When I was growing up, there was only one answer to the question, “What’s the magic word?” It wasn’t Abracadabra. I’m guessing it was the same at your house, too. “Please!” That magic word was invariably followed up with the required phrase, “Thank you.”
Please and thank you have been staples of our vocabulary for generations. Good manners weren’t a luxury, they were a necessity. But lately they’re becoming a bit scarce, replaced by rudeness and a me-first mentality.
You may be thinking, that’s not the case in our home. My children (or grandchildren) have been taught to say please and thank you. That’s probably true when they’re with you, but what about when you’re not around? Are good manners part of their DNA, or are their responses something they parrot back because it’s expected?
Do good manners carry through in their behavior when they think you’re not looking? I taught a Bible class last week that included Acts 22:12-23, in which the apostle Paul’s nephew overhears a plot to kill Paul. Another example that children are often paying attention when we least expect it! Remember the adage, “Little pitchers have big ears”?
It’s been said children learn best when the lesson is caught instead of taught. Let’s face it, remembering what we’ve been taught often takes intentionality – we force ourselves to remember, to memorize, to practice. But when we’re exposed to behavior over a long period of time, or when we observe something that piques our interest, well, that’s another story. Think about it. We don’t say, “Learn the vision,” we say, “Catch the vision.” It’s not, “Learn the excitement,” it’s “Catch the excitement.”
So how can we help children catch the importance of good manners? Here are a few suggestions:
- Model good manners in interactions with your family. Do you say please and thank you when you ask your child to do something? Do you extend the same courtesies to your spouse?
- Practice kindness and good manners with strangers. Do you hold the door open for the person behind you at the supermarket? Do you graciously allow the other driver to take the open parking space? What about when you’re on the phone trying to resolve a customer service issue? Are you modeling that it’s okay to be rude if you haven’t been treated the way you deserve?
- Model good manners and kindness as you respond to current events or discuss the political process. Let your children “catch” the truth that political views are not exempt from good manners!
- Show that kindness and graciousness aren’t just qualities we need, they are attributes of God.
“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love”
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us”
And since God wants us to grow more like Him each day, that’s something to get excited about!