I’m probably not as good at this as I should be, but I’m still a moderate stickler about manners. I haven’t always been sure exactly why. I probably have driven my kids a little crazy at times. But recently I was vindicated.
I remember when our second son, Ben was 17 and being considered for a job. His potential employer called the house two different times to speak with him on the phone. A different child answered each time. Apparently, every time the employer called, whoever answered the phone was polite and had good phone manners. The employer later told us that, because of that, he was more interested in Ben than other prospects for the job. He said it was evidence to him that there was respect in our home.
Of course, I ran with that one! I went home, gathered all the kids and told them the story! You could see the wheels turning. It really seemed to hit home for them.
Isn’t that the nature of raising kids, though? We repeat over and over and over again what is really important and sometimes we feel like we are never going to get anything but that blank stare! I hate that look! It always makes me feel like I’m beating my head against a brick wall!
But the truth is we are NOT. For some reason it takes years of repeating the same words and encouraging the same behavior before it finally sinks in. So DON’T GIVE UP.
It’s not how witty our kids are, or even how smart, that will get them somewhere in life. It will be things like honestly, integrity, good work ethic, care for others, unselfishness, etc. that will make them someone that others want to be around and who they will want to hire. In a culture that is overrun with rudeness, those with character will stand out and be noticed.
We can’t FORCE character on a kid. We can encourage. Most of all we can set the example. And when we see good things happen as a result of those choices, we can point that out to our kids. I often remind our kids of their dad’s faithfulness in going to work everyday and how, as a result of that, we have a life full of things we enjoy, like a dependable car to drive, great food, good clothes to wear.
Here are a few simple examples of things that we keep working on to encourage good character and help give our kids a “good name” which God’s Word says is “worth more than riches”:
*Use please and thank you and give eye contact to the person who is speaking or being spoken to.
*Stay off your cell phone, ipod, or other media when paying at the store, in a conversation or during a meal.
*Don’t run around inside buildings or in large groups of people outside, especially when there are older people around. I always tell my kids that if they knock an older person down, sometimes they never walk again. It can be devastating. Many older people also suffer from vertigo and are easily overwhelmed, so it’s important to respect that by being calm and quiet around them.
*Learn to give a good handshake. A good rule of thumb is to match the strength of the person you are shaking hands with. If theirs is firm, then make yours firm. If it’s a softer shake then make yours softer.
*When a server comes to your table at a restaurant, if possible, stop your conversation and give them your eye contact. Also, thank them each time they bring more water, your meals, etc.
*Be faithful. Do what you say you are going to do and, if for some reason you cannot keep your word, then communicate in a timely fashion…even if it’s uncomfortable.
*When a car stops so you can cross the street, look at the driver, give a wave and then HURRY across the street (as opposed to sauntering).
*Since we had a lot of kids, it could feel overwhelming for others to have us over to their house. Whenever someone was brave enough to invite us, as soon as we arrived, I would try to have the kids listen carefully to the host/hostess while I asked what the “house rules” were: where could the kids play, what was okay and not okay. Then I had the kids look at the host/hostess and acknowledge that they had heard the rules. My husband and I would also periodically check on our kids throughout our visit to make sure they were staying within the boundaries that the host/hostess had set.
So much of good manners is being “other oriented”. It’s treating others the way we would like to be treated. They are little choices we make everyday that give us a good name because people remember how we made them feel.
(For more simple homeschooling encouragement, check out my book at Amazon: The Unhurried Homeschooler)