My new friend, a lady, first wrote to me in response to a column about “Manners” and she included some advice from the books “How to Raise a Lady” and “How to Raise a Gentleman” by Kay West. I will share this with you a bit later because it’s great information, but first let me tell you why I think this is so important.
In some circles, not all mind you, our lack of manners, etiquette and common courtesy has slipped so far that we are in danger of reverting back to the Dark Ages. This new friend, who shall remain anonymous, said, “The manners breach that irritates me the most is the way people increasingly interrupt someone else’s speaking and think nothing of it. Another is a cellphone going off during church services, weddings and even funerals.” Then she added, “My grandmother would literally turn over in her grave if she just knew what was happening today.”
In this respect, the simple truth is that we will get anything that we are willing to settle for. If we want to have a society characterized by good manners, decency and common courtesy we have to model it and we have to teach it to our children and grandchildren. In my opinion, what we really need is to get back to the old-fashioned concept of “chivalry.” No, it is not dead yet, but it is running a high fever.
If those of us who think this is important are going to help resurrect these qualities, advice from the books “How to Raise a Lady” and “How to Raise a Gentleman” will help.
First, this is advice to parents or guardians, who must be the leaders:
1. Use “please,” “thank you,” “I’m sorry” and “excuse me.”
2. Be generous with your compliments and stingy with your criticism.
3. Listen to your child when he/she speaks to you, even if you’ve heard it before.
4. Do not discipline your child in front of others.
5. Be clear and consistent with what you expect.
6. Words can hurt; do not hurl them as weapons.
7. Give credit where credit is due.
8. Hold the door, lend a hand, and greet and help the elderly.
9. Give more than you are asked.
10. Don’t take (or buy) more than you need.
11. Leave a place as clean as you found it.
12. Do not respond to rudeness with rudeness.
And here is a partial good manner checklist specifically for children:
1. They should use all the words in No. 1 above, plus “sir” and “ma’am” on a consistent basis; they should greet and help the elderly.
2. They should refer to adults as “Mr.” and “Mrs.” until asked to do otherwise.
3. They should never invite themselves over to a friend’s house.
4. They should never say, “I already have this,” when opening a present.
5. They should keep elbows off the table, never talk with food in their mouths and always use the correct fork.
6. They should always ask to be excused from the table when finished eating.
7. They must never make fun of or pass judgment on another person’s religion.
8. They should speak clearly on the telephone and know how to take telephone messages properly.
9. They must not judge people by the color of their skin, their clothing, their house or their family’s car.
10. They must learn to RSVP, learn to be on time and learn to always write thank-you notes for gifts.
Unless you are already doing all of these things, this advice may also be helpful for you. Good manners are a sign of respect for yourself and others around you.
Children need to begin learning manners at the earliest opportunity. The daily examples of respect, kindness, consideration, honor, generosity, empathy and compassion are some of the most profound gifts any of us can bestow on our children.
These are gifts that will last a lifetime and will pay big dividends for those who are wise enough to give them.
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. He may be contacted at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway AR 72034.)