Good Manners and Behaviour: What Adults and Children Ought to Know
As a teacher, I see poor manners all the time. Some are intentional, based on frustration – that’s why I’ve been sworn at and slapped. But some examples of bad manners are based on genuine ignorance.
A student in my class, for example, accidentally tripped another young girl. He felt horrible and was practically in tears about it – but he didn’t know what to do. I had to take the lad over and have him check on the girl and apologize for the accident. I said, “Even if it’s an accident, go and check on them and say you’re sorry. It’s just good manners.” Having done so, he felt better. And he learned what was appropriate under the circumstances.
And this is not just an isolated example. Last week, a student seemed genuinely surprised when he was scolded for tossing his books onto my desk and demanding help. He didn’t realize that teachers, just like other people, want to be treated with respect and be asked politely for assistance or help in writing my essay.
Having good manners used to be a given. But historians have been noticing a trend in good manners and have noted their steady decline. Nearly 60% of Americans say they encounter reckless or aggressive drivers on the road and 79% say that the “lack of respect and courtesy should be regarded as a serious national problem.” According to DR. Alex J Packer, “society is experiencing a manners meltdown.” And where is this coming from? Well, a variety of sources. The government often sets a poor example, bullying each other and funding attack ads. Reality television offers many examples of poor manners, with humiliation of others being sold as entertainment. In daily life, basic courtesies are waning. People pass each other without saying a friendly hello. Salespeople are screamed at. Co-workers are constantly criticized and back-stabbed.
Since children have so many examples of bad manners, how are they to learn good ones? Well, adults have to serve as role models, displaying good manners in their daily lives. Caregivers and schools also have the duty to take the time to teach children good manners. Some essential manners that need to be taught include: saying please and thank-you, asking for help in a polite manner, respectfully expressing views, giving sincere apologies, saying hello/good-bye, being on time, not interrupting, and listening attentively.
Manners are an expression of respect, consideration, and empathy and are an important defence against irritations, conflicts, and even violence. Having good manners can show that a person is capable of thinking of others, and not just about their own wants and needs. Manners are evidence of our inner morals and help facilitate relationships. They show we understand the presence and needs of other people. And having good manners in today’s world allow people to ‘stand out from the crowd’. People with good manners are known to receive better opportunities. (Who will be hired for a job? It won’t be the person snapping gum through the interview).
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