Every parent wants the perfect child – intelligent, confident, talented… and oh yes, wellmannered to boot! For all these other excellences should come clothed in a respectful mien….
Manners are essentially a social construct – how you behave when someone is watching you, and how you are perceived by the people around you. Parents and grandparents we spoke to stressed that while the concept of manners may have changed over the years and across generations, good manners themselves never go out of fashion. No matter how smart, outgoing and confident children become, society insists that all this be tempered by the right, respectful attitude.
As you read this article, we encourage you to ponder on these points:
- Does being well-mannered imply mechanically doing the right things because of parental / societal pressure, or do we want this to be intrinsic in our children – saying a heartfelt thank you, displaying warmth in interacting with people, a respect for others which comes from being respected themselves?
- Are manners about children, or about parents and what kind of role models they are?
- Do we see a well-mannered child as a validation of our upbringing of her, of our parenting?
A Wikipedia on manners
Like everything else, the definition of manners has changed with time. However, when we took this question to parents and grandparents, we found that there are some aspects of behaviour that are still considered socially important and even indispensable.
Q: What do you consider good manners?
“Respect towards older people and anyone who is handicapped or less privileged. Being generous with the three words – please, thank you and sorry. Respecting others’ opinions and not interrupting when someone is talking.”
“The adherence to a personal code of conduct and behaviour which is acceptable to the society at large. Attributes would include: Wishing everyone with a smile, speaking softly and in a gentle and polite manner, Listening patiently and tolerating others’ opinions, respecting parents, teachers and elders, observing laws, observing etiquette and following ethical values in the domestic and social environment”
“A sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. Universal manners such as getting up to offer a chair to an older person, not being loud in public, to hear rather than to be heard, helping somebody to cross a road, and being kind and sharing.”
“Politeness in speech; being a good listener who does not interrupt the speaker; respecting other human beings, other view points and your environment; being open minded and not trying to impose your own ideas on others; empathy.”
“It’s not just about ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’, but more about how a child handles situations that are beyond his control. For instance, when you are at a party and another kid grabs your son’s balloon, how does he react? Does he have a complete meltdown, does he hit or fight with the other child, or does he handle the situation in a mature manner?”