As a “Mama on the Far Side of Childhood,” I find it troubling, based on what I”m seeing in the media and in public, that manners do not seem to be as much of a priority as they used to be!
Simply defined, being mannerly is behaving well and being courteous to others. If everyone did those two things, wouldn”t the world be a much nicer place? That”s why I”m writing this post. I want to share my experiences and encourage you to make “good manners” one of your family traditions this year!
As soon as my children started talking, they were encouraged to ask for things using “please” and to acknowledge receiving things with “thank you.” They learned to say they enjoyed their meals and to ask to be excused from the table.
We taught our children to be nice to everyone and to respect people who seemed different and those who did not share our opinions.
As soon as they were able, our children were supposed to write thank you notes before using birthday and Christmas gifts. We tried to model compassion and service. We taught our children to casino share and to remember and serve those who are less fortunate. At Thanksgiving, we served meals to the homeless as a family and at Christmas we packed “Shoeboxes for Kids” for Samaritan”s Purse.
When our children made a mistake, or took a sibling”s toy, or hurt someone”s feelings, they were taught to say, “I”m sorry.” We ignored tantrums. We tried not to reward bad behavior. We discouraged name calling.
We taught our children not to interrupt adult conversations unless it was an emergency (emergencies being defined as something dangerous or someone bleeding.) If it was not an “emergency,” they were to politely say, “excuse me” and wait to be acknowledged.
When responding to their elders, our children replied with yes or no “ma”am” and “sir.” Close adult family friends were addressed either as “Miss” or “Mr.” along with first names (i.e. “Miss Jane” or “Mr. John) or given the honorific titles of Aunt or Uncle (i.e. “Aunt Jane” or “Uncle John.”)
Above all, every manners lesson was liberally reinforced with love! We tried to make manners fun with “fancy dinners” at home or practicing table manners at dinners out. We knew we were making progress when our children corrected our table missteps, like elbows on the table, or pointed out their friends” faux pas!
Eventually, our efforts paid off! Our polite children have grown into intelligent, respectful, polite adults!
For some practical tips: The House of Hendrix shares a fun way to teach your children table manners, utilizing a pig. Sounds like something I would have done! The House of Hendrix also has a great post about modern alternatives to thank you notes! Yahoo Shine reprinted an article from Parent”s Magazine: “25 Manners Every Kid Should Know By Age 9.” (We did most of those things, as well.)
I”m hoping that manners and consideration for others will become more prevalent in our increasingly casual, media driven society! What are you doing to teach your children manners? Will your children use the predominately Southern custom of saying “ma”am” and “sir?” (Here”s a post from Blue-Eyed Bride on the subject of Ma”am and Sir.)
Please share your thoughts and advice about manners!