My motivation to write this article was sparked after witnessing a very odd incident at our local grocery store.
A gorgeous little boy, who was no older than 5 years old, was happily seated in the trolley, as his mom busily unpacked the goods at the till. The boy was babbling happily to his mom, who seemed oblivious to her child’s presence. On overhearing the one-sided conversation I heard the cute tot ask in a very impolite tone, -Mom, have you ordered my sh**? At first I thought I had misheard the word -sh** , but he continued to ask mom, over and over again, if she had indeed ordered what he needed. I had my two teens with me at the time. My children looked at me with wide eyes and began grinning at the child’s strange outburst (who after the first demand, proceeded to become more vocal and shouted louder and louder). While the other shoppers virtually came to a standstill, his mom ignored the boy blissfully unaware that her child at the tender age of 5 was a) swearing and b) being unashamedly disrespectful.
Are parents purposely overlooking their children’s shortcoming (or their own shortcomings) because we are too preoccupied or too busy or have we just given up on teaching our kids the importance of good manners?
My daughter, who recently completed a four-week stint of community service at a local primary and pre-school school, reported that many children use these types of words at will, and what’s more they show no respect for teachers or adults. Additionally the terms please, thank you and may I? have made a quiet exit out of our schools and apparently out of our homes.
-Manners maketh the man’
Humans are not born with manners. Children will need to be taught manners and when parents, themselves possess good manners and etiquette, children will tend to mimic what they see. The lack of manners and courtesy in children is becoming a worldwide problem and as parents, we are failing to teach our kids the basic rules of etiquette which came as second nature to our grandparents, such as greeting an adult who visited the family home, giving up a seat for an elderly man or woman, respecting adults and remembering to use the magic words -please’ and -thank you!’. The question is why are we failing so dismally and why are we finding it so difficult to carry over the good manners that we were taught as kids and raising our kids to have manners?
The answer may be summed up perfectly by an etiquette expert. “Our society puts more emphasis on making kids happy than on giving them the skills they will need later on in life.”
How to raise well mannered children
As with any lesson that is taught, practice and perseverance are the key ingredients for success. By the age of 3, children should possess good manners. Three year-olds should know when they need to say please and when to say thank you. Start teaching manners from an early age!
To teach table manners, parents will need to take time to eat their meals together around a table. Set the table, with knives and forks and teach children how to use the utensils properly. Coach kids on how to request the salt or the gravy, rather than leaning over and grabbing it. Encourage kids to chew with their mouths closed and not to talk with their mouths full of food.
All adults deserve respect and kids should not see their teachers or other adults as their peers or as their pals. Having respect for a teacher or an adult is by no means barring the child from interacting with the person. Children should be free, and even encouraged, to express their thoughts and their ideas and interact with the adults but it is how they express themselves (respectfully!) that is important.
Please and thank you
These words are the most important words and should form part of Manners 101. Kids can be taught how and when to use these magic words from an early age and when they forget to use them, parents will need to remind them to use them.
Why are manners so important?
Many parents may feel that teaching manners is not particularly important and there are so many other things to worry about when raising kids, like encouraging them to excel at school, excel on the sports field, keeping them happy, etc. These are indeed essential but for a child to become a well-rounded member of society, parents must spend time cultivating every aspect of a child’s character.
Kids who have manners are well liked! I would much rather prefer to spend my time with a child who is well-mannered, courteous and respectful. A child who is blatantly rude and ill-mannered will be avoided on the playground and what’s more, friends of the family may come up with a lot of odd excuses to avoid spending their time with an ill-mannered child.
Children who are kind, mannered and respectful are a reflection of their parents. Remember a child must be taught good manners, and when kids possess these traits, it indicates a job well done!
Who is to blame for the disintegration of manners?
Society and parents are quick to point fingers and lay the blame on TV and movies, citing their kid’s role models and blaming these TV characters or programs for the kid’s lack of respect or lack of manners. The media’s obvious disregard for respect and manners may play a big part for our society’s lack of manners, but cannot be blamed entirely. Parents have to take responsibility for parenting and if kids are mimicking their heroes or roles models, parents need to take the necessary action to remedy the situation.
Another reason why today’s parents may not be teaching good manners is because they feel that their own childhood was filled with rigid rules and their own parents were unapproachable and practised -kids should be seen and not heard’. They vowed that when they became parents, they would give their kids reign! This is simply going from one extreme to other and in order to achieve a good and healthy balance, parents must try to reach some middle ground and not forget completely that they are required to teach and educate their kids.
Manners, like charity, begins at home and if kids are not taught manners and how to use the magic words (that seem to be quickly disappearing from our vocabulary) they will never understand the value of good manners.
– Kathy Baron