When our five kids were small I found that one of the hardest things I had to do was teach them to have good manners. Over and over I had to ask a child, “What do you say?” “Please” or “Thank you” was what I was looking for early on. But I never thought they’d get it and I got so weary of reminding them.
Then there were table manners. “We stay at the table until everyone is finished and then we say, ‘May I be excused?’ and ‘I enjoyed it.'”
And one of the hardest—looking an adult in the eye, introducing yourself, and shaking hands. Another was picking up the toys when you finished playing at someone else’s home. At our home we must come to the front door to greet a visitor and walk our friend to the door when he leaves. Learning to write thank you notes was yet another lesson.
All of this training is exhausting for a young mother, mostly because we feel like we aren’t getting anywhere. We try and try and our kids just don’t get it. We need to lower our expectations. This training takes repetition over many years. You may be well into the teen years before you see they actually did get it in a few areas!
So why are manners important anyway? Manners are a practical illustration of the character trait of respect. We want to raise kids who will be thoughtful and respectful towards others. And the easiest way to begin to train them is in the area of manners.
We will probably hear, “But I don’t feel like cleaning up.” Let’s face it, neither do we! But we have to learn that in life we do things not because we necessarily feel like it, but because it is right.
Summer is a great time to be intentional in “manners training.” It will be received much better if you make a game out of it and employ a sense of humor. Set a timer with a ding and see if you can pick up toys before it goes off. Pretend you are dining at the White House and set the table with your best china and teach your kids what fork to use when and how to have good conversations.
Get a girlfriend whose kids match yours in age to do this with you. It will make it more fun and your kids will see that they aren’t the “only ones” who have to learn these ridiculous things!
Our job is to equip our kids so that they will be able to honor and respect those around them whether God calls them to dine in a president’s home or to sit in a humble hut with the poorest of the poor. We want our kids to be comfortable and to be gracious guests demonstrating respect in both situations.
Our job is the equipping. God’s job is the calling and we don’t know where He will call our kids. We simply want them to be ready.
Susan Yates has written thirteen books and has spoken nationally and internationally on the subject of marriage, parenting and women’s issues for many years. For 11 years she was a regular columnist on parenting for Today’s Christian Woman magazine. Susan is the mother of five and has 21 grandchildren, including a set of quads. She is devoted to sharing her wisdom and experience with moms and wives and is selflessly available to those in need. Susan has been a mom for 40 years, she and John have been married for 43 years.