‘Good manners: polite or well-bred social behavior. Example: “it’s nice to meet a young man with such good manners.”‘ – Oxford University Press
To exhibit good manners is nothing more than consciously understanding the importance of treating fellow human beings with dignity and respect. On the surface, this notion seems rudimentary and straightforward; however, many of our fellow humans lack the necessary understanding, along with the effects of treating people in such a way.
Why is this? Well, as with many cognitive and behavioral traits, its development begins at childhood. The human brain develops at a much quicker pace throughout childhood years than at any other stage of life. This understanding of development makes it all the more important emphasize the golden rule of “treating people how you would like to be treated.”
Any shortcomings in developing the empathetic nature of a child can yield undesirable consequences. Firstly, the child is less likely to exhibit the type of mutual understanding necessary to establish and nurture relationships. Secondly, the child is susceptible to becoming an outsider; one that resorts to isolation rather than social interaction – a genetically inherited element of human beings; traceable as far back as the “caveman” age.
Examining the sociological evolution of mankind throughout history is far (far) beyond the scope of this article. Instead, we have chosen to focus on what mannerisms children should understand in their early years.
Here are ten manners that every parent should teach their children:
1. Saying “Please” and “Thank you.”
The simple words of “please” and “thank you” seemingly go a long way in a society inexplicably devoid of such basic, common courtesy. Not only are these basic words polite and well-mannered, but they also help to build a foundation upon which future relationships will be built.
2. Saying “Excuse me.”
People do not appreciate, whether right or wrong, having their personal space encroached upon. Whether it’s accidentally bumping into someone, attempting to get someone’s attention, or navigating through a crowded area, saying “excuse me” is not only polite but also increases the likelihood of someone respecting your right intentions and obliging accordingly.
3. Teaching them not to interrupt
Interrupting someone while they’re attempting to speak is perceived as incredibly rude and ungracious. Teach your child the “80/20” rule or the axiom of “2 ears and 1 mouth.” Active listening is, unfortunately, not a practice that is common in today’s “look at me” society.
4. Teaching the importance of gratitude
A simple thank you note or responding graciously to a gift is a great way of teaching a child the importance of gratitude. As the child develops, parents may wish to embellish upon the importance of being grateful for what one has regardless of circumstance.
5. Learning the importance of hygiene
This is not to say that your child should attempt to remain germ-free. But understanding the elementary rules of “covering your mouth when you cough” or “washing your hands after using the toilet” are subtle suggestions that promote self-discipline and courtesy towards others.
6. Teaching basic “table manners.”
Table manners are underappreciated in terms of teaching a child self-discipline and respectfulness. When a kid sits down to eat, don’t allow them to leave without excusing themselves, teach them not to reach across the table to grab something, and so on.
7. Holding the door open for others
Wholeheartedly, the act of holding the door open for someone else epitomizes good manners.
(As a side note, when this writer was a child, my grandparents would always remind me to hold the door open in the event someone was behind us – a habit that this writer proudly practices this very day.)
8. Responding to someone else’s question
Children have a short attention span. This is not to be considered a maladjustment of any kind. Their brain is still developing, after all. However, encouraging a child to respond to an adult’s inquiry is a terrific way to teaching them the importance of attention, discipline, and respect for authority.
Speaking of which…
9. Emphasizing respect for teachers and authority
An orderly society requires individuals who adhere to authoritative figures. Teachers, policemen, and those who carry the burden of enforcing societal order should be treated with respect.
What better time to teach this important aspect of society than during childhood? Emphasize the importance of respecting elders, raising the hand during class, and politely entering and exiting the classroom, which are just a few ways to encourage respect for those who keep our society in working order.
10. Teaching the importance of cleanliness
Whether it’s assigning chores, insisting they clean their eating area at the table, or picking up toys in their bedroom, cleanliness is a close relative of orderliness. Children learn by what they see and are instructed to do. As such, insisting upon a clean and orderly environment that involves their participation is a great way of establishing a good sense of manners.