By Judith Rasband
Make no mistake about it. Manners are missing in this modern day in the 21st Century. At a time in history when we have the most and the best of just about everything anyone could ask for, we don’t even ask anymore. People just take—let alone say, “Please,” “Thank you,” or “May I help you?” Teens and youngsters are falling right in line with the trend.
Your manners–how you present yourself and behave throughout your life–contribute to feeling and acting comfortable, confident, and capable in the home, the school, and the community as well as in the workplace. These feelings and actions only come with knowing and practicing good manners.
Knowing the rules or guidelines of good manners helps you to relax, to forget about yourself—and again, to feel confident and capable. Practicing good manners allows you to appear comfortable and competent, and builds self-respect in the process. The place to learn good manners is in the home.
In the years before 1960, families ate meals together and children received daily training in good manners. Perhaps you remember some parental admonitions: “Wait for everyone else before you start eating. Don’t slurp your soup. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Use your napkin.” Children went to school wearing a nice pair of pants, or a skirt for the girls, and a shirt with a collar.
In the following decades a large majority of families gradually relaxed or relented, adopting a casual, fend-for-yourself approach to meals. Today it’s called “grazing,” and most parents are assuming a nonchalant attitude about, and even saying “no,” to family mealtimes. It’s all part of the casualization of America that is taking place.
Casualization in dress in defined by denim, with children wearing jeans or shorts and T-shirts to school and growing up relatively unsocialized. Without experience wearing different styles of dress in their youth, teens and young adults are totally unknowing about personal style and what goes with what.
Due to violence and drugs in schools, their actions are unsettling, vocabulary questionable and often objectionable, attitudes indifferent, and direction haphazard. As studies show, we’re seeing an appalling lack of simple good manners in younger employees. And manners are embarrassingly difficult to learn at an older age.
Make life easier for your children. Teach your children good manners while they are young—while you still have the greater amount of credibility with them. Even children want to know how to behave appropriately and acceptably, to be accepted in their world. Good manners are learned skills and children are eager to learn because they don’t want to be uncertain or uncomfortable any more than adults do.
How do you teach good manners? By example. By practicing good manners every day.
- By keeping a small etiquette book on hand for ready reference yourself.
- By looking up etiquette questions in front of your children so they’ll learn to refer to it, too.
- By providing a few good story books about manners for children. Read often.
- By turning off the TV—or at least supervising what children watch. TV is doing a lot of bad parenting, showing children and teens crude and rude ways to behave—and very little about the Golden Rule.
- By taking your children to visit their relatives and to meet some of your friends and colleagues, practicing proper greetings and introductions.
- By sending your children to school wearing a shirt with a collar. Save jeans and T-shirts for after school, weekends, and rough outdoor play.
- By preparing meals at home and eating at the same table as a family, practicing good table manners and discussing the day. TV off! (For children not home for dinner that night, prepare a plate for later. They’ll appreciate this thoughtfulness.)
- By clipping current events articles from magazines and newspapers that present examples of good and bad manners to discuss.
- By engaging your child in conversation and listening to what each other has to say.
- By including your children in card and gift-giving experiences.
- By teaching your children to write thank you notes and notes of appreciation.
- By taking your children to the market, the mall, and the movies with you; to a restaurant, symphony concert, and sports event; to church, a museum, and bowling or miniature golfing. All are among the many opportunities to observe, teach, practice, and discuss manners while you help them develop a full, diverse, and interesting life.
Don’t wait until children get older to expose them to life and good living. They don’t suddenly get good manners as teen-agers or adults unless you teach and tell them how much better people feel when they say or do right instead of wrong, good instead of bad. It works!