Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Things I Want My Daughter To Know #2: Manners (beyond please and thank you)

The long awaited and debated sequel in my series of posts about what I want to teach my children. Again, this is for me to get y'alls opinions and also think about what I hope to pass on to my next generation--whenever that happens, Mother!

Merriam-Webster, who I already have issues with, defines manners as:

(1): a characteristic or customary mode of acting : custom (2): a mode of procedure or way of acting : fashion (3): method of artistic execution or mode of presentation : style bplural : social conduct or rules of conduct as shown in the prevalent customs c: characteristic or distinctive bearing, air, or deportment dplural (1): habitual conduct or deportment : behavior (2): good manners e: a distinguished or stylish air

My mom always told me that manners existed to make everyone feel comfortable (not just yourself). Now, she wasn't a big formal place setting for every day use (paper towels are great everyday napkins for us!) but she had several rules that she implemented that I hope to pass down to my children.

1.) Ma'am and Sir. My parents instituted saying Yes/No Ma'am/Sir from a very early age for three reasons. They used it as a sign of respect but also to signal that we were really listening (no "Yeahs" in our house). My mom also said it is easier for me to say ma'am as a little kid than to remember if the adult preferred to be called Ms. Mrs. Miss. Still Married name. Divorced name. First name...that also allows the adult to tell me what name they prefer.

Look, I know some people don't like it when they are called ma'am because it makes them feel old, but I'm going to shoot straight with you: Get Over It! I call a two-year old ma' has nothing to do with age. When I use it for people younger it is usually used to get the child's attention and signify that we are talking about something serious. "No, sir! we don't play in the street...lick a toilet bowl, or call people names." (if I could record the sound of sounds really southern, I can't lie.)

KW was not brought up saying Ma'am and Sir by his Yankee parents, but he has learned to say it and has realized that most people will consider him a kind, polite, and considerate person when he does...instead of short, rude, or pompous. Ah, the power of one word!

2.) No calling people after 9pm. This particularly includes people with children under 12. Even with cell phones and caller ID, at best it is distracting to the routine of evenings and bedtimes, at worst most people get nervous when people call late (right, McMommy?) thinking something is wrong.

3.) Opening doors for others. Yes, guys should open doors for ladies at all times! (My only exception is car doors...that should just be for the guy's significant other...think about it...that is socially awkward otherwise.) But it is not just for guys! Everyone should open doors for EVERYONE, not just elderly, handicapped, and young (although you really should for those). I see opening a door for someone as an acknowledgement that THAT PERSON EXISTS. You are saying to that person/stranger...I realize you are there. When I first moved to DC, I was alone for most of the time and would walk around the mall or grocery store desperate to talk to someone. For someone to acknowledge that I was there!!! The first time someone opened the door for me there (2 months after I moved there and I had a cast on...I almost cried!). Even polite behavior can make someone's day!

These are the first three that come to mind, but I'm sure there are many others. What manners were you taught? What manners do you think are superfluous or necessary?


amanda said...

1) my hubs says sir and ma'am to everyone. used to drive me crazy. he comes from a military family. now i like it and think it's weird if people don't say it.

2) we totally had the rule growing up. my heart skips a beat every single time the phone rings after nine. bc truly it only means something is wrong.

3) i love holding the door for others. people always look sooo surprised. how sad is that?? pretty sure it is leftover from first grade when i was the door holder for the week. my favorite helper job ever!!

as for my manner lessons...the first one that comes to mind is no elbows on the table. i hated that one. i am a lazy eater.

Adcock Circus said...

We are trying to teach those in our house as well, but somedays it feels like an uphill battle. Raised in the South I was always taught to call the person Mr. Mrs. Miss Last name, I admit I have a hard time having my boys call people Ms. Lisa. I think calling by the last name teaches respect.

Table Manners! Huge! Why does no one wait to eat until everyone is seated? And please ask to be excused from the table.

I also teach (or am trying to teach) the boys to let girls go first. Even if it is in the line for the slide at the pool. If Davis walks up and a girl comes up at the same time then let her go first. You will just be going down a minute later. I am all for womens rights, but I think teaching young men to be respectful will in turn help them be better spouses.
And if I had girls I would not allow them to call a boys house, unless it was a returned phone call (although I think it would be nice if a boys asked what time was good to call back). I guess that is why God gave me boys.

