Having manners or Being mannerly?

Having good manners and being mannerly is two different attitudes.  Having good manners means that we know what the society we are in expects from us in ways of behavior that demonstrate consideration for those around us. Many people can display the desired behaviors and appear in a good light to others.  They may say the requisite Thank you, Your welcome, Please, Excuse me, and many other phrases accepted in our community and society as manners.

Having good manners though is not necessarily being mannerly.  One way that we can observe good manners though that may also show that we have embraced the attitude is by our willingness to express gratitude. Gratitude is the attitude of deep appreciation for even the smallest of gifts that life has bestowed on us. So when we say thank you we do so from our hearts.

We all agree that saying thank you is good manners. Being thankful and expressing thankfulness is much deeper.  There is no need for reminders; we notice the small things including what people have done for us and the beauty around us. We see the abundance we have been provided and often contemplate the richness of our life – even without massive amounts of material things. Being mannerly, having good manners is also about being grateful and continually celebrating life and all the Universe has provided each of us.

Teaching manners to our children – Part Three

So far in our discussion on teaching manners to our children and getting them to use their manners, we have suggested:

  • We treat our kids with courtesy and use tact when talking to them. We show them empathy and concern if they are hurt.  We use firm but tactful language when correcting.
  • We use gentle language and kind actions with our spouse as an example. The way we treat our partner tells the kids a lot about how to handle others both in and out of the family.
  • We talk to our kids about the volunteer work that we do.  Explain to them the hurt and suffering that another may be going through.  Then helping them see how we take action because we feel their pain.
  • We choose the manners that are most important to our family and teach them how to express themselves and act in a way that is seen by our family and community as using good manners.


The final three suggestions about teaching manners are all about discipline.  When we teach our children, it is not about the negative consequences that come with us.  It is only about teaching them, giving them the opportunity to follow the example we set for them.  Disciplining is about teaching, guiding and helping them to meet the standards of our family. Here are three suggestions in this regard.


    1. Help the child connect the behavior and the feelings of others.  When emotions are not in the way of learning, we want to help our children see the connection between our words, the tone of voice and attitude, to how others feel.  We can do this by explaining how we felt when a particular incident took place.  The story we tell might be real or made up.  But children, like adults, need stories.  Then check in with them to see if they have had an experience like that. Saying to a child, “Now look how you made him feel,” is not the way we get them to learn empathy, especially when in the middle of the heated moment. (more on this later)


  1. Give your child the words they need to express themselves.  When children are young, they have about 3 or 4 words to describe their emotions. Mad, Sad, Happy, Nice.  That sums up their vocabulary unless we give them a bigger vocabulary.  I have attached a list of emotion words that you can help your child learn by using them yourself with them.  Of course, you need to help them understand the meanings of them, but soon they will be expressing themselves with their real feelings and not just getting angry.
  2. Correct them in a positive manner.  Several parenting styles used are universal.  Only one of them is useful in building your relationship as a parent with your child and getting them to practice good manners.  It is not permissive (I let my kids choose how they respond to others). Nor is it authoritarian (you have to say it this way, or you are grounded! You are embarrassing the whole family), The most confusing to the child is the sliding style (sometimes permissive, at times authoritative, other times positive – just depending on the mood).   Then there is positive disciplining.  I am sure you know what works the best – long term.

Over the past couple of weeks, we have discussed how to help our children learn and use good manners. If anyone would like more help with parenting questions, please feel free to call or send an email. I look forward to sharing my step by step method for parents to bring out the best in their children and themselves, focusing on the values and virtues that are the most important in their family.

Part One: Teaching manners to children

Part Two: Teaching manners to children

Teaching Children Empathy with Manners

As an adult we are put into all kinds of situations that call for us to be, shall we say, civil.  We ask, “How are you?” As a part of seeing or meeting someone.  We may find ourselves saying, “Thank you,” when there was no real feeling of sincere gratitude.  We did not even think about it; the words just came out of our mouth.  So in the world of manners, we all agree that sometimes it is fake.  Other times it comes from our mouths as rote words.


Why would we expect that every time our children receive a gift or service from someone that they will remember to say “thank you”?  In their younger days the world revolves around them, they are self-centered, and they have not learned about empathy.  Here are two more suggestions to help our children learn good manners for the society where they live. These tips may also help them to develop the virtue of empathy.


  1. Show them how to demonstrate empathy.  When we are aware of someone being sick or hurt, being that empathetic person, we will go out of our way to assist them.  When we do an act of kindness like that, we want to talk to our kids about why we took this action. When we serve others in our volunteer work, explain the hurt and suffering that you are trying to assist them.  Then give your children the opportunity to experience giving to those in need. It may begin with their siblings and you.  Then it might grow to help in a project that they can see the good they are doing.  You are now building empathy and behaviors to match.
  2. Teach the manners that are important to you.  Children do not come born with manners.  They have to be taught the manners of the culture where they grow up.  In your community is saying “Yes sir, Yes ma’am” seen as being respectful?  Is looking people in the eye and saying thank you appreciated by those in authority?  What are the expectations of your family, the teachers, police officers, government officials of proper decorum?  Whatever the answer is to those questions, you want to teach your child the expectations and give them the opportunity to practice.


