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  • Yes, It Really Is At The Top Of My Priority List

    November 5, 2008

    A couple of readers, including my own husband, asked me if teaching Sean good manners was really  the TOP priority in my life.

    Yes. Yes it is.

    On the whole it would seem there would be other things at the top of that long list like trying to get him to eat vegetables or teaching him how to make coffee, but no, the most important thing I can teach him is to be a well mannered gentleman.

    Why?  Because good manners make the world a nicer place.  Because I want Sean to be equally comfortable dining with a prince or a pauper.  Because good manners and the well written thank you note can take you a long way in life.  Because good manners are the mark of good breeding.

    Those reasons are all true enough, but not the real reason.

    The real reason that I am relentless in my quest to instill good manners in Sean is because it will be the single most important outward display of the faith that I hope he will one day choose to take on as his own.  Good manners are all about showing respect and consideration towards others and putting others first.  And that, more than anything else, will be his greatest testimony.

    In my view, good manners are an expression of the core tenant of my faith, which is love thy neighbor.  Paul tells the Galatians that all of God’s law can be summed up in this one command — to love others as oneself.  As they say, love is a verb and that verb must be well mannered or it’s probably not love.

    Well mannered people are not rude, self-seeking or easily angered. Scripture says that love is not rude, self-seeking or easily angered. Therefore, love is clothed in good manners.

    So then, if you are a Christian and you are not using good and gentle manners and treating others with love and respect, and you are not teaching your children to do so, nothing else you are doing for the kingdom really matters, you are failing your faith. You simply cannot love God without acting loving and kindly towards others.  Paul writes in 1st Corinthians, “If I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”  Good manners and love for others are inextricably intertwined.  Love for others and love for God are inextricably intertwined.  Good manners can be absent of love, but love cannot be absent of good manners.

    Do I always do it? No. I fail daily in some way. Sometimes I fail miserably right here on this blog.  Sometimes I fail my own family.  Other times I fail by omission, by not taking the opportunity to extend kindness or offer a word of encouragement.  And that is a shame because it costs nothing to be kind and respectful, to be well mannered.

    So when I say that teaching Sean good manners is at the top of my priority list, it is.  And hopefully, in the process of teaching, the teacher will learn too.

    48 Comments »

    1. sarah says:

      That’s beautiful. My pre-teen daughters are testing my more than ever in my resolve to teach them the same, while being the parent instead of their buddy but balancing the whole process with love. It’s tough and required much prayer.

      November 5th, 2008 at 7:29 am

    2. Theresa (YewNorkBabe) says:

      A resounding AMEN here!

      Manners are the core of raising good, happy, successful children.

      I see it so clear now that my children are grown. They amaze me. I am so proud of the awesome adults they have become.

      November 5th, 2008 at 7:58 am

    3. Brigitte says:

      Gee, it never even occurred to me to get nitpicky about your priorities! While I try to be mannerly, I sadly am easily angered, such as at those who get all in your face about your blog-ly opinions.
      😉

      November 5th, 2008 at 8:08 am

    4. Heidi Saxton says:

      This morning we had a manners lesson of a difficult kind: How to show respect for the OFFICE of president, and not say bad things about our president-elect though Senator McCain did not win the election.

      So many times in life, we find ourselves subject to authority figures we would not choose for ourselves — a pastor, a boss, a parent, now a president-elect. Part of life is about looking for the good points, and praying for the rest.

      God bless America, and give our leaders an infusion of grace!

      November 5th, 2008 at 8:29 am

    5. snarflemarfle says:

      AMEN!

      So do you know why people are truly shocked when my 2 1/2 year old answers them with a “yes, ma’am” or “yes, sir?”

      November 5th, 2008 at 8:32 am

    6. ruth ann says:

      I agree with you – wholeheartedly!!

      Thanks for saying it so well. I really enjoy your writing.

      November 5th, 2008 at 9:14 am

    7. Carolie says:

      AMEN!

      (And just as an added bonus…I was recommended for a full scholarship to college because the dean of the school was so impressed by my manners on the phone when I called to ask if I could come visit the campus on the same day as my crush. AND, I was the babysitter for the college president’s kids for all four years, as I was the ONLY student who’d ever written the president’s wife a thank-you note for the obligatory freshman ice cream social. Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

      November 5th, 2008 at 9:26 am

    8. Monica @ WriterChic says:

      What a wonderfully articulated “defense.”