Was this more than you wanted. I have a list too that I started before I started children it is amazing what becomes important. I look forward to reading the responses.

Susan said...

Those are all great ones and were things my parents expected when I was growing up. We also expect those of our kids, though we do Mr. and Ms. instead of sir and ma'am.
A couple others that come to mind are no talking back and how to be a good friend.
I am often appalled when I am out shopping and such and see kids mouthing off to their parents. I would have never even thought of saying some of the things I have heard kids say to their parents.
As far as being a good friend, we really want our kids to be accepting and kind to everyone and be loyal, sincere friends. So many kids(and adults)these days are all about themselves and don't really know how to be good and loyal friends as a result.

tickledpink said...

I am all about manners. My ex husband didn't have the greatest manners, so I had to teach him several. For instance, always open the door for a lady whether it's the car door or the door to a restaurant. The lady should always order first, and I can remember my mother always ordering her meal first. I like for a gentleman to pull the chair out for me. I grew up saying yes sir/ma'am, and the other day my mother said did you say yes ma'am? I laughed because I'm close to 30! We had to excuse ourselves from the table, and say we enjoyed it regardless if we didn't. Oh, I also could not call boys. Young ladys never called boys as my mother would tell me, so I would have to wait for my boyfriends to call me. My date had to come to the door, and if he honked the horn he would sit out there till he came to the door. He also had to walk me to the door which I still like now. I never could call my friend's mom Ms. Lisa. It had to be their last name like Mrs. Smith. Those are the ones that stick out the most to me. I love manners! If I have children they will definitely be taught manners! Great post!:)

(Bitter) Buffalo Betty said...

And if they ever ride public transportation, offer your seat to: elderly people, women in heels who look exhausted, people heavily-ladden with bags, tourist families who would like to sit together (esp if young kids involved). Did I miss a scenario? I've seen all four in the last six weeks and have been thoroughly disappointed to find I was the only one to offer (when I met two of the criteria myself!).

Susan said...

Just found your blog and LOVE it! I totally agree with all your rules! We follow all of them very strictly in our home. My son is only 15 months but knows "No, sir!" On the opening doors thing I really understand what you mean. One of the reasons I fell in love with my husband was how courtesy he was about things. We have been together for over 11 years I have never opened a car door or otherwise for myself.

Kiss My Tiara said...

i couldn't agree more with your post! my mom would applaud you for this! i was absolutely brought up with all of these manners and think that they are so important! i am 21 years old and any time the phone rings at my parents house after nine it still makes me jump!

Curtis said...

We moved to South Florida when I was in fourth grade. Some of the northern transplant kids down there looked at me funny when I said "ma'am" to the teacher. I don't think they had ever heard that word before.

Is it appropriate to get into the "seat up, seat down" discussion here? Maybe not but as a teenager, I always heard my mom complain when the seat was left up. While I have some issue with her complaints, it never the less registered with me and I instituted my own Rocky-like training program where I learned to always put the seat down so that my future wife wouldn't complain. 5+ years into marriage and that's about the only thing Kris has never gotten on my back about!

The Roaming Southerner said...

I took a page from Granola Girl. Where KW and I each do some lifting with the bathroom seat...I put down the lid...he puts down both...that way we were both training ourselves.

The Mrs. said...

We have for some reason been able to raise pretty polite little ones. no thank you, yes please, no mama, yes sir, is pretty standard around here and I'm surprised by how many people are shocked by it. Barking orders at mom is not tolerated. at all.

I'm working on holding doors open for others. doors are still pretty heavy for him but he always says excuse me and thanks who ever holds it open for him, thats a start.

And the no calling, no child of mine will be calling around after 8. I'm amazed when my inlaws call to chat with the hubs and I at 10 o'clock. Very few people in this world do I care to talk to at that hour. That is my quiet time, but you have to answer b/c lord knows at that hour something SHOULD be wrong!

