A Novel Approach to Teaching Your Children Good Manners

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.

Hidden Skills Your Kids Need for Better Relationships

I don’t know if Satan has a top ten list of the ways he tempts people to sin, but if he does, I would imagine relationships would be on it. Your kids have lots of relationships they are trying to navigate – you (their parents), siblings, other relatives, friends, neighbors, coaches, teachers, ministers and more. With their lack of knowledge and life experience, it can be easy for them to make poor choices in how they handle the difficulties that often arise between two people.

As Christian parents, you are probably spending a lot of time reminding them to be kind and loving. You are hopefully having conversations about which words and behaviors are loving and kind when interacting with others. You are probably spending time correcting them when they make poor choices in how they treat others. Did you know though, that there are some special skill sets and habits you can teach your kids that will help them continue to improve in the ways they interact with others even long after they are adults?

If you can work with your kids on these areas, it is much more likely they will avoid developing bad and even sinful habits in how they interact with others.

  • Keen awareness of the emotional states of others. There are a few people in the world who are what is known as an ”open book”. They are extremely open and honest. If you say something that hurts their feelings, they will usually let you know immediately and give you an opportunity to resolve any misunderstandings in the moment. Most people, however, are emotional poker players. They are afraid to be vulnerable enough to share their emotions with someone. That can be good, if they are doing it in an effort to have self control over their words and actions. It can be toxic when they never let the person who has upset them know so they can make amends or they tell everyone else how angry they are with someone who literally has no clue anything is wrong. Teaching your kids how to read facial expressions, tone of voice, body language and tells can help them recognize when someone might be upset with them. They can then be proactive in checking to verify the emotional state of the person and correcting any issues. Being aware of the emotional states of others can also help them choose times for having difficult conversations when everyone is emotionally calm and not already upset, tired, etc.
  • Ask for feedback. This is scary for everyone. We all know we aren’t perfect, but who really wants to hear a list of one’s faults and mistakes? Feedback from others, however, is the quickest way to correct mistakes and grow – assuming the feedback is trustworthy. Help your kids find people they can trust to be kind, but honest about how they interact with others. Often a teacher, coach, best friend or relative can point out little things your kids can change in the way they treat others. Remind them to reject any criticism that would have them disobey God (Like ”Everybody would like you a lot better if you would do drugs with us.”) or is problematic in other ways. Often little things like taking a step back when talking to others or letting the other person talk first don’t require a lot of practice, but can make the people with whom they are talking feel more loved.
  • Spend time in reflection. Encourage them to spend time replaying difficult interactions in their heads. Not to be overly critical of themselves or others, but to identify things they did well and the things they still need to practice. In the middle of a conversation it can be hard to determine what made things turn sour. Replaying it later can help your kids figure out what they need to change the next time they are having a similar conversation.
  • Ask for help. Some kids are socially awkward. They aren’t really being unkind, but it might seem that way to others who don’t know them as well. When your kids feel as if they are getting negative reactions from more than one person, but can’t seem to make needed corrections on their own, they may benefit from some coaching. Usually an adult is best suited to analyze the situation and help figure out any changes that may need to happen. For children who really struggle, reader’s theater social scripts can help. You can find plenty online for free that illustrate a positive way to handle the interactions that are a struggle. Your child can read through these scripts with you or others until the desired changes are comfortable.
  • Conflict resolution skills training. The worst parenting advice consistently given by ”experts” is to let kids work out their own conflicts. Children need to be actively taught strong conflict resolution skills and be given practice in using them. This skill alone can save them a lot of relational difficulties. We have a free printable parenting sheet walking you through a method on our website that you can access here.
  • Analyze the interactions Jesus had with others. Sometimes the world’s view of how to treat others isn’t very kind or loving. Your kids will be a lot less confused if they regularly go back and read about the encounters Jesus had with others. How did he interact with people who were hurting or upset? It can also help if they memorize passages like the fruit of the Spirit and 1 Corinthians 13 so they can remind themselves in the moment of how God wants them to treat others. (Repeating ”love is patient, love is kind” over and over in my head while dealing with someone difficult has helped my own self control more than once!)

