One day I spent the weekend with a friend at her grandparents in a small town to the south. When dinner was completed she rose and encouraged me to follow her to work on a project we had started before dinner. I looked toward her grandpa and asked, “May I please be excused?”
You’d think I’d asked for cheesecake. Everyone in the room looked at me in amazement. It was the first time I realized that not everyone asked to be excused from the table following a meal. At our house, it had been the standard.
Of course her grandparents loved that I had asked, though I don’t think my friend did.
Another sleepover at another girlfriend’s had a unique challenge. Her father had gone hunting the night before and we were served fresh deer liver for breakfast. It was my first experience with venison, let alone liver. And, well, the last time I ate liver. Despite the strangeness of the flavors, I had been taught to eat what was served to me and so I bravely made my way through.
Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm clued them in, because her dad commented favorably on my willingness to try something new.
An article, “25 Manners Every Kid Should Know by Age 9,” covers some excellent basics.
Teaching children good manners takes repetition, and is reinforced by moments of gentle reminders. Special occasions can be planned to expand on the theme, such as going to a nice restaurant as a family or an event such as a symphonic concert.
My apologies to those who’ve already heard the following story:
One time when our children were in their early teens we planned a special family dinner where we would discuss manners. My daughter planned the menu, made the meal with my assistance, and prepared a short lesson.
Just as we had sat down to eat, the front door burst open and the young man who lived next door walked right in, leaving the door open behind him. He was an affable, usually polite young man, and so everyone was shocked at his intrusion,
He strode into where we were, sat down with us, leaned back in the chair, and threw his feet up onto the table. That alone had jaws dropping.
“Hey,” he said.
“What can we do for you?” My husband asked.
He stood up and went into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door. “Do you have something good to eat around here?”
About then I couldn’t hold it in any longer and began to laugh. He’d done what I’d requested far better than I’d imagined.
After the neighbor left, we discussed how good manners benefit the relationships we form as well as help society run smoother.
Think of the last time you were in your car, trying to leave the parking lot after a ball game. Headlights were strung out in a dozen converging lines and everyone just wanted to get home. Then the cars all start taking turns. Something changes and an unpleasant moment becomes more relaxed.
Teaching a child good manners helps them form a noble character, and contrbutes to helping the world we live in run smoothly.