Dont forget table manners, those can be darn tricky for little ones but super important. I dont care if you try everything, I dont even care if you eat anything some nights, but you need to sit respectfully and quietly. And no shoving lasagna in daddy's ear. He hates that.

Anonymous said...

Dinner rules at my grandma's house was not farting or burping at the table. And if one happened to slip out, say "Pardon me" or "Excuse me". (This was more for the men of the family)

The Ben Show said...

Love your post. We were also raised with sir and ma'am and I still think it is the polite thing to do. I love the no calling after 9 pm rule, although no one in my family follows that!! I really agree with you about everyone opening doors for everyone else. I will even stand for a really long amount of time and hold the door for the person behind me... Way to go, Venkmann...

Anonymous said...

Oh Miss Alex, this one so resonates! Obviously it does with loads of other folks as well, judging by the volume and length of other comments you are seeing posted.

We had other ones, especially written Thank You notes for gifts, and those had to be in the mail with one week of receiving the gift. Others involved waiting for people to get off the elevator before jumping on, that sort of thing.

Great post!

mom2natnkatncj said...

Great list!

Anonymous said...

You are so right on with all those (Your mom too!!) I say sir/ma'am all the time and I am from the NW!

Happy POW!

McMommy said...

Ok, am I the only one who is going to tell you....

You posted the wrong blog address for POW!!

You put "" and your blog address is "

Look, I know I've been out of the loop this week and you probably miss me like mad and can't function...but COME've GOT to remember your own blog address!!

Rach (Mommy Learns to Blog) said...

What a great post! I think you should make a "manner list" button for us to use like the Shhhh, Secret List McMommy started!

Thank you notes - an absolute must. If someone has taken the time to give you a gift, have you to dinner, etc. you can certainly find a few moments to write a heartfelt thank you.

We never used the phrase shut up - when you think about it, it's just not a nice thing to say to someone and we didn't dare say it in our house. MH will not be using it either.

If you finish something, either let someone know or replace it yourself (empty toilet paper rolls are NOT cool, nor are soda bottles with less than a sip left in them).

There is a right and wrong way to ask for something. In this house, I do not handle demands well. Sometimes MH has to rephrase what she's looking for 3 times before I will finally conceed that "that's more like it" and give her what she's asking for.

Using the words "you're welcome". When someone takes the time to thank you, it's not to hard to give them this simple response.

I'm sure I've got a zillion more - I'm loving this list though!

Lynette said...

Amen on the calling after 9pm. And please. Don't call before 9/10 AM either. You never know if somebody is sleeping in.

Lynette said...

Amen on the calling after 9pm. And please. Don't call before 9/10 AM either. You never know if somebody is sleeping in.

Simply Shannon said...

If only more people still found those "rules" necessary! Although, I have to admit that I'm not one for being called Ma'am. Probably because I'm a yankee.
I still refuse to call anyone between the hours of 9pm and 9am unless specifically asked to do so. Doesn't seem to stop anyone else from doing it though.
Good list!

Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

Great list- might do one myself too! Good idea to have it down in writing before the chaos of kids makes you forget all of your brilliant intentions!

I ALWAYS go out of my way to hold the door open for anyone and it amazes me that I tend to get two types of responses. 1. Shock. Appreciation but honest to goodness shock. or 2. Nothing. No "thank you" or even just a smile or look of "thank you." Not that I need roses but basic "peas and q's" (as we called it growing up) is just that...basic.

I could stand on soap box all year with this topic....

Chelle said...

Ooohh...manners! I am so glad there are still some of us out there :)
1-chew w/your mouth closed...
2-say thank you, please, etc.
3-respecting others who are older than you...aka us adults.
4-when you are old enough to--clean up after yourself. don't wait for me to tell you. if you use the rest of the tp, replace it. if you use the last paper towel, replace it.

I love your list--it's great!

K Rée said...

With 22 comments, I may be wrong about this one not being here yet, but here's my favorite from my Grams:

"'Can' can't do anything!"

I love grammar, and I believe it's being thrown down the proverbial tubes more and more each year. A simple,"May I please..." goes a long way.

There's something about teaching children manners that keeps them childlike while making them more tolerable to other adults. I think it's Manners Magic.