As we teach our kids the expected way of respectful conversation and giving them the opportunity to practice, we are laying the groundwork for them.  It may seem fake at first but remember your grown-up experience. If they practice, though, soon they will be known for their courtesy, caring, generosity, helpfulness, kindness, respect, service, and tact.  Which of those virtues would you like your child to be known for exhibiting?

Like to see the first two suggestions – Click here

Teaching Children Good Manners In Our Culture

Manners are the way society has for being pleasant to each other even if or when we may not want to. Though the rules of interaction are different in every culture, the intent is the same.  Society expects treatment that is respectful and like we matter. When we teach our children politeness with the rituals of the society we live in, we are laying the foundation for their success in all parts of their life.

But doesn’t it seem so fake?  Parents continue to ask, did you say thank you or what is the magic word? Is this the best way to teach manners to our children?  Are they going to understand and develop empathy by just using these words as they get older or is there a better way of developing them into kind, respectful and mannerly citizens?

During this month of discussions on manners, we will reveal seven practical things that parents can do bring out the real feelings of good manners and not just the forced ritual of using polite words. Here are the first two.

  1. Treat your children with the same courtesy that you treat adults. That follows the universal rule that all people would rather be asked to do something than be told to do it.  Research has shown that young children grow up showing more empathy and understanding of the feelings of others when raised in a family that is responsive to their needs. Young children are self-centered, so parents need to show them what kind treatment of others looks like.  They will learn what they live.
  2. Speak to your partner/spouse with tact and kindness. If children learn what they live, they mainly learn what they see.  Their observation of how mom and dad interact has an impact on how they will treat those in their life, including parents, grandparents, friends, and eventually spouses

So there are the first two strategies for helping children learn to express and demonstrate good manners both in the home and outside, without us having to remind them when they are old enough to do this on their own.  Next time two more practical suggestions to raising children with manners.

Each of the links will take you to a discussion of these virtues on a new website. Joe Van Deuren is working on a website for parents.

Gifts of Character: Manners – The Definition

Each month we will discuss one gift of character with all of our students. This month the word is Manners.  This life skill will be defined in the following ways for our students.

Young students: Manners means: Kind words and kind ways!

Older students: Manners means:  Polite words and respectful actions that show other people that they matter.

We are not your typical after school activity, in fact, we are an education center, working with students on physical self-defense skills while empowering families to bring out the best in our children and ourselves – through the martial arts.  We believe every child has 52 gifts in them already.  They only need to be taught how to grow and use them in their life.  Balanced Life Skills serves parents, teachers and students to reach that goal.

If you would like to see Joe Van Deuren and Balanced Life Skills at work,  TRY CLASSES FOR FREE for 2 weeks.

Life Skills: Learning to Apologize

conversationTeaching our children how to apologize for mistakes and accidental acts is a part of learning good manners. The Balanced Life Skills Way of making an apology is by saying the words out completely, “I am sorry”. In this way the child is not just saying a quick “sorry” in a manner that is assuredly not completely meant or even understanding what they are apologizing about.

A complete apology starts with saying “I am sorry” followed with what you are sorry about. An example would be, “I am sorry for knocking your blocks over.” This can be followed up with, “Can I help you pick them up?” When an act takes place that is accidental, the follow up of an apology helps the child to begin to understand how the other person may feel. We may need to assist them with questions like, “How do you think they feel?” or a comment “I believe that Tommy is frustrated that his blocks got knocked over. How can you help him?”

The other side of this is when an act is on purpose. Recently when speaking to students on this subject I asked when is it appropriate to make an apology? One of the first responses was “when you push someone”. While an apology is in order if someone is pushed there is much more work to do with the aggressor. This seems to be an act that is on purpose with the goal of getting what they want. Now is the time to get the child to understand that he needs to apologize – “I am sorry for pushing you.” The second step is be very firm that this behavior is not acceptable, not the way we treat others. Ask them how they think the other person may feel, how they might feel if someone pushed them and then ask “What can you do to make this right or better? What can you do to not let this happen again?”

It is likely that they will have many “reasons” for the push. We can help them to see that being aggressive in this manner, that intentional pushing is never right and is not the way our family treats others. Some of this teaching will need to be done immediately and some of this can be extended to times that emotions are not as high to have the most effect.

Learning to apologize is good manners. Even as adults, we can use these lessons for ourselves – being sure that when we say to our spouse, workmate or others that we are sorry, that it is heartfelt and sincere with the intent to be more mindful in the future.