(3/2014) My mom used to tell us when we were young. I actually canít remember a time when we werenít taught proper etiquette and manners. Donít get me wrong it wasnít always a schoolbook type lesson. Very often it was what we learned by watching the way my parents behaved. Nowadays kids donít seem to be taught the same manners and ideals that we were
when we were young. I have decided to start a one woman campaign to change this!
I actually canít figure out how it happened. Is it that parents donít care (I doubt it) or donít have the time (maybe)? Is it that more of this was taught in the schools and now teachers have their hands tied concerning anything but book learning? Whatever the reason for the disrespectful attitudes and lack of basic manners, I have decided I personally
canít stand it. My husband and I have started with the basics. We are teaching table manners, like sitting in your seat properly, using a napkin properly, and even the correct placement of silverware. I know some people feel this last item is antiquated, but if my kids are going to become all they hope to be in this world then my "princess, veterinarian, doctor" daughter will
mostly likely need to know how to set a proper table.
Table etiquette is just the beginning. Respect in our house is a huge deal. My kids all know there are major consequences for disrespecting their parents or any adult for that matter. We feel that respecting an adult is not something the adult earns from the child, but instead it is something they are given (although it can be lost). We have definitely
had many conversations about how an adult should act. Letís not overlook the fact that you should respect yourself enough to know when someone else is not respecting you. I have had many conversations with my daughters (especially the 9 year old) about what they should do if a boy they might date would be disrespectful to them. After all if we donít teach our children to be
respectful then how will they handle someone disrespecting them?
The first lesson our kids learned (as do most) was please and thank you. It is how ever not a lesson to just teach and let go. Even at the ages of 15, 12, 9, and 6 my kids still need to be reminded periodically. Unfortunately, in this busy world where many times both parents are working it can be hard to stay on top of lessons in manners. I have had
those moments where one of the kids has behaved in an unacceptable way and I point it out to them and reprimand them but neglect to hand out an appropriate punishment. This often reminds me of a lesson I learned in middle school wood shop (if you can believe that). We were taught that you had to sand with the grain of a piece of wood. The teacher then demonstrated what would
happen if you went against the grain and how much sanding it would take to fix that one stroke in the wrong direction. Every time I neglect to follow through with a consequence for bad behavior it is the same as sanding the wood in the wrong direction. I have reinforced wrong behavior instead of appropriate behavior. It will take much longer to fix that problem than it would
have if I had just had good follow through with a suitable consequence.
The other day I found myself explaining to my boys (ages 12 and almost 15) about "yes maíam and yes sir". When I was young (I hope I am not dating myself) you said yes maíam and yes sir about everything. If my dad asked me to put the dishes away the appropriate response was, "yes sir". My dad will turn 70 this year and he still says "yes sir" and "yes
maíam" to everyone and I mean everyone. It is truly amazing to see a grouchy person after my dad say "yes maíam" or "yes sir" to them. You see, good manners can actually brighten someoneís day. I know we have all seen a child being disrespectful in some way and it can really frustrate you. The opposite can be said for a respectful child. When my children are kind and polite
it is absolutely heartwarming to me.
When they hold the door for someone, or pick up something someone has dropped for them, or speak politely to them I canít help but smile. I remember a time when my second son held the door for a never ending line of people. I couldnít figure out what was taking him so long and then I realized that the line of people coming through the door wasnít going
to end any time soon. He held the door for everyone and with a smile on his face. Or the time when my daughter paid a huge compliment to the girl working the McDonaldís drive thru (she had pink hair and beautiful nails). You have never seen two girls smile so much.
In a world of instant gratification wouldnít it be amazing if we gave that gift to another person. Imagine if you could change a personís bad day by just saying "please" and "thank you". Or you could put a smile on the face of an elderly stranger when they over hear you saying Ďyes sir" to your father. How amazing would you feel if someone came up to
you in a restaurant to compliment you on your childrenís behavior and table etiquette. If you havenít been teaching these things please start and if you have donít forget it is a life time of learning. It is never too late to help a child become the best adult they can. Teaching and using manners can be an amazing gift to give to your children and the world we live in, so
pass it on!
Read other articles by Mary Angel