With the New Year approaching and everyone making their
annual New Year’s resolutions. I was all set and almost finished with an article for you on Gym Etiquette. What with everyone’s number one goal to become more fit and lose those extra holiday pounds, I thought the timing was right. I was putting the final touches on the article while my daughter was watching the movie Hairspray. I could hear it in the other room. It’s a wonderfully fun upbeat movie about the 60’s written by John Waters. The teenagers in the movie all dance on a
local afternoon TV show. They are called “The nicest kids in town”.

I had been thinking about that movie and what a better place our community would be if the kids, teenagers and adults in our town were as thoughtful and endearing as the ones in the movie. Unfortunately, it seems now, that I am especially aware of the fact that many of the people in our community are completely oblivious to common niceties and pleasant behavior. I have felt sometimes that when I go to a public event I can’t enjoy the show because all of the shouting and disruption in the audience. Or I drive through town and get cut off by another driver or almost get into a major collision because someone is in a hurry and runs a red light. Or when I am shopping in the supermarket and forced to listen to one side of a very boring cell phone conversation or sometimes the person is on speaker phone and I can hear both. How many times have I wanted to do the wrong thing by interjecting myself into the conversation with some pithy remark? But I don’t. Manners isn’t about telling others what to do, it’s about doing what is best in the situation.

What we should try to do is to help children, and to make their life more pleasant. If our children are confident enough in themselves, they will know the proper behavior and have a better chance at succeeding in life. People are much more willing to hire you, date you or just be around you if you are confident in your own best behavior. This should be our common goal: to help each and every child that we meet to know and understand the rules and whys of proper manners.

Manners is not just some arbitrary list passed down from Victorian times of things that we must do. It is an ever changing set of standards that we must live by if we are all to get along and live a happy life. It really is that simple! If we remember that all Etiquette is “Is making others feel more comfortable” and Manners’ is “just getting along with others”. We would all think before acting and put others comfort before our own. We would go out of our way to open the door for another. We would sit quietly while the other couples child plays the flute at the recital and if your child has performed and you want to leave early, you would refrain. You would approach each person with a smile, they will smile back (I promise). You would wait your turn while dropping your children off at school, demonstrating for your children the importance of patience. You would encourage your child to sit quietly in a restaurant and teach them the art of conversation instead of handing them an electronic device so they can entertain themselves. You would teach them how to hold a fork properly so that some day when they are at a business lunch or on a date they don’t feel self-conscious because they never learned. You would teach your child how to extend their hand look into a person’s eyes and shake the hand of all those they meet, even adults, this is a very important skill that they will need to become comfortable with and use throughout their lives. You would teach your children to think before they open their mouth and answer these questions. “Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it kind? If you can answer yes to those three questions then by all means say what you want. If not use your filter and remain silent.

Remember that you are the example by which your children set the standards, whether consciously or unconsciously. They are watching your every move in learning how to act and react with the world around them.

  1. Wake up each and every day with a smile, with
    excitement for the day that lies ahead.
  2. Greet each person in your home with a cheery
    good morning (even if you haven’t had your first cup of coffee).
  3. Get dressed look your best (imagine that you may
    run into Ryan Gosling or Angelina JolieJ).If
    you don’t take the time to look your best, you cannot expect your children to.
  4. Be pleasant in all your interactions with others
    during the day, remember that the little ones are watching and learning. If
    someone or thing upsets you, take a deep breath count to ten put a smile on your face and deal with the situation calmly. 
  5. Take the time at meals to talk to your children,
    teach them about why we put our napkins on our laps. Teach them how to talk to someone. How it is
    more important to inquire about others then talk about ourselves.
  6. While they are playing with their friends teach
    them about good sportsmanship. If you
    see a bit of a bully in them peeking out, stop them in their tracks and teach
    them about compassion.
  7. Give them chores explain that they are how we work together as a family. Praise them when they are well done and encourage them when they are not.
  8. At night say goodnight to each and every person,
    mention something nice that you noticed that they did.

I could go on and on with examples, but I am sure that you all already know what I am talking about. If we can all take the time to go back and remember the basic pleasantries that were taught to us at a young age, and encourage them in our own children we can ALL help them to be “the nicest kids in town”.

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"Manners are a sensitive awareness of others.  if you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use."

-Emily Post

American author on etiquette

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