“I NEED that! Give me that!!” my 2-year old son yells across the room. I close my eyes, take a deep breath and give him my best “excuse me?” eyes. Pause. “Puhleease. Please can I have that Momma?” he rephrases in a sweet voice he has mastered so well in such a short life. A small victory. I hand him the book he “needed” so badly, and he says without prompting, “Thank you! Thank you!” Another small victory.
Meanwhile, my 1-year old is tugging on my leg, making her little begging noises. “Uh…uh…uh,” she pleads with big brown eyes. She doesn’t quite get the eye communication yet, so I ask her, “What do you say?” She stops and rubs her palm across her chest repeatedly, the sign for “please”. Another small victory.
Are these really all that small? Are they more like huge victories in a society where the presence of polite conversation is a surprise? I was in a playgroup setting once and a parent declared quite proudly that they aren’t teaching manners to their children. They don’t want to force them to do anything unnatural, and are curious to see if manners will develop as expected. Oh….kay. I couldn’t quite articulate (politely) why at the time, but that felt strange and…wrong.
Here’s the thing. I believe (and I don’t think I’m alone) manners are pretty cool. They go a long way. I’m not talking about elbows off the table and napkins on laps. I’m talking about the kind of manners that make people feel appreciated and respected. I’m much more likely to help a child or adult who asks for something with sincere politeness instead of demands. Manners show courtesy and respect for others and are seemingly missing in far too many families and social settings.
Manners make friends! I’ve noticed in our field adventures that workers and people are very helpful when we show respect through our behavior. Instead of assuming that we can enter an area of a ship we are touring or building we are exploring, we engage the people there. We talk to them, with eye contact and kindness. More often than not, we learn more than we thought possible, and we get to go in those areas that are “restricted” or for “authorized persons” only. We hear special stories from our new friends. We feel happy, and our new friends seem thrilled to share and valued for their knowledge. That’s a win in our books. And when that 2-year old on my back yells out an unprompted “thank you” as we walk away, we are rewarded with the biggest smiles possible. We taught him that. It’s working. That’s another win.
So, please, can we all just put our manners into practice and show those around us the consideration and respect that come with those open doors and “excuse me’s”? Even if we are rushed or in a hurry, we have opportunities to bridge gaps and teach by example. That’s the other thing. Courtesy seems to spread. When a person greets you, asks about your day, holds open the door, picks up something you dropped or offers to help you, that warm feeling you get usually makes you want to do the same for others.
So go spread some manners! I mean, PLEASE go spread some manners. Thank you!