In spite of what it may appear from our chaotic, often selfish world, good manners should always be in fashion. They are designed to show consideration and kindness to those around us. Which is why manners training should be a critical skill set taught and practiced in Christian homes. While sociopaths can use manners to manipulate others, your children should be taught good manners ought to be the outpouring of a loving, humble heart seeking to reflect God’s love to others.
Good manners often reflect the cultural norms of the location where those being taught manners live. As anyone who has moved to a different country or even a different region of their own country can tell you, what is considered good manners in one area may be considered unnecessary or even rude in another. Did you know, for example, that the thumbs up sign used by those in the U.S. as a symbol for “That’s great!” is actually an extremely rude sign in many countries in Latin America, the Middle East and in countries like Greece (with a meaning similar to flashing the middle finger in the U.S.)?
While there is nothing wrong with teaching your children the good manners expected where you live, it is equally important to teach a novel principle that is rarely shared with children. Their manners should reflect what the people with whom they are dealing consider good manners, not what they think good manners should be. For example, if you live in an area where being “fashionably late” is expected, when your child visits, studies or lives in a country like Germany that considers those who are late to be rude, they should adjust their behavior and be early or on time to meet the local standard of good manners.
Why is this important – especially if others know you are from somewhere else with different ideas of good manners? Because good manners are not about what we want, but about respecting the needs of others and showing them kindness and respect in the ways that communicate it to them. The only exception would be if the expected behavior violates one of God’s commands. And when your children return home? They should revert back to the behaviors that are equated with good manners where you live.
The great thing about this approach is that it applies to other differences like generational concepts of good manners. Perhaps in your area young adults do not expect children to say ”Yes sir or ma’am”, but older adults find it disrespectful for children and teens to merely reply “Yes”. If your children have been taught to treat others with the manners that make the other person feel loved and respected, they can easily shift behaviors to make each person feel that love and respect.
Throughout your training though, remember to constantly reinforce the importance of the heart attitudes they have regardless of what manners they need to use. Otherwise, instead of reflecting God’s love, they will come across as a manipulative sociopath in the making.