manners and etiquette

5 Ways Dads Can Civilize Kids by Teaching Manners

Eleven-year-old Josh was driving his parents, and his teachers, up the wall. Not so much the individual behaviors as much as the underlying rudeness. Manners, lack of consideration, impoliteness, selfishness, and a “me first” attitude. Put together as a package, the problem was debilitating. It wasn’t just the adults he alienated; the boy didn’t have any friends. When Steve sat down in the psychiatrist’s office for his son’s evaluation, he was expecting to have to deal with some psycho-jargon. He wasn’t disappointed. What surprised him though was the bottom-line assessment.

“Your son is a barbarian,” Dr. Blunt said. “If we don’t civilize him soon, it’s going to be too late!” At first, Steve and his wife were offended. But when they thought about it, they realized the doctor was right. Learning a few manners will go a long way to righting what was awry in their family. To that end, here are 5 ways dads can civilize their kids by teaching manners and etiquette.

1. Be civil yourself.

How do you treat wait-staff? How about sales clerks? Cashiers? Other drivers? How do you relate to your wife? Do you lead the way in terms of modeling respect for all people?

2. Make manners a family value.

Make a determined commitment to be, “That polite family.” How about a family ethos built around holding the door for strangers, helping neighbors carry groceries, saying, “How are you today, Mrs. So-and-so?” at church, and obviously meaning it. You could even make history and be the first family with kids who use proper phone etiquette.

3. Teach and practice active listening.

Derek’s daughter was six when she said, “Daddy, you need to listen to me with your eyes, too.” Great point. Civility is rooted in taking the time to understand one another, or at least wanting to. And understanding is one of the by-products of listening. People who listen tend to care. Active listening is a skill that can be learned; it’s a skill that can be taught.

Civility is rooted in taking the time to understand one another, or at least wanting to. Click To Tweet

4. Learn to make mealtimes a social occasion.

This may not be Downton Abbey (Masterpiece Theater), but we have it on good authority that families who have dinner together on a regular basis, without the benefit of TV, cell phones, or other distractions, communicate more effectively.

5. Teach your kids to write thank you notes.

And we mean real thank you notes—carefully composed, placed in the mailbox, and delivered a few days later.

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Why do you think it’s important to exercise good manners?”

Huddle up with your family tonight and have a conversation about manners. Role play some examples of when other people are being rude. Also ask your kids if they think adults are polite to them. Make it a game; no lecturing allowed.


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