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Manners Aren’t Old-Fashioned

by Lori Sciame | May 7th, 2014 | Behavior, Elementary

hand-226358_640Lots of things change.  The toys elementary children yearned for 20 years ago have long been out of vogue.  The same holds true for which style of popular music they like.  Kids in my day loved the Bay City Rollers!  Even slang comes and goes. (When did sick become a good thing?)

But the important things remain constant, including love, truth, and caring.  Respect will also never go out of style.  For elementary age children, learning how to respect others is essential.  One element of respect is easily taught — manners.

Sadly, many parents have not taken the time to teach their children how to behave properly in public – to be courteous and to be polished.  Yes, it does take time and patience; however, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Let me give you a startling example.  As a college English instructor and student advisor, I come in contact with hundreds of 18-year-olds each year.  Most of these students have some idea of what it means to have manners.  A good many do not.

The students without manners barge into my office, not giving a second thought to interrupting me.  They burp loudly in my presence, not realizing that this action is grotesque.  And they don’t even know to say “please” or “thank you” when requesting special privileges.

Since I advocate for student success, I work with these students to teach them basic manners.  Yet, if their parents had done their job, they would be so much more ahead of the game.

Parents, then, should begin the process of instilling good manners at an early age.  A good place to start is with using the words, “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.”  Certainly little ones will need to be continually coached when to uses such words, but stick with it; they WILL learn.

Another place to bring manners to the forefront is at the dinner table.  Teaching simple things like chewing with your mouth shut, keeping elbows off the table, sitting up straight, and using a napkin will go a long way in developing a child who will feel comfortable in polite society.

If you have never thought about helping your child develop better manners, consider the following quote by Margaret Webb Pressler: “manners have developed over tens of thousands of years as a key element of human society, and they might even have helped the species survive.”

In this, a Washington Post opinion essay, she makes an impassioned plea for manners, including the benefits they bring to the user.  

I totally agree with Ms. Pressler.  To survive and thrive in today’s world, one must be able to interact with ease in society. From formal business dinners to attending a best friend’s wedding, good manners will make a person appear smart, capable, and classy.

As a parent who wants his or her child to succeed in life, don’t let them reach the age of 18 without knowing at least basic level manners. Doing so will help them have a better chance for long term success.

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