Q: How can I teach my children good manners? This is something I’m determined to instil in my children, but it’s not easy. How do I teach them to treat people respectfully when the rest of the culture seems to care less and less for the feelings, sensibilities, and rights of others?
A: Manners and etiquette are often conceived of in terms of conformity to a set of social mores or culturally defined standards of “correct” behaviour. From this point of view, they’re an aspect of man-made custom and tradition. For people of faith, however, good manners should spring from something deeper such as the Golden Rule and the Great Commandment: “Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” and “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
What does this love look like in action? Practically speaking, it can find expression in any number of ways. Everything depends on the situation and the attitudes and expectations of the person on the receiving end. If grandma expects your son to keep his elbows off the dinner table, then he should be taught to comply. If your neighbour prefers that visitors remove their shoes before coming inside, you ought to honour his wishes. Ultimately, it all comes down to caring for and putting others first.
How do you teach your children to implement these principles in everyday life? The answer is simple. You model this kind of behaviour yourself. Kindness, good manners, and respectful treatment of others are best instilled in young minds through consistent example. They are caught more so than taught. Keep in mind that you can’t begin too early, and that the best place to start is at home.
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