      November 5th, 2008 at 9:40 am

    9. Molly says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more. My son is only 9 months old at the moment and I KNOW that I will fail him as a parent in many ways (we all do, we are human after all), but as god as my witness, he will be mannerly. Too many people, children and adults have forgotten that courtesy and manners make a difference.

      November 5th, 2008 at 9:40 am

    10. Heidi says:

      *Standing Ovation happening here in Illinois*

      A good friend of mine, whose kids were teenagers when mine were born, summed it up well when she said “Our goal was to raise our children to be mannerly and gracious so that others would enjoy them as much as we do.”

      And you are so right, if we do not teach our children manners (and it really is not that hard) we are not teaching them to let the light of Christ shine.

      November 5th, 2008 at 9:45 am

    11. Sarah S. says:

      a)I can’t imagine anyone questioning your priorities as a parent — but I really have to stop having so much faith in people, evidently.

      b)I say it a different way, but totally agree with you. My MAIN priority is for my kids to love the Lord with all of their being — but, obviously, that includes being a gracious person and kind, mannerly, and respectful to all. (‘Cause, really, who wants to know about your Jesus if you’re a selfish, ill-mannered boor?)

      I’m loving the story of the college gal actually having manners when she goes to college! And how sad that Mrs. College President had NEVER received a thank-you note! Wow!

      November 5th, 2008 at 10:13 am

    12. canadacole says:

      Oh, AMEN!

      Also? Thank you so much for saying it all so perfectly.

      November 5th, 2008 at 10:22 am

    13. Joni says:

      Good manners help them to have a good view of themselves. Son still tries to see respect even in his job. He does see the down side of people. However, they say they appreciate the respect and fairness. He calls it giving back to his community and tries to go with this is how I was treated growing up. He now sees that many people gave up to give him the experiences he had.

      November 5th, 2008 at 10:23 am

    14. Kai says:

      Screw manners….teach him that coffee thing. WAY more important.

      November 5th, 2008 at 10:51 am

    15. alex says:

      My mother in law raised my husband in a similar vain-that manners are important-and the one comment I hear from everyone about my husband is that he is kind, thoughtful and a joy to be around. I have always thought that because of this he is a great witness to God’s love. Even if sometimes I want to say, “Yes, I’d love him to be a bit more thoughtful of the laundry.”

      November 5th, 2008 at 10:52 am

    16. ShackelMom says:

      Yes, good manners do reflect a heart to of love, and when training children, sometimes the polite actions and words must come before the understanding that love treats people with respect, is courteous and grateful, but that’s okay!

      We take our children from parent control (we make them do it), to self-control (they have learned it is best to do it) to God control (when they choose to submit to God’s authority). I have found that this is an ongoing process in takes place in different areas at different times, but that last step is one our kids make on their own, and makes the long term difference.

      A manipulative person can have good manners because he has the self-control to treat people in a way that works best to get what he wants. In fact we can unknowingly teach our children that good manners is a good way to get what they want, so it becomes a tactic, rather than the out-working of love and respect.

      All this to say that I believe kindness, love, forgiveness and respect for others should be how we talk about the way we treat people, not ‘good manners,’ because those things are the higher law in Scripture, and appropriate in any situation. A person can master good manners and still be an unloving scoundrel.

      November 5th, 2008 at 10:54 am

    17. rrmama says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more. I am constantly telling the boys to say please, thank you, yes ma’am and yes sir. Telling them to hold the door open for people. It makes me feel great when someone says he is so polite and a gentleman. I know I still need to reinforce those items at home every day but to know what I am doing is taking root is wonderful!

      November 5th, 2008 at 10:56 am

    18. Gretchen says:

      Our pastor commented that Scripture says that our mercy for others shows our faith. This seems right-on to me.

      November 5th, 2008 at 11:08 am

    19. Sincerely Anna says:

      I agree whole-heartedly. My son, who is by nature a run-fast, bump, and crash kind of kid, is still complimented for his good manners…something I’ve worked extremely hard on because I believe the same things you do. Saying “excuse me” and “I’m sorry” and looking someone in the eye with compassion and respect and folding his hands for (forced) self-control has saved him from a whole heap of trouble!