So the next time you become exasperated your kids aren’t being as loving and kind towards others as you had hoped, take a step back and teach them these skills. It might just be exactly what they need.

Are You Raising a Difficult Child?

Every parent has difficulty with their children from time to time. We have all had those moments when we wondered (however briefly) if our children would grow up to be adults no one would want to be around. A recent study from UGA has shed light on the character traits that make someone a difficult person. It’s interesting how their findings paint a picture of someone who is not obeying God’s commands about our character.

So what are the traits they found made someone difficult and what are any corresponding commands God has given us in regards to those traits?

  • Callousness. According to the authors of the study, callousness indicated a total lack of caring and concern for what happened to others or how one’s behavior was impacting people in negative ways. The Bible is full of commands about how we are to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 7:12) and looking out not just for our interests, but the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-7).
  • Grandiosity. Grandiosity is an attitude of pompous superiority or pretentiousness. The Bible would probably call this pride. In the Philippians passage above, it also says we should in humility consider others better than ourselves. There are dozens of other verses commanding us to be humble or meek (often used as a synonym for humble).
  • Domination. Domination is not the same as being good stewards or having dominion over creation. Rather it is the tendency to control others in an oppressive manner. I think one could make a strong argument that the example Jesus set and commanded us to follow of serving others would be the opposite of someone who wanted to dominate others.
  • Suspicious. The authors of the study equated suspiciousness with the inability to trust others and the tendency to assume the worst motives are behind another’s words and actions. This one is a little more complicated. The Bible teaches us to trust God above people. Our kids need to know that when someone says something in opposition to what God has commanded or has revealed as truth, God is always to be trusted and believed (Psalm 118:8). On the other hand, the commands for us to forgive others should create in us a healthy wariness, balanced with forgiveness, that should encourage us to give people the benefit of the doubt in our personal interactions (1 Corinthians 13:7).
  • Aggressive. This aggressiveness is not the same as setting healthy boundaries or standing up for what is right in the face of evil. Rather, it is the tendency to lash out at others, cut into lines and other behaviors that could be considered bullying or selfishness. Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit. Jesus also commanded his followers to be as harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16).
  • Manipulativeness. Manipulation is the attempt to control others by a type of trickery. Often it involves choosing words that encourage the person to do what we want them to do – even though we know they don’t want to do it. Manipulation often involves telling lies. Sin entered the world because Eve believed a lie. I haven’t counted, but my guess is that the command to not lie is probably one of the most frequently repeated in the Bible.
  • Risk Takers. This is a tricky one also. What type of risks do they mean? God doesn’t want us to risk disobeying Him our entire lives in hopes that we can do whatever we want and still get to Heaven with a deathbed conversion. I also think scripture supports the idea that God doesn’t want us to take unnecessary risks with our health or the health of others. On the other hand, I think all of the early Christians were risk takers. They risked prison, beatings and even death for spreading the Gospel. To be an active, productive Christian, we will need to be willing to take some risks. Hopefully, we won’t need to go through everything the Apostle Paul and the others did, but if necessary, we need to be willing to take those risks.

Are you raising a difficult child? Teaching your child to obey God and helping them model their attitudes and behaviors to those of Christ means they will not be considered a difficult person.

Your Kids and Cancel Culture

I’m old enough to remember how upsetting it was to have a favorite television show cancelled mid-season. For some reason, the networks cared more about ratings than my personal preferences! Fast forward and today a person is more likely to be “cancelled” than any entertainment vehicle. Your kids are immersed in a culture that seeks to “cancel” or destroy the reputation and often livelihood of anyone who doesn’t meet their standards. Who “they” are is a bit fuzzy, but with enough social media traction, “they” have the power to destroy a person’s life in less than a week.

Cancel culture can be tricky to explain to kids. We should want to encourage each other to be more godly and discourage others from disobeying God. There are also a few people in this world who are so toxic that being around them for long periods of time can encourage your kids to disobey and even reject God. Yet is cancel culture really biblical? What do you need to teach your kids about “cancelling” other people?

