Etiquette rules are of the head.
Manners are of the heart.
Together they are a shield against embarrassment.
That shield of etiquette rules and manners guards both ways. If we learn the rules and then adapt them to the manners in our heart, we will embarrass neither ourselves nor someone else.
For example, the president of a company called me to discuss a business etiquette workshop for his personnel. He said, "Mrs. Moore, we surely do need eta-kwet taught today." He obviously mispronounced our good English word eta-kut which we borrowed from the French, retaining the French pronunciation. The teacher in me wanted to correct him, for his own benefit of course, but my manners kept me silent. I would have embarrassed him.
There is a difference between etiquette and manners. Etiquette is a set of rules we memorize. Manners are more than that. They express how much we care about other people, their feelings, and their needs.
Good manners can create order out of the chaos in which we live. Manners are under our control because they flow from our heart. They give us the power to treat other people with kindness and respect, even when we don't feel like it.
The basis for good manners—consideration for others— never changes, but as we change millennia, we see our society change with new technology. Computers with the internet give us more information today than we accumulated in all the centuries past. We see our world shrink as travelers almost commute from continent to continent. We need civility as never before just to survive our ever-changing lifestyles. We need new rules and a few updated ones just to stay current—to keep us from embarrassing ourselves or someone else.
Home is where it all begins. While children are young, parents have the power to influence the way they behave. Parents have the opportunity to build character. It takes character to be polite when we would like to return rude for rude. Long ago, etiquette revealed one's good breeding. Today good manners portray a warm heart, good intentions, and self-respect regardless of one's economic status.
This book is my way of sharing with other parents what I have been blessed to learn through study and experience with many people in my classes. My students, young and old, come from all walks of life.
You will read in this book how good manners provide children with the tools to climb the ladder of success, but more important than business success is success that comes from living in harmony with God and other people. The Bible says in Luke 2:52 that "Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man." That should be our goal as well.
I wrote this book, not to complicate your life, but to spark your imagination, to inspire you to study your child's temperament needs which may be different from yours, and finally to aid your efforts to build character, values, and polite behavior in your children.
Part I. Preparing "The Way"
Train up a child in the way he should go.
In a recent study at the Institute of Human Development at the University of California at Berkeley, psychologists found that a child's pro-social behavior is for the most part the result of his (or her) parents' training, and that the most powerful teachers for good and evil are indeed the mother and father.
God shows tremendous confidence in us when He gives us our children whom He created in His image. He knows that what our children are to be, they are now becoming.
Because our job as parents is not to be the manners police— hiding and trapping any slight offenders—we should prepare "the way" by finding our children's felt needs and motivating them accordingly. Felt needs are the internal, emotional needs of our individual personality. When those needs are met we feel good about ourselves and our surroundings.
One of the troubles in the world today is that we allowed the Golden Rule to become a bit tarnished.
Every time I turned my back I heard snickering and muffled gasps. What was going on with my young, well-groomed charges at this their first etiquette class? Were they telling jokes? Maybe they were just embarrassed. Girls and boys are shy with each other at this age. The boys were probably showing off. Could this be a sign of trouble ahead?
This class of fifth graders represented some of the finest families in the city. On a gray Saturday morning in November, they gathered in Little Rock at the historic Capitol Hotel with all its formality and elegance—the ideal place to learn the finer points of social grace.
Built in 1876 the elegant hotel is reminiscent of a grand antebellum plantation mansion. Entering through the portico, we take an enchanting stroll back to a more romantic and genteel time. The ionic columns support the overhanging mezzanine just beneath a magnificent stained glass skylight. The lobby floor shines with mosaic tiles and daintily patterned carpet leading to an ornate, winding stairway to the mezzanine. The center of the lobby offers a plush tapestried sofa inviting guests to rest or wait for a companion.
From the lobby I watched my first two students arrive. Chauffeured by one or both of their parents and escorted through the doorway by the hotel valets, the children approached me as I greeted each of them. The frills and lace and stylish hair of pretty little girls impressed me with promise. The handsome young men wore ties with suits or sport coats and slacks, but expensive clothes were not the issue. I wanted to teach them to behave properly when they dressed in what we once called "our Sunday best."
Curious bystanders might think the children just left the funeral of their pet turtle. Their somber faces stared as though they were about to enter the principal's office for a scolding—or worse. These quiet, stiff, and docile children promised to be a dream class with no conduct problems. So far, I was elated with my first impression of these children.
Then one by one the girls sauntered over to the circular sofa in the center of the lobby. I saw each girl plop while spreading her legs as if straddling a seesaw. Obviously wearing dresses was not their daily custom. I knew right away we would need to work on a little feminine charm. That would be easy enough. What were the boys doing? They huddled over to the side. Some had their hands stuffed in their pockets, some jerked nervously at their ties, and still others tossed imaginary balls through the air. My first impression took on some tarnished edges, but after all, they were here to learn and I was in charge.
