Is There More Than Please and Thank You?

The following post is from Jennifer, a lifelong educator:

Chalk hand
source: Jennifer Burke

Can you put a check beside “uses good manners,” just because your kids say please and thank you at the appropriate times?

Or, is there more to it than that?

More Than Good Manners

Think about all of the situations children need to learn how to respond to:

  • How to wait in a line
  • What to do when you sneeze or cough
  • How to answer a phone
  • What utensils to use at a meal
  • When to let an elder have your seat
  • How to take turns

On and on it goes…

Watching children over the years, I’ve learned that there are those who do the right things in order to fulfill a requirement, while others use good manners because they truly care about the people who are around them.

A Matter of the Heart

I’ve come to believe that good manners are less about the specific things done and more a matter of the heart.

When we’re busy and stressed as moms, it can be easy to tell our kids what to do and forget to explain the principles behind the particulars.  They definitely need to know that they shouldn’t push their way into a line, but it’s because we respect other people’s time as well as our own.  Learning the reasons behind the actions will help them to apply those principles to other situations – such as being punctual for a lunch date as a way to demonstrate respect for a friend’s time.

When I think about it, I realize that dressing in nice clothes for a marriage ceremony isn’t really about how I look.  It’s because wearing my jeans to that kind of setting would focus more attention on me than on the bride and groom.  Conforming to a wedding’s social expectations is how I demonstrate respect for the newlyweds’ feelings.

We don’t talk with a mouth full of food because we put ourselves in the other person’s place, realizing that we wouldn’t want to see that.  Teaching children to look at life from someone else’s perspective will serve them well in many situations.

The Principle Lens

If I look at manners through the lens of principles, I realize that my list of what to teach my children isn’t all that long:

  • Find the best way to demonstrate respect.
  • Think about what would be a blessing to the other person.
  • Look for ways to show kindness and care.
  • Be an encourager.

If I want to teach my children good manners, I‘ll help them look for ways to put other people and their needs before themselves.  Our conversations can help them understand the principles they should to learn.  And, hopefully, my own behavior will reinforce the examples they need for the specifics.

How do your kids respond when you talk about manners?

Jennifer is passionate about children and education. She homeschooled her two sons for five years, established and directed a Christian school in Maryland for 20 years, and currently teaches in a public school in a Chicago suburb. She loves investing in relationships and delights in every moment that she spends with her family.
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