Now that we’re back to school, and I’ve gotten to know my students, I see a disparity in the way manners are displayed. Some kids know how to use good manners and they do so consistently, but others choose not to unless corrected by an adult. Manners are one of the keys to a successful adult life, but it’s better to master them as a child.
1. Manners teach us to think of others first. Considering the wants and needs to others reminds us that we are not the center of the universe. Mastering manners becomes a lesson in self-sacrifice. When kids operate in a constant pattern of well-mannered protocols, they demonstrate thoughtfulness to the people around them.
2. Manners teach discipline. Sometimes we all forget to use good manners, even adults. It’s not easy! Constant use of proper manners disciplines a child in appropriate behavior. Kids have to REMEMBER to say please and thank you. They must pause to allow people to walk in front of them. They have to stop and listen during a conversation instead of talking over those who are speaking. Mastery of these types of tasks provides behavioral discipline.
3. Well-mannered children become well-mannered adults. An ill-mannered child will not magically become a well-mannered adult. Kids must be taught the basic tenants of proper behavior at an early age with additional expectations added as they grow older. Like it or not, the adult world is full of expectations for behavior, many of them focusing on manners.
4. Well-mannered people have more opportunities. Do you enjoy spending time with ill-mannered folks? How do poorly mannered people affect your time in a grocery store, movie theatre, or restaurant? No one enjoys spending time with those who don’t use appropriate etiquette. On the other hand, people who are well-mannered are a joy to be around and have more opportunities before them. They’re asked to participate in fun activities because they’re enjoyable company.
5. Manners teach expectations and values. Parents can use the instruction of manners to instill the values they hold high. For example, teaching a child to hold a door open for another person also teaches that child to consider other people first. Teaching a child to ask for permission before engaging in particular tasks (like TV watching or going outside) enables that child to think critically about certain situations. The teaching of manners is about more than the actions; it’s about the thought process behind the action.
It’s never too late to teach children manners. Start small and build up a collection of required behaviors. It takes time and constant instruction, but it’s worth it when children reach adulthood with a large repertoire of manners in their playbooks.
Contact Holly McElwee at firstname.lastname@example.org.