Manners Talk

Manners Talk

Are we giving too much? Not a route of sustainability…

by Vicki Fleming on 01/18/15

As a teacher, my greatest mission is to develop, improve, and broaden the awareness and significance of proper manners and essential life skills.  My work is primarily with young children and teenagers and I know that, when it comes to teaching the meaning of gratitude, this is not by nature an easy task.  But it certainly is an important one. 

Children do not tend naturally to act out of gratitude.  Oftentimes, many will appear to be selfish and self-centered, thinking only of their immediate gratification.  This “me first” mentality limits their valuing of anyone else’s needs or feelings.  But it is our responsibility not to raise spoiled or rude children, who often feel entitled to their every demand.  As parents, we need to stop giving so much and start teaching the meaning of gratitude.

According to Barbara Lewis, author of What Do You Stand For? For Kids (Free Spirit Publishing, 2005), thankful children are more polite and pleasant to be around.  But there's more to it than that.  By learning gratitude, children become sensitive to the feelings of others, developing empathy and other life skills along the way.  They learn to place value on things of genuine importance as opposed to things of momentary appeal.   

To begin the process of developing this central trait, a parent’s own manners should regularly mirror the behavior and speech desired in the child.  It is by teaching young people, through example, how to be grateful towards others that we raise people with appreciative minds and generous hearts rather than selfish attitudes.  

My own relating to gratitude has to do with the one big lesson that I learned from my parents: A good education is not to be taken for granted but rather treasured for life.  They worked very hard and sacrificed a great deal so that the six of us could go to good schools.  With those sacrifices, came fewer toys and no random shopping trips or excessive treats outside the usual holiday season or our birthdays.  And, guess what, we didn’t suffer for the lack of “stuff.”

My parents never took for granted the value or importance of a strong community of friends and neighbors, whose similar beliefs in the care of others, improvement to our surroundings, and strong ethics were the core to a good life. Your word was your bond and a decent job provided families with a home and put food on the table.  We didn’t take the essentials for granted as kids because our parents taught us—mostly by example—to be grateful for everything we had and to see that life was good because of their hard work and gratitude.

Of course, it’s not only kids that need to be reminded.  Many of us go about our daily lives obsessed with the daily gleam of nonstop advertisements of material wealth and the need to be like the “Joneses” next door.  Yet, we all know that, at the end of the day, when illness strikes or death is upon our doorstep, we will proclaim that we would give up everything for just another day with a loved one or to restore them (or ourselves) to health.

Still, no one is “born grateful,” says life coach Mary Jane Ryan, author of Attitudes of Gratitude (Conari, 1999). "Recognizing that someone has gone out of their way for you is not a natural behavior for children -- it's learned."  

One excellent approach to help increase the level of gratitude in your home is to select a "thanking" part of the day. Make saying what good things happened that day a part of the dinnertime conversation or as the children dress for bed or your teenager settles down for the night.  Work on saying “No” to your children.  It might be hard at times, but it will be impossible for your child to ever feel grateful if every wish is granted.  Quite simply, saying “No” sometimes will make “Yes” all that much more appreciated.

In the end, children have to understand, and we all stand to be reminded of, the importance of gratitude for things that money can’t buy like, love, health, education, a just society, and safe environment.  But this will happen only if these things matter to the adults around them.  Maybe, just maybe, teaching children that these are the real treasures to be grateful for will make the future world a better place to live in.  And perhaps they will be infused with an enduring satisfaction in a sustainable and happy life rather than racing towards one of ever-unsatisfied yearning where real gratitude does not exist.


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Scroll on the far right side to get to prior entries. Enjoy the topics!

January 18, 2015

The more given, the less appreciated! 
Not a route of sustainability…

September 26, 2014
Are we raising children who will be resilient and independent thinkers?

September 9, 2014
Isn’t everyone’s time valuable and of equal importance?

May 29, 2014
Hold the door please!

May 24, 2014
 Incessant Tattling: 
What can a parent do?

March 23, 2014
Could chores be one approach to teaching responsible behavior to our children?

March 15, 2014
Are our values reflected  in our manners towards others?

March 14, 2014
When is teasing no longer a joke?

October 2, 2013
Is it really necessary to YELL at
 your teen in public?

July 10, 2013 
Have We Become That Addicted? 

March 17, 2013
Are You Really Listening?

December 12, 2012
Setting Patterns Early Will Keep The 
Family Sane!

August 28, 2012
Why Don’t You Tell Us How You Really Feel?

July 22, 2012
It Is Not "One or the Other"

July 15, 2012
Please Keep It to Yourself

June 25, 2012
It's Not About Being a "Pick-Up Artist"

June 6, 2012
Good Genes by Chance, Bad Jeans by Choice

May 15, 2012
How easy is it to annoy your fellow train passengers? Let us count the ways...

April 27, 2012
Why Etiquette is Relevant in 2012

​April 21,2012
Has casual dressing gone too far?

April 12, 2012
Yes!  Even a toddler can learn...

March 28, 2012
Don't hit that "send key" without thinking!

March 23, 2012
I was happy in my pink and yellow dress, until it started...

March 15, 2012
Flying that comes with "no peanuts" but plenty of kicking and crying!​

March 13, 2012
Really?!...In the bathroom stall? 

March 8, 2012
 Should there be places that are just for   
 adults -- No C'hildren Allowed?

 March 7, 2012
 "Fingers or Forks with French Fries?"

​ March 5, 2012
 "Is a table a good place to learn  manners?"
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