My number was up for jury duty last week. While I wasn’t selected for the jury, the process – and the people – were fascinating, right down to the man in front of me sporting a buzz cut with the words “Blue-Eyed Devil” tattooed in 90-point blue script on the left side of his noggin.
In the course of jury selection, another man – who didn’t have words tattooed on his head – said something that stuck with me. In answer to one of the attorney’s questions about civil behavior, the 50-something man replied, “I think we’ve lost the ability to act civilly any more. Where I come from, people were expected to have manners. Open doors for women and treat them extra special. Now, that’s just seen as old-fashioned.”
As I sat in potential juror seat 49 of 60, I thought to myself, “Is he right? I hope not.”
As dads, nearly everything we do models something for our kids, and that includes our manners. I know I’m far from the perfect model. In fact, as a college student, I once inadvertently (I’d like to think) took a parking spot from a woman in a burgundy Cadillac during the Christmas shopping season. When I returned to my car a couple hours later, a note awaited me on my windshield: “You are a jerk with no manners at all. Your mother did a poor job with your manners.”
I wanted to assure her: My mother has nothing to do with any of my ill manners.
Now that I’m a dad, one of my favorite things to hear from others is that they caught my kids using good manners. Any time you discover that what you are trying to teach your kids is actually sticking, it’s heartening.
My daughter, for instance, is learning the art of writing post-party thank-you notes. My wife is diligent about this, and she’s passing on the practice of this gracious gesture to our daughter. Meanwhile, my son has become a near-world-class door opener. It evokes a brief moment of fatherly pride each time I see him let others walk through doors before him.
Holding a door open for others is Manners 101. It’s right there in the foundational manners department, right along with saying your “pleases” and “thank yous.” My wife recently observed our son coming out of school alongside his sister, walking on the curb side like a gentleman should. That’s moving into more advanced niceties!
It isn’t always this way to be sure. Put my son in a room full of pizzas, and letting ladies go first may fall by the wayside. And our children’s phone etiquette could still use some polish. But we’re seeing sure signs of progress, and that’s encouraging. It’s a continual process.
The most comprehensive resource I’ve run across on teaching our kids the finer points of manners is Everyday Graces: A Child’s Book of Good Manners by Karen Santorum, wife of former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.
So, what are some forgotten manners that you are introducing to your kids?