      November 5th, 2008 at 11:46 am

    20. Pam says:

      Even though I’m sometimes tempted to agree with Kai… you know from my comment on Monday’s post that I support you 100% on this, for your priority and the reason behind it.

      The challenge as a parent is to help your kids make the connection between manners and faith… otherwise your offspring may think you go to the church of “be nice to people and chew with your mouth closed”…

      * * * *
      That’s true Pam. It takes time and diligence, but teaching comes in advance of learning. You learn how then you learn why. At least that’s my philosophy. ~ AM

      November 5th, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    21. Sarah at themommylogues says:

      Well written, and a GREAT explanation. You are so, so right.

      November 5th, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    22. Michelle- This One's for the Girls says:

      I agree completely. Good manners are always about putting others before ourselves.

      I find myself saying this to my teenage daughter on a weekly basis. Our current discussion is on why sometimes it’s best to act cheerful around someone whom we don’t like. She says it’s a lie to act cheerful and I say that it’s not a lie– it’s good manners.

      I will win on this one.

      November 5th, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    23. Dawn says:

      I love that you’ve summed this post up with this…
      So when I say that teaching Sean good manners is at the top of my priority list, it is. And hopefully, in the process of teaching, the teacher will learn too.

      Most surely with this kind of heart there will be much success! Thank you so much for sharing your light! I do receive the encouragement 🙂

      November 5th, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    24. Jamy says:

      I totally agree. If I’ve done nothing else right in parenting, I can at least say my son is polite and respectful.

      November 5th, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    25. Bethanne says:

      Manners ARE important. They are a display of a gentle spirit that comes with being Christian, but also along with manners comes a spirit of thankfulness and gratitude. I have learned that a little thankfulness goes a long way.

      November 5th, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    26. Shelly W. says:

      Amen! You have said so well what I have always believed. Our demeanor says a lot about Who we follow.

      Now that my girls are getting a little older (two are teenagers), I am reaping just a few of the rewards of all this training. I have recently been told by different parents of younger kids (those my daughters babysit) how very polite my girls are. Usually, parents will remark about how my girls can actually carry on a conversation. We’ve had to work on making our kids look adults in the eye when they speak to them, but it seems to be finally sinking in.

      November 5th, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    27. Vintage Mommy says:

      Respect and empathy are also at the top of my list. It’s good to hear others talk about “deliberate” parenting, rather than let the TV or peers do the work.

      November 5th, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    28. Faerylandmom says:

      I heartily agree, and could not have said it any better.

      November 5th, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    29. desi says:

      Amen.
      Not to mention it’s a great way to a good Christian girl’s heart…and her daddy’s too. 🙂

      November 5th, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    30. Robbin says:

      Manners are a reflection of respect for others. And I think that mutual respect for all people, and even more, respect for life in general, is something that this country sorely needs.

      November 5th, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    31. Linda says:

      Well I live in CT and work in NY and the southerners…I must say are more polite.

      Just saying…

      November 5th, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    32. Melanie says:

      I love that this is the post the day after the election. Most of the campaign period I did not like to watch the news channels because I felt that the candidates were treated disrepectfully.

      Thank you for the reminder to always be on guard to model good manners to our children. I love your writing!

      November 5th, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    33. PastormacsAnn says:

      Well said AM! What a terrific post and a wonderful explanation. I completely agree.

      BTW I absolutely LOVE my Lands End fleece. It’s amazing – so soft and nice & toasty. I got this lovely pull-over in Azure blue.

      November 5th, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    34. Meredith says:

      YES!!!

      At its core, etiquette is the practice of thinking of others before yourself.

      November 5th, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    35. Susan says:

      I totally agree. It all falls back on the Golden Rule of “doing unto others as you would have others do unto you.” It’s having consideration for others, and putting yourself in other shoes.

      And, yes, it will take him far in life.

      November 5th, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    36. Janna says:

      Great post. This is something I have tried to instill in my older son since he was able to speak (early talker). I have not tried so hard with my younger son, because he is only now beginning to verbalize (age 2). That said, my younger son now says please and thank you, even though he barely talks! My point? Children model behavior and words – when we show good manners, they pick up on it, too, even if we are not yet preaching good manners to them!

