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Why Manners Matter: Giving Your Kids the Tools for a Great Life

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Parents have enough to worry about without making sure their children say every “thank you,” and “yes, please” they should.

Think again.

Manners may seem antiquated in our OMG, ROFL age, a time when social media short circuits much of what our parents’ generation embraced. It’s tempting to give up on Manners School 101 every time we see a child flaunt boorish behavior on the playground.

Never mind what kids might say on Facebook. The mind reels.

Manners still matter – in a way more than ever. Our increasingly frenzied society needs manners to grease the wheels of public discourse. Who doesn’t find it soothing to have a stranger hold the door open for them after being treated rudely at a department store? An unexpected, “thank you” can be a balm after an awful day at work.

That said, gracious behavior doesn’t come easily to children. Parents spend the first few years of life like unpaid servants, fetching everything our sons and daughters demand. Food. Sippy cups. Clean clothes. We wipe up their spills, collect their toys and even wash their faces.

Our boys occasionally take this servitude for granted and start barking orders at us. “Chocolate milk, Dad …. Chocolate milk!” My youngest son barks in his raspy voice, “Do ‘Frozen!’” every time he wants to hear “Let It Go” during a car ride.

Is it a losing battle?

It doesn’t have to be. And teaching your children manners now could impact their lives on a number of critical fronts.

  • Friendships: Childhood friendships are precious and sometimes fleeting. Chums move away, switch schools and otherwise come in and out of your children’s lives. Manners helps them make new friends, cement existing ties and provide a more pleasant time during play periods.
  • Impressing Adults: Children interact with adults every day – teachers, fellow parents, the workers at the local restaurant. Displaying good manners shows them a level of respect, a sign that they understand and will obey adults assuming they respond accordingly.
  • Crushing the Big Interview: It’s hard to think of your eight-year-old fielding questions like, “what is your biggest weakness?” during a future job interview. That’s exactly where he or she will be someday, and manners will help that process immeasurably. The more uncivilized our society becomes, the more well mannered people stand out for simply being gracious.
  • Reflecting Well on You: Yes, this sounds selfish, but even parents can do a few things for themselves now and then. Adults notice a well-behaved child. They make mental notes if a boy or girl says, “please” and “may I.” And they connect those statements with the parent or guardian near the child, nodding silently in approval. Those social connections are invaluable these days, and every extra boost counts.

(Photo by Christian Toto)

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