(editor’s note: please enjoy this lovely post written by Laura Pulido, CEO of The Protocol Institute)
“Without good manners, human society becomes intolerable.” George Bernard Shaw
As parents, we may find ourselves questioning the need to consistently teach our children manners and etiquette. After all, there are so many demands just to meet school schedules, meals, daily chores, and homework. Isn’t it enough just to teach them “please” and “thank you?”
Manners are important! In fact, manners are the moral fabric of relationships. To have healthy, life-long relationships, we need to have genuine respect and consideration for others. Without that, we will always exist in a me-centric world. The me-centric individual will reach the end of their life with few – if any – true friends. Do we want our children to live lonely and selfish lives? Of course not. Therefore, we need to equip them with an authentic understanding of respect and consideration.
How do we instill these values? There are two simple ways to teach respect and consideration:
(1) modeled behavior
(2) intentional instruction
First, children learn more by our example than any other method. Have you ever witnessed your child saying something that sounded exactly like you both in choice of words and tone? This can be good … or bad. If we positively model respect and consideration in our everyday life, they will imitate our behavior. Likewise, when we are quick to snap at the waitress simply because she brought the wrong dish, our children learn impatience and intolerance. When we text during dinner, we are teaching our children that a mobile device is more important than they are. We teach them to value technology over relationships. Think about it, will the iPhone be able to comfort them in time of sadness? Or would you prefer that they have a best friend who can talk and help them through challenges?
Secondly, we can also teach manners and etiquette through lessons or instruction. There are numerous exercises you can begin incorporating into a child’s life at an early age. These lessons teach sharing, saying “please” and “thank you” and caring about others. As they grow older and start using technology, there are resources such as eLearning courses that provide state-of-the-art instruction on introductions, dining finesse, and mobile etiquette.
The point is that children will not automatically become polite. Rather, a change in behavior requires teaching with intention and consistency from a committed parent. Here are some helpful guidelines for incorporating both modeled behavior and intentional instruction into your child’s life:
- Begin day one! Start modeling behavior from the day they are born. Let them “see” what patience, caring, respect, and consideration look like. They will be more inclined to imitate these characteristics if they have an example to follow.
- Set clear expectations. When you begin having playdates and social gatherings, explain that you expect them to share and give consideration to the other children. It is easier to set the expectation from the beginning than wait until there is a blow-up.
- Patiently work through life’s challenges. There are times that you just want to let them have it! Resist this urge, and instead, work patiently with them. By doing so, you will be teaching them the valuable life skills of patience and caring.
Never stop teaching AND learning. Stay active in their lives and learn what is important to them. Are they on Facebook? If so, do they know the proper guidelines for online behavior? Do they text every two minutes? If so, do they know the guidelines for mobile etiquette? Are they aware of their public, online profile? If we take the time to learn about their world, we can better equip them with the tools and information to help them develop healthy relationships — online and offline.
Manners are essential to the creation of our moral fabric in life. If we desire a beautiful fabric for our children, we need to begin with ourselves. Their greatest example will be us. Then, we should begin incorporating taught lessons.
About the author: Laura Pulido is CEO of The Protocol Institute, which combines etiquette and technology to deliver world class eLearning courses aimed at transforming traditional etiquette into a contemporary lifestyle. As a mother of two children, she is passionate about utilizing technology to teach and instruct manners in a way that is relevant to this digitally literate generation. The Protocol Institute invites you and your children to experience first-hand a rich, interactive learning environment like no other.
Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want mannerly children.