      November 5th, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    37. HarryJacksMom says:

      It’s at the top of my list as well, and happily one of Harry’s favorite things to say recently is “Mommy, I be a nice gentleman!” If I can just get him to consistently recognize that I’m one of the ladies in “Ladies First,” we’ll be well on the road 😉 Thanx, as ever, for a wonderful post that encourages me to do better

      November 5th, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    38. Dana~Are We There Yet? says:

      It’s at the top of my list, mostly because I have 5 kids and I really want to enjoy living with them. Oh, and also for all the reasons you said. 🙂

      November 5th, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    39. Beck says:

      I think that you are so right. It is since I’ve become Christian that my understanding of how good manners are not just about something trivial, but about my passing through this world in a way that is gentle and does no harm and that is no small thing. Having courteous, kind children is on the top of my list, too.

      November 5th, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    40. Marti says:

      You’re so right – people sometimes scoff that good manners are fluff and nonsense, but they’re actually crucial. When we recognize the inherent dignity of each person and task we encounter, we elevate simplicity towards the sacred. Christian, Zen, or Basic Human Decency – we can serve God by serving each other. Yes we can. Among other reasons, I voted for Barack Obama because he serves God, and will serve the U.S.A., in just this way.

      * * *
      Congratulations to you Marti on the victory of your candidate. I voted for McCain not because he is a Christian but because his values align more closely to mine than that of the other candidates, especially on fiscal matters. I think he is a spunky and remarkable man with a patriotic history that is to be admired and respected. Now that the election is over, thank goodness, it’s time for the nation to pull together and move forward and see what the future holds for the United States of America. ~ AM

      November 5th, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    41. Deanna says:

      Thank you!

      November 5th, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    42. rrmama says:

      Amen, AM, Amen. I blogged about the same thing today.

      November 6th, 2008 at 11:33 am

    43. Thea says:

      LOL, I still remember my ex-boyfriend saying ‘yes m’am’ to my european mother when he first met her, who thought he was saying ‘yes Mom’. She thought that was a little too early!

      And yes, I think the most important thing we can teach our babies is to love, respect and include other people. That is why I got so teary eyed realizing that the first president our babies will remember is president Obama. I am so proud that my children will grow up in this country!

      * * * *
      I am proud that my child will grow up in this country no matter who is president. My mother’s people have been here since before it was a country. I think the attitude of American’s towards their own countrymen tells the world more about who we are than who sits in the White House. Right now our nation is a house divided and that frightens me. ~ AM

      November 6th, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    44. WeaselMomma says:

      Those are some pretty great reasons. Are you sure though the real reason is so that people don’t say “who’s his Mother!!!!????”
      That’s why I teach my kids manners, lol.

      November 6th, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    45. Mary says:

      Those good manners will serve him so well for his entire life. Stick to your guns!
      I didn’t realize that I was such a stickler for manners until my children started having playmates over. Now my children are 18 and 16. Even they are appalled at some of the table manners of their friends. My son has been dating the same girl for three years and she still doesn’t know that she should wait until everyone is served before she starts to eat. Most of the time she does not even wait for everyone to sit down! You would think that after 3 years of embarrassing herself, she would remember!
      As a young man of 18, my son is very well mannered, has a firm handshake, can conduct very adult conversations with people of any generation and is an all around nice person. I get so many compliments from adults about his behavior. So I am glad and so is he that we instilled good manners. I think the hardest part of parenting is consistency. Keep doing what you are, don’t lower your standards. You will be very glad one day!

      November 6th, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    46. Sarah says:

      So, I have a 3 1/2 year old little girl. Thinking we could talk about an arranged marriage.

      Some her attributes:
      Funny
      Potty trained
      Good eater
      Potty trained
      Snorts when she laughs, hmm is that an attribute?
      Loves to sing Jesus Loves Me (off key of course)
      Potty trained
      Says please and thank you

      I think we could work something out. 🙂

      November 7th, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    47. Steffj89 says:

      My kids have the ability to be loud, noisy, and obnoxious, but the also have the ability to be polite, and generous, and kind. I found the most bizzare thing recently T’s pre K teacher told me he is the most polite kid she has ever had to punish…he has a thing for losing shoes and she made him sit in time out for taking his shoes off for the umpteenth time, he said yes maam and thanked her when he was allowed to get up again.
      Steff

      November 8th, 2008 at 7:07 am

    48. Sudee in Florida says:

      That is the most beautiful blog I’ve ever read. Amen to it all.

      November 12th, 2008 at 11:58 pm

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