We live in a fast-paced expressive world of almost forced informality. Most of us think we know how to act. You’d think that by the time people reached adulthood, they would have cultivated good manners. Simple observations would show otherwise.
Fred Astaire once said, “The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.”
Check this out: 9 out of 10 Americans (88%) feel that incivility is a serious problem and getting worse. Statistics prove that more than 8 in 10 Americans, both with kids and without kids, agree that bad parenting — the failure to instill good behavior in kids — is the major cause of bad manners (Bozell Worldwide/US News & World Report Civility in America Study 1999)
What is going on? There’s road rage, air rage, cellphone rage, sports rage, parking rage, bank rage, desk rage, and checkout rage. We are impatient — and when someone slows us down, we get rude and angry.
This past June a, 68-year-old upstate New York bus monitor, Karen Klein, was taunted and verbally abused by middle school students. The students foolishly video taped the bullying and uploaded the 10-minute video to youtube. I wonder what the parents of those boys thought about the viral video of the attack. Was teaching manners an important topic in their home?
On Father’s Day, we had another family over for dinner. I was mortified when my two children did not use good table manners. At one point during the meal my 3-year-old tried to put her foot up on the table. My 7-year-old was ready to bounce out of her seat, refusing to eat. I pride myself on trying to raise my girls to be prim and proper. I’m not naive, I know that kids will be kids but I was so disappointed by their choices that night, especially since it was Father’s Day. I wanted everything to run as smoothly as possible for the dads!
I decided right then and there that I was going to focus more attention on teaching them about manners of all sorts. I know the best way to teach them is to be a model of good manners myself. Check! I can do that, I think I already do but being more cognizant of my own choices will certainly help me be aware of anything I need to improve.
I started researching etiquette and finishing schools online. My children learn best if their five senses are involved. I thought it would be fun if I created a charm school/finishing school for them one week this summer at our home.
I furthered my research by checking out all sorts of etiquette books at the library. Emily Post’s Etiquette is my new summer read! I find that the hands-on approach is not only the best way my kids retain information but it is also a really fun way to learn new skills.
My children are social butterflies and are excellent at personal greetings. They look people in the eye, shake their hands and are always courteous. My kids know the “magic words”, it’s their manners at the table that need improving.
Manners change over time and across cultural boundaries, but the principles are universal and timeless.
The charm school I am devising will highlight every day manners, common courtesies, personal image, table manners, telephone manners, company manners, entertaining at home, dining out, out-and-about manners, manners with the pen, etc.
Recently, I started putting a measuring pitcher of whatever my 3-year-old will be drinking in front of her at every meal. The task of allowing her to pour her own water or milk develops her hand-eye coordination, gives her a sense of responsibility and gets me off the hook of having to get up and down during the meal fetching her something to drink.
Will I have my girls walking around the house with a book on their heads or practice crossing their legs the right way? You bet ya! I think the traditional, old-fashion finishing school techniques are something that they will actually get a kick out of! And why not? What would that hurt?
Our society hasn’t placed a high priority on developing social graces. Therefore, many adults didn’t grow up being taught how to be polite and gracious in various settings and circumstances. In earlier decades, people generally treated each other with kindness and respect. In today’s culture, we don’t tend to be concerned about others in our lives. We have become a “me” generation.
We can learn good manners at any age, but when the learning process begins in childhood, mannerly behavior becomes more natural. That it is why it is so important to begin teaching good manners when our children are young.
What are your biggest pet peeves when it comes to bad manners?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Courtney Cappallo of Massachusetts, USA. Courtney can be found homeschooling on her blog, Table of Four.
The photographs used in this post are attributed to the author.