Manners have been around since at least 2300 BC, when Ptah-Hotep wrote on papyrus that one should refrain from “speaking evilly” and from staring at people.
And as parents, we say manners still matter— to quote Margaret’s mother, no one likes a bratty kid.
But which manners still matter? We think author Tamar Adler put it best in her “Manners Manifesto”:
Perhaps the way to distinguish useful etiquette from frippery is to discern which rules help us be good rather than seem good… Whatever unites [us] merits keeping, and what divides can be folded and stored away with the linen too old and ornamental to use.
Eating the food you’re served, saying please and thank you, holding the door? All that makes other people happy. So our kids should do it.
Although getting them there? That’s easier said than done.
In this episode we talk about
- why manners are all about context
- why other people’s manners rule (even if they’re not yours)
- whether it’s okay to expect (and perhaps forcefully elicit) good manners in your friends’ kids
- why thank you notes suck but we have to make kids do them anyhow
- why manners require constant reinforcement
- why everyone should stop listening to videos in public places without headphones because that’s just absolutely the worst
Here’s some further reading we liked:
- Etiquipedia, the “Ettiquette Encyclopedia and Ettiquette History Blog” (and Amy’s favorite new website)
- Mayim Bialik on why she doesn’t force her children to say please and thank you
- The 5 Depressing Lessons We Learned in Highlights Magazine (Number Five: “Gallant has always exemplified the cornerstones of social etiquette, while Goofus has remained a shockingly unrepentant dick for over 60 years.”)
And here’s two classic books on manners that will have your kids curtsying by week’s end:
How To Behave and Why, by Munro Leaf
What manners matter in your house? Do your children end every request with “sir” or “ma’am”? Stand when ladies enter the room? Call grownups by their last names? Tell us in the comments!