There are some blogs that I really take my time working out in my head before I even attempt writing them down. I know having an audience of parents is sometimes a touchy thing but thankfully I seem to have done a good job at it since I haven’t received even one piece of hate mail. I hope I can convey my thoughts so that no one gets defensive on this one either. I want to talk about manners!
For me the topic of manners encompasses so much. In fact, I think it’ll cover a few topics that you all have requested I write about. Manners are how we relate to one another. They are expected, and sometimes unexpected, social graces that help us interact with others without being offensive. Sometimes they are just followed because they are social etiquette or local customs. Other times we go over the top with our etiquette because we either want to impress someone or we really want to let someone know how much we truly appreciate them.
There was a blog that circulated a few months ago where the title was about not making their kids say please and thank you. Admittedly I never read it nor do I remember the correct title but it definitely made me think how I wanted approach the topic since I had been asked to do so.
Not too long ago, I had a family over for a holiday dinner. I spent a considerable amount of time, effort and more money than I should have preparing the meal for the day. It was originally planned that we would cook together. Instead I was given very short notice that they would show up way too late to help with anything. Some of what I made wasn’t even touched. The husband was sitting on the couch most of the visit, yawning and avoiding conversation, clearly looking like he would rather have been home. While it was great to have the company, I would have wished that they had the manners to have cancelled on us if they weren’t feeling up to coming. I have friends that would have LOVED to have been here in their place. I felt no gratitude coming from them for all the work I had done to make the day special. Admittedly, I didn’t notice it the day of but it kind of sank in the next day when I felt more depleted than I should have because the exchange of energy wasn’t even.
So what did this teach their kids? This goes way beyond saying please and thank you, doesn’t it? It demonstrated to them that if you don’t feel like it, you don’t have to appreciate what someone else does for you. It demonstrates self-absorption. Don’t get me wrong though. I am really glad I gave my all to the day. I truly believe no act of kindness is wasted even when it’s not noticed or appreciated. My own family appreciated it so that was good enough for me.
To give you another example, it recently came to my attention that one of the friends that had recently gone down a path that was not healthy for me to follow them on was complaining that I wasn’t supporting them anymore. While it was kind of nice that they did notice how much support I did have for them, and still do actually even if it’s from a healthier distance, it made me realize that I never had one bit of support for anything I did come from them.
Both of these examples demonstrate how manners come from gratitude. If you live in gratitude for others around you, you make the effort to let them know. You don’t do it for show in front of others but more meaningfully. You support people you care about. You don’t just take what others have to give without wanting to do so back. Sometimes people just aren’t yet capable of thinking of others without getting some sort of direct benefit from it; even if it’s only to get approval. They haven’t learned the gift of gratitude. It’s not only a gift to others but it is a gift to yourself as well.
As for setting the right example of gratitude for my kids, I encourage my kids to say "Please" and "Thank You" because it makes them stop and appreciate the other person. It’s not so much as a puppetry as it is a habit I want them to get into. I want them to be in the habit of stopping… and noticing! I believe it helps them redirect their energy to the other person and not in the receiving for their own benefit. It helps them be in the habit of not being self absorbed all the time. I really believe this simple act can be a seed to discipline. Aren’t many issues with discipline really because your child doesn’t understand the full picture of what’s going on including the needs and desires of the people around them? Beyond "Please" and "Thank You", I am in the habit of pointing out to my kids whenever someone does something sincerely thoughtful. They also see me practice gratitude when I let someone know how much I appreciate them.
Recently I learned that practicing gratitude rewires neural pathways that lead to more happiness. I have seen this happen myself. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I had just gone through personal hell. Both of my parents had died, the rest of my family was squabbling over money, I finally understood how much abuse I had just endured and realized I was worthy of love that I never received… it was a lot to take. It was really difficult to process it and have very much gratitude at the time.
When things started going well for me in the midst of all of this, I failed to recognize it right away. My first job out of college got me a much higher salary than was average at the time. I received a glowing two-page recommendation from my boss when we needed to relocate due to my husband’s job and I had only been working there for six months. We were relocating to Florida – a New Englander’s dream! I didn’t have the ability at the time to appreciate any of it very much. It has taken me a while of trial and error to find the truth about gratitude and happiness all on my own. Now I swear I come across as either stupid or Pollyanna because of my gratitude and optimism! It doesn’t matter to me though because being grateful makes me happy.
The point of all of this is to maybe rethink how manners are more than just saying words for your kids. By living in gratitude as well as giving them tools to get them on that path, your kids have more of a direct link to being happy than you probably ever imagined.
As a Parent Coach and Mentor, my passion lies in empowering parents to make the best decisions they can for their children and their families as a whole. As a well-trained coach, I can be your facilitator and accountability partner for long-lasting, meaningful change that has a permanent, positive impact for your family. By focusing on the values that you hold most important in your life, I can help you create and maintain the type of parenting relationship you want to have with your children, now and into their adulthood.
I am a homeschooling mom of four children in Massachusetts. I am also the author of a book called The Herbal Beverage Book, which can be found on amazon. When not coaching, writing or spending time with the family, I enjoy Hayao Miyazaki films, new and classic Dr. Who episodes, anything related to American history and a great glass of mead.
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This blog is a collection of thoughts, articles and perspectives I have at any one time. While I am pretty consistent in my beliefs, life changes and evolves along with experiences. You may feel a connection with me through my writing yet I never want any of my readers to misunderstand that the connection you feel is with a perspective I have shared and not me as a person. I am continually humbled that I am able to connect with my readers, and I hope to continue to be able to for many years to come, but it doesn't make us connected in any way beyond this. If you connect with what I write and know me as an acquaintance, this in no way reflects that I have any knowledge of you, your situation in life or that I am writing with you in mind. It is merely that I have shared a human experience that most likely very many others have had has well. This also goes for anything I post on my Twitter account, Facebook Page and Facebook personal page. I wanted to make this disclaimer as clear as possible so you know that any misunderstanding you choose to have is not my responsibility.