Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Are Manners Important?

It's time for another Book Chook rant. I honestly try not to interrupt my emphasis on children's literature, literacy and learning too often. However, I did it recently with Say NO to Bullying, and here I am with a rant today about teaching kids manners.

Bullying is such a huge issue and its consequences are so devastating, isn't it trivializing it to group it with manners? I'm sorry if you think that's the case. But perhaps if we help kids to learn the real reason to have good manners, we would have less bullying.

So what is the real reason? Why are manners important?

I believe that using good manners is the oil that keeps our society moving smoothly. Whether at home or at the global level, being human enough to admit mistakes, asking for something politely, sharing resources and collaborating are all skills that enable peaceful co-existence.

By teaching kids good manners, we are teaching them respect for others. That to me is the real reason behind good manners. By using words like "thank you", "please" and "I'm sorry", kids become less egocentric and begin to realize that they are not the centre of the universe. They acknowledge the importance of others in their lives, and reach out to them. They learn not to snatch, not to tantrum when they don't get their own way and to empathize with other people.

We're also teaching them a communication skill that will help them find their way in life. It works with all ages and levels of society. I believe it needs to be ingrained early into children's lives, by parents modelling good manners themselves, and insisting on good manners from when kids can talk. (I found a cute free manners chart for kids on the Story Time website. Check out the episodes while you're there.)

What's your view? Are manners old-fashioned, and my concern about them simply a by-product of my advancing years? Do you teach your children manners, at home or in the classroom? Any tips for others? What's important to you about manners?

Cartoon made by bookchook at Toon Doo.


  1. A Farmer's Wife15 December, 2010

    I like this post and think manners are very important. I live in a small country town and wrote a post recently about manners.

    I think that children need to be led by example in this area. As so often occurs "they will do what we do and not what we say" Constant reminding helps too!

  2. The Book Chook15 December, 2010

    AFW, I agree. Our kids definitely use us as models for their behaviour. I loved your post, which really highlighted the difference between city and country life, to me. It's great to live in a community where people say g'day, wave and smile!

  3. Dear Book Chook,

    I think you are on the money! Having manners is a foundation for a cooperative environment. In my classroom, we talk about the importance of being polite, waiting your turn, and of being respectful to others.

    We have a positive classroom environment because we practice these skills. They do have to be taught and insisted upon!

    Thanks for a great post!

    Mrs. Yollis

  4. Karen Tyrrell15 December, 2010

    Hi Susan,
    When I was primary school teacher I made sure children treated each other and me with respect. Manners are the basic essentials for our society to co-operate with each other.
    One of my High school teachers said" MANNERS MAKETH MAN" I agree totally. :)

  5. The Book Chook15 December, 2010

    Hi Mrs Yollis! Thanks so much for sharing your philosophy. I am guessing that positive, collaborative environment in your classroom grew because you have firm and fair ground rules, something I believe is important in both schools and homes.

  6. The Book Chook15 December, 2010

    Good points, Karen. I agree.

    Something I wonder about though. If a child grows up in a home where respect and manners aren't valued or insisted upon, is it possible for that child to learn good manners at school or within some other organization?

  7. I'm an absolute b.... when it comes to manners- I think for me it came from having kids later, and watching the way other kids behave and knowing I'd like my children to be those that people don't shudder at the thought of spending time with! The funny thing is we've been to a lot of kinder birthday parties over the last few months, and I've had so many congratulations on my child's manners like I've achieved some sort of super hero feat! These are the same women who can barely say hello at drop off...

  8. The Book Chook16 December, 2010

    Aha! So you're thinking if they spent some time polishing their own manners... I agree! I'm equally sure the parent who's a habitual road rager is bound to be the one who blames the school for not pulling his kid into line.

    Good to know you're not so much a super hero as a super GreenMama!

  9. I wholeheartedly agree. :)

  10. The Book Chook17 December, 2010

    Amy, it's great having so much feedback from people on this - thank you!

  11. The Book Chook17 December, 2010

    Here's an emailed comment sent to me by a reader, about manners: "Manners are definitely important. My mom taught them to me. I taught them to my children. My daughter is teaching them to her children."

  12. Manners are totally and completely important! Not only do they teach respect and cooperation, but they also help with just using the verbal word . . . instead of the hands that many children tend to use when they want something. I teach my kids manners. And, I role model manners. By using such simple phrases, respect is taught and reminded to all, including the children themselves in the case of interacting with adults!

  13. The Book Chook29 December, 2010

    Great point about words rather than hands, Tif. I believe manners often mean we stop and think a moment rather than giving in to an impulse. Apparently greed is part of the human condition, but I think we can educate ourselves not to give in to it. In the case of children, that might mean saying please rather than snatching, and learning to accept "No." Sadly, many adults seem not to have learnt that one.

  14. So true about being proactive instead of reactive! Plus, what a great life lesson about accepting "No." We don't always get what we want . . . and that's a good thing! If only adults have learnt that one!! *DONT_KNOW*


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