An hour later, however, my puzzlement at the snickering and hushed gasps now bordered on alarm. Suddenly, I whirled around and caught a glimpse of a roll sailing through the air and little Mary poking at her nose with a limp carrot sliver. Brian was dunking his white, starched napkin in his green broccoli soup, while Patty ate sugar cubes between courses.
You may have been born a princess, but you will have to learn to be a lady.
A QUEEN OF ENGLAND
TO ONE OF HER GRANDDAUGHTERS
What had I gotten myself into? It's no wonder these caring, perceptive parents were so anxious to get their children in this class of limited enrollment. They must have thought I was a manners magician. I felt more like the manners police.
Was this class unusual? I don't think so. For me, it was only the first of many, each with its own set of antics and funny stories. Perhaps you, too, see uncivilized children everywhere. Have you ever dined with your child or grandchild in the school cafeteria? What about a fast-food place? Perhaps you see children today smacking gum, saying yeah, huh, and yep when they answer the telephone and yelling, "Hey Mom, it's for you!"
What is a parent to do? In an age when we go for hamburgers or tacos at the drive-up window, families no longer sit down together to eat a warm, quiet dinner where everyone discusses the events of the day. You know the kind—where parents instill values and philosophies into their children and lay firm, spiritual foundations. Family relationships grow deeper. Marriages grow stronger as partners teach their children how commitment looks and feels.
All is not lost. Just as computers and new technologies change our lifestyle, we have to look for creative ways to bring back old-fashioned manners and respect. I can't provide the needed twenty-six-hour day, but I can offer methods and fun activities that families can use to cultivate and nurture civility in our children— our leaders of tomorrow.
To be well mannered, our children must confidently meet and greet people, introduce themselves and others, use the telephone properly, become gracious hosts and guests, write thank-you notes, and dine gracefully.
Our moral and public behavior distinguishes us from animals. Parents today have an awesome responsibility, and we get little or no help from society. Something happened over the last twenty-five years that drastically changed our behavior. Kindness and consideration for others' feelings have traded places with "who cares?" and "what's in it for me?"
Where have all the manners gone? Perhaps they disappeared along with family values. One thing we do know: Rules of common courtesy are hardly ever taught in our public schools today, even though many teachers would, if they could. Also, children do not inherit good manners. They get them by growing up with parents who model and teach them. We might say that home is the classroom where students study their parents. How did we plummet from "Please" and "Thank-you" to "Yuk" and "Gimme"?
Parents are not necessarily at fault. Since the fifties our society has forced the proverbial pendulum to swing to the extreme. In less than a decade we went from the silver spoon mentality prevalent in the early part of this century to the hippies and free love of the sixties and seventies. That generation questioned the values and mores of the establishment. In most circles since then the prevailing attitude has been "Do your own thing," "If it feels good, do it," and "I'm not responsible." We find ourselves struggling to return to a more considerate and responsible society.
By the nineties we grew tired of the rudeness and crudeness. Actually, the corporate world noticed that young professionals were so socially inept they threatened the balance sheet. Business was lost because their highly skilled and well-educated young men and women chewed gum, neglected to introduce people, and stuffed their mouths with food while they tried to make the big sale over lunch with a client.
Corporations began seeking etiquette trainers and consultants to come in to smooth out the rough edges. Because money often motivates us where nothing else will, desperate executives are forcing the pendulum to swing the other way. We call it customer service. Of course, manners were originally God's idea. He gave us the Golden Rule which says we should treat others as we like to be treated. Today business publications of all kinds refer to the same rule we see in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31.
Television still makes its contribution to the demise of socially acceptable behavior with popular comedy shows where the only polite person is a geek. The family with strong moral values is almost nonexistent on many programs. Even commercials for family shows advertise bad manners. Much of the rude behavior that we see in our children surfaces simply because they do not know the proper thing to do. It is that simple and that sad.
Our children deserve the opportunity to learn. We teach out of love and obedience to God's Word that tells us to nurture our children and build godly character in them. Showing consideration for others is part of that. Luke says that "Jesus grew ... in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:52, NIV). The Bible doesn't give us Mary and Joseph's parenting plan, but it does say that with every charge or promise God shows us the way.
Why it is so important that we direct our children in the way they should go? Why can't we just let them make their own choices, which usually do not include showing consideration for anyone's needs but their own? Perhaps the answer lies in knowing that everything from plants to people grow in the direction we plant them.
Plants and children have a lot in common. Both grow in the direction that best meets their needs. When we turn a child toward God, he grows spiritually. When we turn him toward the way of the world, we take a quantum leap chance.
A plant grows toward the sun because its sustenance and growth must come from it. Our children will grow in the wrong direction, away from God, unless we teach them early that God alone will sustain them and meet their needs.
