Yesterday a young visitor shook hands when we were introduced. “Wow, a firm grip and you’re looking me square in the eye,” I said, returning the courtesy to the 15-year-old.
I turned to his parents and said, “Nice job. He knows how to greet people. My brother Jim taught me a long time ago, Firm grip and square in the eye.“ This simple gesture says, “I care about how you feel.” That’s the essence of manners.
My seventh grade science teacher Mrs. Lewis used to bemoan about misbehaving students, “Lack of home training.”
I agree. Don’t go overboard, either like a manners cops, demanding a please-and-thank-you every other minute. All I ask is for kids to make eye contact and pleasant conversation; to unobtrusively say, “No thank you” if they don’t something; and to chew with their mouths closed.
Like most good parenting habits, teaching manners requires role models, repetition and reinforcement. Family dinner is an ideal place to model, repeat and reinforce consideration for each other and the cook. It’s not a chore to teach manners, it’s a practice.
When the snacks were gone and the gathering nearly over at 4 pm, I set out a wedge of gourmet cheese. An 11-year-old asked nicely, “Is there any real food?”
I offered my standard option to those who don’t want what is served. “Would you like a peanut and butter and jelly sandwich?”
Hungry from swimming, she accepted. I put some frozen bread in the toaster and got out the peanut butter and jelly. She assembled it, said, “Mmm. Good jam!” and ate it unobtrusively.
That’s my kind of kid. Appreciative, asked nicely for what she wanted, and accepted what was offered. She showed good home training.
Manners are like exercise — do regularly for the best results. And keep at it.