Mind Your Manners
“Politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax.” Arthur Schopenhauer
I could have easily just used the above quote for today’s “Think About it Thursday” blog, as its meaning is only evident once you think about what it is saying. If you are nice to someone, they melt. It’s a simple as that. But I, being a lover of words, want to expand on the thought. Of course!
Today in my class the lesson was all about manners. Yes, my kiddos are only three and four-years-old, but one is never too young to learn good manners. Many of the things we talked about effortlessly pertain to adults too: saying “please” and “thank you,” “not wearing hats at the table,” “sharing,” “not talking with food in our mouths,” and my favorite, “not interrupting mom when she’s on the phone.” Manners are a big deal at our school, so big in fact that a new afterschool offering this year is a manners class designed just for preschoolers. It’s offered right alongside the always popular gymnastics, dance, and sports options.
But, are manners dead, like many fear? Yes and no. In fact, some believe the prevailing sociology idea that every generation rebels against its parents but embraces its grandparents’ generation is somewhat coming true. Take for example the huge popularity of “Downton Abbey” and “Mad Men,” television shows centered around time-honored grace and style. It’s nice to see Generation Y making old-fashioned manners cool again.
It’s Generation Y that has, at the same time, killed off long-standing good graces by their usage and obsession with social media. It’s not necessary to shake one’s hand when you “meet” them on Twitter and E-vites sent over Facebook don’t require the same effort in RSVP’ing. Still, “netiquette” is big business and maybe that’s because when all is said and done, good manners really never go out of style. (can someone please relay this fact to Miley Cyrus?)
It wasn’t too long ago that Emily Post was the etiquette queen. Today her successors face both published and on-line competition, which is actually quite a good thing when you think about it. The issues may be different, ranging from whether it’s okay to keep your cell phone handy at dinner if your child is home sick with a baby sitter or what is proper etiquette at a gym, but the values are often the same. (Ms. Post would probably say if your child is that sick, you should stay home!)
It’s all well and good that books and websites are anything but scarce when it comes to etiquette and manners, but the teaching of them really needs to start at home. Parents must be the examples. Dads should be gentlemen so their sons grow up to be one and their daughters marry one, and moms should be ladies. Both Smitty and I fail often in these quests, but we try our hardest and continue to do so even with Kristen away in college. Ask her if written “thank you “ notes are a must, and she will roll her eyes but reply “yes!” You’ll get the same response from her if you ask her if a man should open the door. On the other hand, calling a grown-up by their first name only? Uh, no ma’am! I’m Miss Carla thank you very much. I love the fact that in the south “yes ma’am” and “no sir” are common utterings (even on Duck Dynasty!) and that respect is still given to elders.
Perhaps life in the 21st century has taken on a more casual form and we’re all becoming desensitized to the horrible swearing that is regularly expressed on TV and in music. But, there is hope. I love those like interior decorator Barrie Benson of Charlotte, North Carolina who, when asked by “Southern Living” magazine what she considers the must-have for every Southern lady and she replied, “Her manners! Before my kids step out the door I ask them if they have their manners in their pockets.”
Great advice we could all stand to abide by.