As we sat around the table I asked my kids, ‘What are the top 10 manners that you have to learn?’ They pointed out a very interesting idea: manners are culturally relative. That means what is considered good manners in one culture could be considered rude in another culture. Even over time in our own culture we have seen the expression of good manners change.  Which makes me wonder if we should cling to the manners of yester-year or do we need to reconsider manners for today?

With older kids in my house (young adults really) I have found it interesting to see how they view life, because it is often different than how I would have expected based on what I taught them. One reason for this difference is simply generational differences. My kids see the world slightly different than I do, and I hazard a guess that I see the world, even today, slightly different than my folks. Which makes teaching our kids manners tricky unless we dig deeper than the practice itself and look at why we show good manners – and even define what is good manners.

Before we can impart good manners to our kids we need to know why they are so important. Why do we have manners? And are they still relevant today?

Are Manners Really that Important today?

So instead of just insisting that our kids have good manners it will be helpful to actually help our kids understand what good manners are, and why they are important.

  • Good manners are the actions that show people we are aware of them.
  • It is important to be aware of others because it is one way we show the people we are with that they are precious and we love them.
  • It is important to love the people we are with because it is Christ’s command to love our neighbor.

When our kids are little we can teach them the right way to behave and as we do so we teach them what we consider to be good manners. But as our children grow older they need to have an understanding of why what we teach is important, why it is the right behavior. When we can communicate the value behind the actions they have what they need to take ownership of their behaviour. If we simply say ‘it is good manners’ it is likely they will reject or at least devalue the standards that we have.

So even though the kids and I discussed that good manners were relative to the time and place I still can’t resist thinking through 10 top manners to teach our kids.   But as I reflected on my choice I could see that our conversation shaped my list.  The list doesn’t say how we are to act, rather the list highlights either a value or a context where manners are needed.

  1. Put others first, be aware of others
  2. Be thankful and appreciative
  3. Say hello / goodbye
  4. Mealtime manners
  5. Meeting People / introductions
  6. Dress appropriately
  7. How to apologise and forgive
  8. Conversation skills (talking and listening)
  9. Respect other people’s property
  10. Punctuality – respect other people’s time

How we live out each of these ten manners may well look different in different situations but, when we teach our kids that these things show love and consideration to the other person we can work out how best to actually act in order to be consistent with that value. The key for any good manners is that in our heart we value the other person and will choose to act in a way that they feel considered or respected. So yes, manners are important for today but we must remember to address the heart not just the form.

 

Further Reading

Manners are a Matter of the Heart – Another list of good manners to teach our kids – but make sure you think about the why first.

Do you Know Why?  The saying “if your why is broken so is your how” has been central to our family life.

A Simple Command but so hard to do:  Love your neighbour as your self….

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