Teaching our children to practice good manners is part of every homeschool experience. As well as for our own family's survival, we want our children to behave themselves in public and to treat one another with respect! In this article, I will give you eight tips as to the type of manners that need to be taught diligently to your children.
So where do we begin? We need to teach our children the origin of where all manners come from: the Word of God.
It says in the Scripture, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment and the second is like it is this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment other than these." (Mark 12:30-31) The Word of God is filled with the command to love one another. John 15:12-13 states this, "This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you."
Seeing the importance that God has placed on loving others in the Word of God, we can understand the importance of practicing manners to demonstrate that love. I am convinced that manners are more than just good behavior, but they are fulfillment of the command to love one another.
One way Jesus Christ explained the treatment of our neighbor and those around us within our reach is the explanation of the Golden Rule. "Therefore whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them. For this is the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12) I know that I have personally quoted that verse to my children hundreds of times, and explained that whatever they want others to do for them, they should do for others. If they simply apply that to the particular situation, they will stay on the right path and make the right decision on how they are to treat or respond or react to their siblings or other friends.
Romans 12:17 makes it clear, "Never pay back evil for evil to anyone...do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." This is hard for any child to remember - to respond to the scratch or the hit or the mean word with kindness. Yet that is the standard that we must always hold before our children to help them gain control of their responses and their treatment of others. As our children experience a true relationship with Jesus Christ, they will be filled with the Fruits of the Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Once these fruits are understood, and the child is aware of the requirements that God has placed on all of His children, it will make the practice and the habit of practicing manners more easy. If a child can develop a heart's desire to please God, it will be much more automatic to want to bless others through serving them.
We need to teach our children the importance of saying polite words and phrases. For instance, when a child wants someone else to do something for them, they should naturally say, "Please." If they receive something, or some service from another, they need to automatically say, "Thank you." If they have made a mistake or bumped someone, they need to be willing to say, "Excuse me." The child must be aware the Scriptures say, "In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you through Christ Jesus." God wants us to be thankful and by practicing those simple words, one can exhibit a Christ-like attitude.
A child must realize that their words have a great impact on others. They need to be able to practice the Fruits of the Spirit through their words. They need to have self-control of their tongue even when they are angry. They need to be taught to compliment others and edify them in order to build up their character and self esteem. This is simply practicing kindness. A child must not say rude or hurtful words because this does not exhibit the fruit of goodness or gentleness. A child must keep his word in order to exhibit the fruit of faithfulness. Of course the tone of how they utilize their speech is very crucial, for it is not so much what we say but how we say it that hurts people. Controlling our tone often makes all the difference on whether not we are showing love to another in obedience to our God.
A child must learn how to take good care of other people's things. If your house is like our house, we have a lot of things spread among seven children. These children like to use one another's things. We have taught them over and over the importance of handling other people's things very carefully, to ask to use them instead of just taking them, and to return them immediately upon request. These tips will work in any setting and will fulfill the command to love our neighbor.
When your child is in public, he needs to know that he is an ambassador for Jesus Christ and that the Fruits of the Spirit need to be displayed so that others can see Jesus in him. If a child is in a restaurant, they need to keep their voice down, eat properly with their utensils, avoid any kind of messing around or burping, and be considerate of their neighbors that are sitting all around them. Do unto others that which you want them to do unto you. Remind them once again, of that truth. Of course, in church, due respect is owed both to your neighbor and to God as you seriously, yet joyfully, participate in the worship service and listen intently to the Word of God as it is preached. At a public event, the same principles apply. We have to think of one another rather than ourselves and try to love our neighbor by our actions. Sit still in the theatre or the opera house and be quiet as to not distract others. Dress neatly so as not to attract others or give undue attention to ourselves.
Response to Authority. Children always need to acknowledge either their parents or other adults when spoken to. It is important for the children to look the adult in the eye and respond accordingly. To say "Yes" or "Yes, sir" shows respect and honor to parents and adults. It also shows self-control and a true love for adults to once again demonstrate that Christ lives within the child. Not acknowledging an adult is inexcusable and should be dealt with swiftly. Practicing this will help in their employment their whole life long because it will impress others who are in authority over them. It is a simple thing to do but carries a lot of impact.
Serving Others. The Bible states in Gal. 6:5 that we are to "bear one another's burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ." It further states that, "for if anyone thinks he is something then he is nothing, when he is nothing he deceives himself." We need to realize that the Scriptures are replete with the command to treat one another as more important than yourself. This is the principle of dying to self. Jesus demonstrated it to washing the disciples' feet and serving many people who were down and out. We likewise have to teach our children this important attribute to dying to self. As they understand serving others manners will come easy and there will be an automatic desire to be polite.
At the table. Children need to be taught to love their neighbor as themselves as they eat. Again some of the same principles apply as we say, "Please pass the potatoes" and "Thank you" whenever the item is passed. Forks and spoons should be used in their proper way and no slurping of the drinks. If the serving dish is low on a particular item, ask if someone else wants to finish it before you yourself take the last portion. If the food is not your favorite, do not say, "Gross!" but quietly eat a smaller portion. As long as the food is not spoiled, there should be no excuse for a child rudely whining or trying to make the cook feel bad.
Treatment of girls. Boys need to know that God has created women as "the weaker vessel" and wants them to be treated specially. This can be started early on as you teach your child to open doors for their mom. Boys should be taught to always let girls go first in lines and through doors. It is especially good to teach your sons to take the coats off their grandma and mom and to pull out chairs for them when they are going to sit down. It is important as well to help them know that certain activities are "boy only" activities. For example, worms should not be dangled in girls' faces! As our children learn to treat their moms properly, that will teach them as they grow how to treat other women in public places and their own future wives.
Manners come from the Word of God and as we teach our children the Word, it is power that will pierce their hearts and change their lives. So we should be sure to begin with the Word rather than to simply work on outward actions. If we want true manners to be exhibited in a sincere and loving way, our children need to be grounded in the Word of God and taught these verses shared in this article. God bless you as you train your children in manners.