I originally posted this at 3 Sides of Crazy October 2008, but I find it necessary to repeat more and more as time moves forward.
Have you ever noticed that many people tend to save their best manners for when there is company or are they are in the company of strangers? Have you noticed how the relationships that matter the most in their lives are manner free so to speak? Is this true of your life? Our families and close friends are some of the most important relationships and the longest and most enduring, don't these people deserve our very best?
I recently overheard a young mother complaining that her child was not learning manners in school. Hello? Manners should be taught by parents AT HOME and begin at a very early age. There is nothing wrong with demanding our own children learn how to say please, thank you, take turns, share and be respectful of their elders in their home as well as out in the world around them. In fact, the fate of our society may well depend on it. Learning it at home first will hopefully extend into their everyday world and future business life. Children crave discipline and direction. Offer it up to them.
Some of the major categories that should be addressed while they are young are the basic please, thank you and table manners, but don't stop there. They should be taught about privacy, and how to answer the phone and the door properly. Privacy is a two way street. Your children crave it as much as you do. As long as the lines of communication are open and there is an element of trust between you and your child this should not be an issue. Left unattended children are naturally nosy and will snoop, eavesdrop and tattletale creating even bigger issues. Learning how to greet people properly at a young age will help them to overcome shyness and social settings with strangers. Shyness is not an acceptable excuse for the lack of politeness.
No matter the fashion fad, being clean and neat shows your children to respect their own bodies and ultimately they will realize that neat, clean and polite convey a self esteem and self confidence that moves with them through their life. Giving in and letting them 'do it' because all the other kids are only brings their self-esteem down and creates a herd animal mentality. Now I know this makes me sound as old as my grandmother, but I do believe this whole heartedly.
All of these build to teaching older children to become young adults that learn to entertain one or more friends, date and plan events for a group. They need to learn how to make an invitation, how to RSVP and when a hostess gift is called for. They need to understand what you expect in your home so that they can not only abide by it, but learn to appreciate and live it. One day they will have their own homes and children and you would like to think that you helped give them a head start on making that life a bit easier.
In today's world we no longer have the 'traditional' family with 2.2 kids and a stay at home mom. So you do need to tailor all of this around your own family life. whether it has stepparents, extended family, grown kids who have moved home, etc... It is NOT written anywhere that you must be a soccer mom gone from home 5 nights a week where no one sits down to dinner together and offers up conversation and manners. Have a family night, dinner night, game night or some such. Offer up your very best to those you love.