Wednesday, April 8, 2009

MANNERS & ETIQUETTE: The Process & the Giving of a Worthy Gift

Proverbs 15:17 Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.

Proverbs 16:24 Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and health to the bones.

"The kindness in demonstrated acts of caring will last a lifetime. It makes love a workable thing.” Edith Schaefer

Eight good reasons why we need to care about instilling good manners in our children:

1. Manners are not ultimately done to please people, but to worship to God through acts of graciousness toward other people.

2. Good manners and gentle words (e.g., please, thank you, excuse me, I'm sorry) reflect well on our Lord as we identify ourselves as His people. They are Biblical. They also give Christians an excellent reputation in contrast to the common culture, which has sunk so low. We are to be a holy people, set apart. Today, being courteous very definitely sets a young person apart!

3. Social courtesy makes a qualitative difference in life. It's like the difference between being given a table at a restaurant next to the dumpster versus being seated in a lovely garden under dappled sunlight. Good manners just make life more pleasant and graceful!

4. Etiquette greases the wheels of social communication. It is a social tool to accomplish tasks because it makes cooperation more likely; hence the saying, "You'll catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar.”

5. Of course, having nice manners can’t change our fundamental sin nature, but exercising them performs a discipline that brings some measure of control to our actions and helps train us not to be ruled by our emotions. They bring order to the chaos of interacting, and often conflicting, wills. They also help cultivate the biblical virtue of self-discipline.

6. We often hear that it is confidence building to know what to do in social situations. This is very true!

7. Judith Martin, professionally known as “Miss Manners”, argues that while morality emphasizes the sacredness of the person, courtesy protects the dignity of the person.

8. Courtesy takes our eyes off of ourselves and puts them on someone else's comfort. Good manners are a great way to show love. As it says in Proverbs, "A friend showeth himself friendly." This is what manners are all about.

For example:

- Because of love, we personally greet people every time they enter our home.
- Because of love, we put the seat down on the toilet and remove hair from the sink.
- Because of love, we send notes of gratitude.
- And so forth.

Planned Training:

1. Weekly instruction and discussion (This can cover skills such as giving a toast, how to be a good guest on a prolonged visit, finger bowls, listener etiquette, etc.)

Book recommendations:
• PROPER MANNERS AND HEALTH HABITS, Rod and Staff Publishers, Inc., Crockett, Kentucky 41413
• ETIQUETTE, Author: Fern G. Brown; Publisher: Franklin Watts; 1985
• WHITE GLOVES AND PARTY MANNERS, (author and publisher unknown; may be found at library)

2. Etiquette schools and classes (usually available for children through city classes)

3. Planned situations:

• Restaurants - public practice of seating someone; helping with a coat; table etiquette; ordering food; tipping; etc.

• Lessons (e.g., music, etc.) - e.g., walk piano teacher to door and say "thank you;" etc.

• Call dinner alert a little early to give time for grooming (clean hands and face; combed hair) to make dinner more pleasant for others.

• Sport practice: help coaches with equipment and say thanks, thank referees, etc.

Spontaneous Training:

1. Repeat expectations before each situation (e.g., a visit to another home, invitation to a restaurant, going to symphony, stores, library, etc.) because these are children. They get excited and forget, plus each situation has some novel, yet specific, courtesy applications.

2. On-the-job training as situations arise, e.g., duplicate birthday gifts; not enough seating for everyone on a bus/church/etc.; food not liked; and so forth

3. Modeling, e.g., morning greetings; always finding them to let them know where you are going; unlocking their car door first; taking them with you to choose and purchase flowers for a hostess; maintaining and requiring good grooming and appropriate dress, etc.

4. Complements and Reinforcements from parents and others. (You'll get plenty of help here!)


Teens should no longer need or receive any formal training. In our home, we occasionally read and discussed small portions of etiquette books at the dinner table to meet the issues that come into the lives of older children, such as, 1) What is the expected business demeanor as an employee? or 2) “driving” etiquette? Teens and young adults really need to consider these situations in advance because the working world and roadways are a whole new and tricky frontier for them.

These are our only hard-and-fast rules for teens:

1. No telephone calls are to be made or accepted at dinnertime. (6-7 p.m.)

2. No calls to friends after 9:30 p.m. ever. You'd better plan ahead!

3. Next day telephoned calls of gratitude are acceptable for parties, rides, etc.

4. All gift “thank you” notes are to be written.

5. Naturally, all verbal courtesies are still on.

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