|Good Manners Don’t Grow on Trees|
By Cynthia Carrier
As a child, whenever I begged my mom for the newest pair of sneakers or those $50 jeans, she’d often reply, “Money doesn’t grow on trees!” I knew she meant that if I wanted something valuable, I’d have to work for it. Now that I’m the mom, I see how the truth of that saying applies to almost everything I do. We parents sow many seeds in the lives of our children, but it takes time and effort to reap the harvest. Good manners are just one of those areas; and if I could paraphrase my Mom, I’d say, Good manners don’t grow on trees! Proactive training in etiquette goes a long way in developing children of good character. Most importantly, it also complements the Biblical instruction that our children already receive.
Begin With the End in Mind
With spring in the air, you decide to throw a few packets of seeds into your cart while you pick up some necessities at the local home improvement store. You’ve never gardened before, but how hard could it be? Much to your chagrin, however, the tomatoes that should be in full sun are shaded by a nearby tree. The shade-loving spinach languishes in the blazing heat and bolts early in the season. You didn’t stagger your plantings, so much of the lettuce that you harvest spoils.
Just as you would not plant a garden without first researching and planning, so, too, you need to keep the end in mind as you seek to grow good manners in your children.
Basic etiquette that you want your children to exhibit may include:
- Foundational manners (please, thank you, and excuse me)
- Introducing themselves to others
- Answering the telephone properly
- Expressing gratitude for gifts, honors, or compliments
- Using body language appropriately (making eye contact, facing others while speaking, keeping hands away from face, etc.)
- Asking questions in conversation so as not to simply talk about oneself
- Listening without interrupting
- Modulating one’s voice
These are just a few of the specific behaviors that you might focus on in your manners training.
In our home, we practice proactive training in order to teach desired behaviors in a relaxed setting rather than waiting until we have to correct misbehavior (or in this case, ill manners).
|We set aside a brief time each day that is designated as training time. During this time we address various issues, ranging from proper communication between siblings to house cleanup and—yes—manners. I simply introduce the children to our training topic for the day and explain what we will be doing and why. In the area of etiquette, I might say: “I noticed that Mr. Smith came up and introduced himself to you. But you girls were being shy and wouldn’t shake his hand. That might have made him feel bad. So let’s practice what to say when someone introduces himself to you. That way, when it happens again you’ll know what to do.” Then, we will go around the circle making introductions, responding, and shaking hands with each other.|
We also have practiced properly answering the phone and interrupting politely when adults are engaged in conversation. In fact, many social situations can be dramatized at home and proper responses encouraged. The benefit of these training times is that the relaxed atmosphere eliminates stress, and continual training creates habits of response that are more likely to be reproduced in real-life situations.
Reaping a Harvest
Reaping a physical harvest requires repetition of tasks such as weeding and lots of fertilizer, rain, and sun; likewise, manners training should be practiced frequently. As well, it helps to “fertilize” these basic training sessions by relating etiquette to the Biblical instruction that the children already receive. This will help them to understand the why behind what you are doing during daily training times.
There are many Scripture verses that address the topic of manners, but two verses that particularly apply are the “Golden Rule,” which says, “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12), and Romans 12:10: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.” We use good manners as a way of showing love and honor to others in a manner that glorifies God. Consistent training, coupled with Biblical encouragement, goes a long way in producing the results that we desire.
Cindy Carrier is wife to Marc and homeschooling mom of seven. You can visit her online at http://www.valuesdrivenfamily.com/, where you’ll find free articles, downloads, and other resources that are designed to encourage and equip Christian families as they strive to glorify God and expand His Kingdom. From parenting and child training to homeschooling and creating a joyful home atmosphere, there’s something that’s sure to be a blessing!
Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine®, Summer 2010.
Used with permission.
Visit them at http://www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com.