The Importance of Teaching Your Children Manners

But I said Please
Manners are so important, even in a society that doesn’t always seem to value them, or maybe especially in such a society. The absence of common courtesies makes even basic manners stand out. Saying please and thank you and being nice to people is of course important, but the thing that seems most lacking these days is gratitude. In an age where people seem to think that being rude is acceptable and that they are entitled to everything, it is more important than ever to be teaching your children manners and to express their gratitude both verbally and through thank you notes. Manners are not just about being polite; they are an important life skill too.

giving thanks

Manners are about respect. Saying please and thank you, listening to others and not interrupting, and giving up your seat to someone who looks like they need it more than you do, is all about respecting other people. Is this not what you want for your child; that they treat others with decency and respect and then expect to be treated in the same fashion? Manners are not simply about knowing which forks and spoons to use, not that it hurts to be at ease in nice restaurants too. As a father don’t you want your daughter to date gentlemen who treat her well and with a healthy dose of good manners? And wouldn’t it be nice if your son dated ladies who were respectful and polite and was himself a gentleman?
If you think about daily life you will quickly find that manners are important there too. You will receive better customer service if you are polite to people and you will not survive many interviews if your first impression is one of rudeness and tactless poor behavior. Manners are considered by some to be a social lubricant and a way to get ahead as this fascinating article explains. In fact, many successful businessmen actually write thank you notes after each interview in order to thank the perspective employer for their time. Nobody will hire you if you interrupt them, chew gum loudly, or arrive late. This is because manners really do matter in real life. An employer wants to hire a person who can be trusted to treat their colleagues and clients with respect and doesn’t need to be babysat to ensure that they do not offend everyone around them.

#5839 train poster: What's wrong with this picture?
So, we have established that manners are important, but how do you teach them? It can be hard to insist on manners some days. It may even seem like a minor battle with your children, but respect is something you should always demand, even if it just means one more tiny battle for the day. However, the most effective way to teach manners is to model them. Manners are about a way of behaving in everyday life and your children will be watching you. Do you hold open doors for women? Do you offer to help someone to lift or carry heavy objects they are struggling with? I learned how to hold doors for others who may need it or graciously smile if a door is opened for me because I watched my father hold doors open for others.

Be polite, courteous and helpful and your children will learn that this is how they should also treat people. If you want to teach your children to be grateful then you need to exhibit it as well. In my family we are not always the best at expressing ourselves, but thank you notes have always been a big deal. Every birthday and Christmas produced a list of people we needed to thank. We were not raised to believe that our grandparents owed us presents. They were sending us gifts out of love and it was our job to thank them for their generosity. We may have grumbled at our mother who sat us down with pens and stationery but we couldn’t grumble too loudly because we also watched as our father sat down and wrote his own too. Now, my Dad isn’t much of a phone talking, hand written notes sort of guy, but thank you notes are simply required. End of story.

If you are the sort of Dad who practices the manners he wishes his children to have you will find that they learn how to behave from you and teaching manners will not be quite so hard. If you write thank you notes after interviews, for gifts received, or support offered (such as a friend who helped you move, or someone who donated to a cause you were fundraising for), then your children will notice. There is a lot of pressure to be cool as a child and if thank you notes seem uncool they may not want to do them. However, if they see their dad writing thank you notes it will be hard to argue that they are not manly or cool. They may not grumble as much if you tell them to write a thank you to their grandpa for allowing them to interview him for a school project, or a thank you to their distant aunt for that toy they love so much.

Of course, if you have small children you cannot expect them to write an entire thank you note, but there are ways that you can get them involved in the process. You could let them draw a picture and sign the thank you note you write for them. You can often find cute little fill in the blank thank you notes that make it fun and easy for the small child to write the thank you notes and instil the values at the same time. As they get older you may want to let them help you pick out the stationery they want to use or design their own. You can be as creative as you like with the process, the important thing is that you model and insist upon such a common courtesy.

It really doesn’t take much time out of your busy day to hold a door open for an elderly lady with shopping bags, or to write a quick note to someone to say thanks, but it is a big deal. People will remember if you do. Manners help you show others that you care and help you be a more successful pleasant person all the way around. There is simply no substitute for genuine manners; so do not neglect them.

This is a guest post written by Melinda Wilson on behalf of Vista Print, a manufacturer of custom photo thank you cards.


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