They need a strong early start, not just attending church to find the Lord, but seeing Him every day at home and in the lives of their parents who model good manners and reveal a personal relationship with the Lord. Spiritually, our children grow in the direction we point them. Will they grow straight or crooked?
When I was a child a very crooked tree grew in our backyard. It reached toward a neighbor's house so far the branches almost touched the ground. Why didn't that tree stand tall like the others nearby that reached skyward?
Years before, a tiny sprig of a sycamore tree emerged from the soil almost beneath the side wall of a building later removed. From its beginning, the small tree leaned toward the neighbor's house to escape the weight of the building while looking hungrily for the sunlight to give it life. That tree never reached skyward like the others, nor did it ever grow strong and tall. The sad-looking tree merely survived.
Like a tree, influences and forces mold a child from within. Someone compared a child to a piece of clay that we mold with our hands. But clay does not grow; clay is molded entirely from without. A child grows and matures from within and is more like a living plant that bears fruit, sometimes sweet and sometimes sour.
Social skills learned at home and at church produce the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Teaching a child confidence in interpersonal skills can open doors to making friends, witnessing, and sharing God's Word.
Scripture affirms that "Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:52, NIV). His parents pointed Him in the right direction from His youth. They took Him to the temple and no doubt taught Him at home.
According to The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Jesus was not a child prodigy in the sense that He was abnormal. He had to mature and learn just as every child does today. He even had to learn manners; yet He was perfect in every stage as He reached it.
Another biblical portrait of a child "growing ... in favor both with the LORD and with men" is young Samuel (1 Sam. 2:26).
His mother, Hannah, dedicated him to God before he was born. After Hannah nurtured and taught him, she kept her vow and took him to live at the temple. We know that Samuel became a great judge of the nation Israel.
Just as God chose Hannah, He chooses us to raise a specific child, whether we raise him or her in a two-parent home, a single-parent home, or in a grandparent's home. John 15:16 says "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain." If God gives us children, He gives us our most important and challenging fruit crop. We call it parenting.
However, just as no two families are identical, no two children are alike; therefore, we look for different ways of interacting to be effective. Children have "felt" needs for parents to discover. We see those needs by watching for signs and observing their responses and reactions to see what makes them feel good about themselves and their accomplishments.
In the Seibert family Jeremy is reserved and introspective. John craves attention. No one would call him a loner. Just as these two guys react differently to people, they have different "felt" needs because they have different personalities. Jeremy's need may include striving for perfection. John may be interested in learning manners only if he can do it while having fun with his friends. He needs social interaction. An old adage says we can change the set of the sail but not the wind. We can change methods with Jeremy and John, but we should not try to change their natural bent.
Let's look at the felt needs of little Mary, Brian, and Patty in my first class at the Capitol Hotel. Mary and Brian were both outgoing, fun-loving children who liked the attention of their classmates any way they could get it. They were not hungry for attention at home. They needed peer approval and adult recognition because that was part of their personality makeup. The reason they stopped their antics almost in midair when I turned around was to gain the teacher's favor which also mattered to them.
Patty was quiet and observant. She wanted to please. It probably never occurred to her that one should not eat sugar cubes. She would never knowingly do anything to earn the disfavor of the teacher. Perhaps she came from a family that had banned all sweet treats from their home, and she had an insatiable sweet tooth.
We must use different approaches with Mary, Brian, and Patty to attract them to the manners table and keep them there without a battle. Battles rarely improve our manners.
As much as we would like, we can't make children mannerly. We can help them want to be, but the "want to be" hinges on our satisfying their felt needs. I am not saying that if Johnny feels like acting out his tyrannical behavior, his parents should satisfy his felt need. Discipline with applied consequences should be used when the child has no choice in the matter. Safety and disrespect are examples. Polite behavior must emanate from the heart. We can make a child do the mannerly thing, and sometimes we should, but we cannot make them feel it. Our children are not puppets to be pulled in different directions and manipulated.
How difficult is it then to teach manners that come from the heart? Well, it doesn't take a college degree, a trade school diploma, a six-figure salary, expensive clothes, heirloom crystal, or a charm school certificate. It takes being aware of our child's felt needs, individual personalities, and reactions, and finally weaving techniques into our daily lives. After all, as Mark Twain said, cabbage is just cauliflower with a college education.
Yes, you can raise a well-mannered child without losing your own p's and q's, or your child. Learning manners can and should be fun. Children often think their parents spend hours dreaming up a bunch of silly rules just to lecture them and make their young lives miserable. Once they learn there is a reason for every rule of etiquette and that their lives can be more fun and comfortable, they are eager—well, maybe not eager, but more willing—to practice good social skills.
Psalm 139:13-18 describes how each child, unique in God's creation, is "fearfully and wonderfully" made. When we discover a child's natural bent, we usually find that child's felt need. Then we are on our way to raising children who are in favor with God and man.