Our inquisitive children ask many tough questions about why we must behave the way we do (i.e. manners)…
- Why shouldn’t I talk with my mouth full?
- What must I use a fork and knife?
- Why do we knock on doors and wait to be invited inside?
- Why do I shake hands with people I don’t know?
- Why do I say “hello” and “good-bye”?
- Why do I have to say “please”?
Like me, you’ve probably answered with some variation of “Because that’s what we do.” This statement is true, but perhaps it’s incomplete. In truth, manners are cultural. What’s appropriate in some cultures is anathema in others. (I may write a children’s book about this one day.) But manners are more than social/cultural expectations. Manners are biblical!
From 1 Corinthians 13:5, love… does not dishonor others. NIV
is not rude. ESV
does not act unbecomingly. NASB
does not behave rudely. NKJV
From Philippians 2:3, in humility… value others above yourselves. NIV
count others more significant than yourselves. ESV
regard one another as more important than yourselves. NASB
let each esteem others better than himself. NKJV
How does using manners help our children?
Manners teach patience. We wait for someone to open the door when we knock. We finish chewing and swallowing before we speak. Small applications of patience make the bigger tests easier to manage.
Manners teach thoughtfulness and thankfulness. Keeping our mouths closed to chew shows we know others don’t want to see our half-masticated food. Our unprompted “thank you” shows we’ve recognized the other person’s generosity toward us. When we consider the comfort of others, we’re beginning to learn empathy.
What do our manners say to those around us?
Manners convey the other person’s value. When we use the fork for green beans—even when we struggle with it—we show respect for others at the table, who don’t want to see our messy fingers. When we shake hands after an introduction, we’re saying that person is worth our attention.
Manners show respect—for others and for ourselves. When we wait until a break in conversation before we speak, we demonstrate that we value the other person’s thoughts above our own. When we refrain from slurping our soup, we’re recognizing everyone else’s desire for a quiet meal.
Is it super-important that our children use the right fork for their salads (if they’ll even eat salad)? No. To be honest, some days I would rather eat my green beans with my fingers, too. But teaching our kids to make the effort in small things leads them to respectful attitudes and actions when the consequences are bigger.
In Intentional Parenting, the Gospel informs everything we do, including our manners. When we frame our explanations (our answers to the “why” questions) in terms of the Gospel, we help them understand that faith affects all of life. When we teach our children to say “please” and “thank you,” even when we show them how to eat with utensils rather than their fingers, they learn more than these practical actions. Our children learn how to demonstrate love and humility toward the people around them. They learn how to act like Christ would act in our culture.
Our manners convey love and humility toward the people around us. #Manners matter in #IntentionalParenting, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)
Do you have any practical tips on helping our kids learn to “mind their manners?” Any other thoughts on why—or if—manners are important? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
For 21 interesting meal-time do’s and don’ts from around the world, check out this slideshow: https://www.thedailymeal.com/travel/burping-good-manners-and-other-etiquette-surprises-around-world-slideshow. I found it while researching this topic.
Recommended reading: A Smart Girl’s Guide: Manners, from American Girl. Here’s a quote from the introduction:
“A girl who chooses to use good manners is telling the world she believes that other people matter as much as she does.”