Through the years as a parent, I have gotten lots and lots wrong. But, as my daddy says, “Even a blind squirrel gets a nut every once in a while”, and on occasion I would accidentally get something right.
One area I felt that Lee and I did a good job was in the area of manners. To this day I still get compliments on how polite and mannerly my three boys are. But it didn’t come naturally. Boys do NOT naturally grow up using the best of manners. Believe me!
I remember one time when my oldest, Andrew, was five. We had an elderly gentleman named Mr. Paul who always greeted the children on the preschool hall. He was the sweetest man and was always so friendly and welcoming. One Sunday he greeted Andrew with a friendly “Good morning young man!” Andrew hid behind my leg almost tripping me. Oh no, no, no. That does not happen in the White household. When we got home from church that day I sternly told Andrew that I would not tolerate rudeness and from now on he had better respond when an adult at church greeted him. In the most pitiful little voice you ever heard Andrew said, “But momma, I don’t know what to say?” So, Operation Manners was launched. All week long we practiced how to respond when someone greeted you at church. He practiced “drawing his handshake” (as if he were the Lone Ranger). He practiced saying “I’m fine. How are you?” I was so pleased on the following Sunday when Andrew confidently strode over to Mr. Paul, threw out his hand for a handshake and said “Good morning! How are you?” That was it. I didn’t force Andrew to give him a hug or make small talk. A simple greeting and a firm handshake were sufficient.
Andrew would probably tell you that he is the quieter and more shy one of the three boys, but he forces himself to be polite and it has served him well over the years. People to this day leave comments at the Chick-fil-A where he works about the “nice, polite, Southern boy” who helped them. (His southern accent does tend to stick out in Pewaukee, Wisconsin.)
Why is this important? It is important because when we practice manners we demonstrate to others that we honor them. When we hold the door open for that person entering behind us we are telling them that they are important. When we say thank you we recognize the sacrifice of another person. When we say please we demonstrate graciousness.
In Luke 17 we see the story of 10 men who received the wonderful gift of healing of the horrible disease of leprosy. Only one returned to say thank you to Jesus. Jesus noticed. He said, “Were there not 10 cleansed? Where are the other nine?” Not only did this one receive physical healing, but he also received spiritual healing. Verse 19 says, “And he said to him, Arise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
When I was a little girl, my mom would offer me a cookie and before handing it to me she would say, “Thank you”. I thought that cookies were called thank yous for the longest time. When my boys were little and I offered them a cookie or a treat I would say thank you, but would continue to hold the cookie until they replied with thank you. It didn’t take long for this practice to become a natural part of their behavior.
Manners training is the job of parents. It’s not burdensome and it IS necessary. When my sons were little, they knew that any request they had would not be honored until the obligatory “magic word” had been said. Even if your child is not verbal, the sign for please is a simple circular motion on the chest with a closed hand. I have seen very young toddlers who are able to use this sign appropriately.
Lee and I felt, since we were both reared in the South, the words Yes ma’am, No ma’am, Yes sir and No sir were also requirements. I recognize that this very regional – but a polite Yes, please or Yes, Mr. Jones has nothing to do with region and everything to do with manners.
This week my challenge to you, parents, is to look for opportunities to practice and hone the skill of good manners. Moms, allow your children to open the car door for you. Dads, model thanking mom for ways she serves your family. Keep a tally board of all the times you see good manners practiced in your home. Find a way to make a game of it – Manners Charades or act out scenario cards. Memorize the verse – Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. or Titus 3:2 To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. I PROMISE you will not be sorry if you instill good manners and courtesy in your home.