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Tips: Teaching Our Kids Manners
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, November 2005

There Seems to be No Time to be Polite
In our rushed world, polite behavior is becoming the exception rather than the norm. According to a recent Associated Press-Ipsos Poll, people are more rude today then 20+ years ago. Parents are finding they have less and less time to teach basic character issues to their children and manners are going by the wayside.

If We Don't Teach our Kids Who Will?
What we are talking about is respect; for yourself and for the other person. When you treat someone respectfully, you are making a statement about who you are. Nowadays some children seem to lack respect for elders, teachers and parents. Is it the affluence in our society that has produced a world of convenience, entitlement and less social contact? We need to think about our kids' absorption in the world of cell phones, videos, computers and other electronic devices.

Teaching our Kids to be Polite
So how can we change this trend and get our kids back on track to being polite and respectful individuals? The answer first lies in ourselves. As parents, adults, mentors and guides we need to model respectful behavior to others and to our children. That may mean turning off your cell phone in a store, saying "thank you" to service providers such as waiters and clerks, and containing "road rage" (comments and gestures) in the car.

Children Need to be Acknowledged Too
It also means frequently saying thanks to your children for lending a helping hand at home or for a job well done. When they see you showing mutual respect to them as well as to others, your children will be more likely to behave respectfully and feel valued in the process.

Here are more TIPS for teaching our kids (and ourselves) manners and (not so) common courtesy:

Clean Up After Yourself - Throw away cups and wrappers in movie theatres; toss newspapers in recycle bins at the train station; and pick up after your pet.
Public Places Are Not Meant to be Used for Personal Business - Private conversations are just that - private. Find a quiet place to return cell phone calls, text messages and to discipline your children.
Respect Elders - Our seniors are a wealth of wisdom from a lifetime of experiences and we are wise to honor their presence.
"Yes, Please; No, Thank You" - Mom, dad and our teachers taught us the fundamentals that we should use everyday. Let's acknowledge even the little things that people do.
Reach Out to Those in Need - Give help to the ill or distressed. Offer your seat (or the seat filled with your packages) to someone who looks like they could use it.
Learn Polite Listening - Listen with attentiveness and don't interrupt. Stop typing, take off headphones, turn off the TV and put down the video game, Blackberry or other PDA device when conversing.
Get Social - Interact with people rather than "tuning" out. Play word games instead of watching videos on a long car ride and have family fun.
Learn to Greet Others - By saying hello or goodbye when entering/exiting a room or meeting someone, you acknowledge their presence and show that you value them.
Return and Send Timely Calls, Emails and Thank You Notes - Sometimes we avoid responding because there's too much effort involved or we don't think it is important. Keep it simple. A short response is better than none at all. Rule of thumb on thank you's: Do not use the gift before the note is in the mail.
Wait Your Turn - Yes, we did learn most of these manners in Kindergarten. Holding a door for someone behind you and waiting in line at the movies instead of cutting in are the "basics". Let's pay attention to courteous behavior and make that part of the legacy we give our children.

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