have been decorated with permanent marker, and yes, we are familiar with the inside of traffic court. Why dirty socks should be found on the dining room table, I have no idea. How someone can leave a bathroom with no toilet paper baffles me. There’s more – we’re a boisterous, messy bunch, facing all the normal challenges of a big family. But one thing we value, above all else, is respect. And good manners demonstrate respect.
My children will shake your hand when they meet you, look you in the eye when they speak to you, and nearly always say “please” and “thank you.” These deceptively simple social graces required years of practice, but they matter.
Those of you who know me know my parenting style is pretty relaxed. Four kids have taught me that most of the small stuff is just not important. But when one of my kids made a snarky remark to me at dinner one evening, the other three turned and yelled at him in unison, “Run!” They know.
I like to believe we are all wonderfully unique, special individuals, here on planet earth to follow our own path and hopefully do some good. Obviously, manners won’t solve the world’s problems, but they go along way in facilitating healthy communication and establishing some ground rules for living in a community.
My husband likes to say to the kids, “Be someone other people want to be around.” And other people appreciate simple kindnesses. Good manners say, “I recognize you as a fellow human being and I will treat you with respect.” This is really important. When we teach our children to make eye contact when speaking, we are teaching them to listen. When we teach them to shake someone’s hand, we are teaching them to authentically meet a fellow human. When we teach them to say please and thank you, we are teaching them grace and humility.
The world could certainly use more of that. So please, teach manners. Thank you!