Manners affect how we speak and how we act in any situation, with any person. Manners reflect our heart; they affect the people around us and our relationship with them. Once we have a heart to respect and consider the other person our manners are transferable to most situations.
Manners are a sensitive awareness Top 10 How to teachCharacter ConnectionFormal situationsResources
of the feelings of others.
If you have that awareness you have good manners,
No matter what fork you use.
- Please, thank you, may I?
- Interrupting others, waiting patiently
- Speak kind words
- Share, take turns, let others go first
- Clean up after yourself
- Consider the other person’s needs/feelings
- Accept compliments graciously
- Serve, help others
- Listen to others
These top 10 principles will then guide and direct your words and actions in any given social situation. Remember it is our heart that needs to be trained first, then these expressions of our love for others.
Whenever we teach these behaviours to our children we must remember to teach them why they are important. We greet others because they are special and we need to recognize them. We speak kind words, because love does not hurt, and we love the other person. We wait patiently because what the other person is saying is important and we respect that. We must always base our instruction on the understanding of why this is so important.
Love is Not Rude
1 Corinthians 13:5
Everyday situations are our opportunity to teach our children, that regardless of what they are doing there is an appropriate action that puts the other person first.
- Meal time (especially at the table)
- Conversations with people (especially their friends and adults)
- Playground / Sports ground
- Being a visitor in someone’s house
- Being the host
How to teach these things to our children?
Manners need to be taught at home. Family relationships present every imaginable situation to challenge the ingrained selfish attitude within us all, and to put into practice the idea of thinking of others first.
- Right actions must be modeled. Children will copy what they see. They need to see concrete evidence of a moral instruction before they can take it on board. If you are not practicing these things yourself, and taking the “do what I say, not what I do” method then manners will be skin deep with your child.
- Teach intentionally – teach the moral reason, the heart as well as the action. Use role-play, discussions with concrete examples (such as books/movies), and questions which will reveal your children’s thinking and heart. Try and not lecture or nag.
- Work on one skill at a time. If it is a skill that the child is struggling will, break it down to several steps, working on one step at a time. Eg. Greeting – first step is making eye contact, then waving, then saying hello, then initiating conversation.
- Pre-activity discussions. Before you go into a social situation discuss the manners expected. (don’t lecture, involve the kids in the discussion, use lots of questions)
- Be consistent with the expectation and standard for manners in your home and outside
- Correct them privately, don’t embarrass them. Children learn better in a relaxed, relational situation rather than intense, demanding one. Expectations can be the same either way but how is your heart as you instruct and correct?
- Praise your children for choosing good manners. Don’t just praise them for their action, praise them for their heart which was behind their actions. (The moral reason why, the character choice)
- Make right behaviour their responsibility – Once you’ve taught them, stop reminding them, lift the expectation, and be consistent with appropriate consequences until they start taking responsibility for their own manners.
It is easy to keep our eyes focused on the outcomes that we want – right behaviour towards others. But we must always remember that our children are little people and deserve respect, even from their parents.
- Don’t start practicing for a big event, expecting your children to perform. Make these things a part of your everyday lifestyle.
- Understand that learning to be other centered is going to take time, change won’t happen overnight just because you have discussed it or read a book..
- Consider your child’s age – the young child needs to be given the grace to learn, the older child needs to be given the opportunity to show responsibility (instead of being nagged)
Manners and character training go hand in hand. Both are always in consideration of the other person. Particular character traits to promote manners are:
Is there a place for formal manners – I think so. If you are uncertain about how to behave in formal situations buy a manners book and read it together. Set up scenarios where you can act out the formal settings, in the comfort of your home, and talk about the appropriate behaviours with your children; especially introductions, table settings, dress code and conversation.
One of my mentors from my late teens/early twenties always used to tell us “you never know where you are going to end up.” Many years later she told me that she unexpectedly found herself at an international diplomatic dinner – obviously formal! All the things that she had taught came into play – and the least of it was which fork to use!
One of the goals we have for our children is that they will be prepared for whatever adventure God has for them. This could be dealing with rulers of the land, to people of a foreign land with strange customs, it could be doing business or dealing with rude neighbours – whatever comes their way they need to be guided by good manners and strong character and they need to have that practice now, while they are young.
The exercise of a Schoolboy – George Washington copied down 110 Rules of Civility. Though some of the rules may seem a little out of touch with today’s expectations if we remember to look for the principle of respect behind any expression of good manners we may well glean some insights to help us with manners in our own family.
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