We spend a lot of time with our kids talking about manners over here.
Rob is known at the dinner table as being the “Manner’s Police”. Not that we don’t laugh and have a good time, and sometimes get a little carried away and are too silly…but he wants the kids to have good manners. He thinks it is important, and says a lot about character and respect. So, in our house the expectations are that napkins are put on your knee. No one starts eating until everyone is served. Guests are always served and taken care of first. No one asks for seconds until everyone has had their first. No one gets up from the table until everyone is finished and they ask to be excused. No one takes the “last” of something before seeing if someone else would like it as well. Everyone clears their plates. Everyone says thank you for dinner. No TV. No telephone. No texting. No hats at the table and you must come wearing a shirt (with 4 boys – we had to add that one!). We try for this to be the norm an often fall short – but we are trying….
Then of course the obvious (which ironically these are the ones we struggle with!): don’t talk with your mouth full, don’t shove the entire meal into your mouth at one time, no spitting, no feet on the table, no standing, no yelling and screaming, no climbing under the table etc). But I seriously doubt those will be issues when they are older…so I’m not too concerned.
I think some people think we are a little too strict about manners though. They are kids after all…give them a break. Now I agree that at some stages kids are just too young to enforce certain “rules”. But there are appropriate rules or manners that you can teach at all stages – or at least try to teach. And if you don’t start teaching them – who is going to?
Teaching manners I think teaches your kids to be thoughtful of the people around them. It’s not all about them. It’s not all about ME getting MY food and making sure I get the most and leave someone else to clean it up. It helps them be more aware of what others do for them. It helps them be more considerate. It helps them show gratitude for what they have been given.
I bring this up because I have been thinking about it a lot recently and how what I teach my kids about manners in general now affects the kind of adults they will becomein the future. I visit many people’s homes every day (work and social). I have many people in my home. I have stayed overnight for weekends (or longer) as a guest. I have had guests stay in my house. And I have seen some wonderful examples of gracious hosts and guests. And some serious examples of how not to be. Which makes me think of my own behaviour when I am a guest – or when I am hosting. Am I appreciative enough? Do I do my share? Do I offer enough help? Am I mindful of their needs and not just my own? Sometimes I know I fall short, so it is something I want to constantly be improving and and then teach my kids not only by my words, but by my example.
But it really gets me thinking how important it is to teach your kids these manners. I want my kids to grow up to be considerate and grateful. I don’t want them to be entitled or lazy. I want them to be thinking of others before thinking of themselves. I want them to be considerate of other people’s time and feelings. I want them to be overgrateful for everything they have been given!
I want them to know that it is not ok to make someone wait for you for 30 minutes without explanation or apology. That you need to hold the door for someone. That you offer to go in the back seat instead of the front. That the toilet seat should be put down and if you miss when you aim – wipe it up. That you offer to clear the plates and do the dishes after someone cooks for you. That you respond to emails and voicemails within a reasonable amount of time (being busy is not an excuse for being just plain rude). That you always ask “Can I do something”? That you automatically go out and help unload the car with groceries when someone comes home with them. That you give up your seat on the bus for an older person, or a pregnant person, or anyone who just looks plain tired. That you call someone with important news rather than text it impersonally. That please and thank you can never be over used (except you should not be saying please and thank you in the same breath as that is just rude!). That you say “Good morning” to people in your house. That you look people in the eyes when speaking. That you replace the toilet roll when it is finished. That you don’t put an empty juice bottle or milk container back in the fridge. You rinse away your toothpaste leftovers from the sink after you brush your teeth. You use your turn signals when turning.
I could go on and on…but you get the point. I want my kids to know this stuff (so if you are reading it kids – take note). It is my job as their parent to not only teach them and set the expectations, but to also be the example. I want them to be considerate and grateful and I think it starts with simple manners.
For now, I think as annoying as I am now reminding them to do (or not do) all those things, it will pay off for them in the future. No one can ever take away your manners.