  • God wants your kids to love their neighbors as themselves and treat others as they would like to be treated. Would they want those who disagree with them about something to not only avoid them, but encourage others to avoid them and destroy their reputations and (eventually) careers? Cancel culture seeks to hurt those who disagree with “their” standards. There is no love for those being canceled.
  • God believes in forgiveness and commands Christians to forgive others. Ultimately, cancel culture is about punishment and revenge. While God will mete out justice in the end, He makes room for people to learn and grow from their mistakes. When they repent, God forgives them and expects us to do so, too. Cancel culture rarely forgives those who offend it in some way.
  • God believes in redemption. Christianity is based in part on the idea that humans are capable of making drastic positive changes in their lives with God’s help. Cancel culture assumes everyone who does something “wrong” by their standards – even many years ago – is unredeemable.
  • Vengeance is for God, not people to use. Romans 12:19 is abundantly clear on the topic and it’s not the only verse addressing it. God doesn’t want Christians to avenge themselves – ever. Cancel culture is all about vengeance against people who have violated its standards.
  • Right and wrong is determined by God, not by those who can manipulate social media the best. Cancel culture by definition has a variable moral compass, because it is based on the current culture and not God’s unchanging truths. The ironic thing about those who practice cancel culture is that they themselves would have been cancelled in the past and may very well be cancelled in the future when they disagree with someone more media savvy than themselves.
  • God should always be the Lord of our lives, not our emotions or thoughts. Cancel culture has an underlying assumption that the person doing the cancelling is perfect. Their emotions and thoughts are always correct. They are not only smarter than everyone else, they are smarter than God.
  • Christians need to be careful to share the Gospel and serve everyone, but choose close friends who help them be more godly – not encourage them to sin. There is always a tendency to do the polar opposite of something that is wrong, like cancel culture. The problem is that your kids are too young and their faith too weak to accept people into their inner circle who will encourage them to sin. They shouldn’t cancel the people who don’t meet the standard of friends who will help them be more godly, however. They should still treat them with love and kindness, while serving them and sharing their faith. That is what will help people become who God wants them to be….not cancelling.

The great irony of cancel culture is that those who practice it will often speak of how they were scarred by churches who were “too rigid” and “judgmental”, yet they have become the very thing they are supposedly protesting. Teach your kids how to help people change by loving and teaching them – not treating them like a societal reject.

Fun Way to Teach Kids Manners

It’s tempting to skip teaching your kids manners because it takes a lot of time and effort. It’s easy to dismiss manners as antiquated in today’s world. Yet, at the core of Christianity is putting others before yourself. That was also at the core of manners in the past. When your kids have good manners, they stand out from the crowd. They point others to God as they show kindness and consideration for others.

So how can you teach your kids good manners, as well as why God wants us to have them and not feel as if you have spent all day nagging your kids? There’s actually a fun way that can be easily adapted for different ages of kids.

Start by calling your kids together and telling them the story of Esther, David or one of the other kings or queens in the Bible. In some of those stories, customs that could be considered “court manners” are implied or explained. Ask your kids if they noticed any actions that could be considered good or bad manners in the story.

Then read Philippians 2:3-4 to your kids. Ask them what it looks like to put another’s interests before your own and to count others more significant than ourselves. Explain that manners were created as a way to show kindness, respect and consideration to others. Mention a few manners on which you would like to focus. Ask them how each shows consideration for others.

If your kids are little, play royal dress up games. Have tea or a “royal” meal. Teach and practice manners that would enable them to have “tea with the queen” without embarrassment. Make it fun, dressing up, making paper crowns and tea sandwiches or whatever would engage your kids.

For older kids, spend some time examining manners in different countries or time periods. There’s a fun book called George Washington’s Rules to Live By you can use for that time period. Or grab an older edition of Miss Manners or Emily Post. Or have them research manners in other cultures to find ones that are similar and different.

Even older children will enjoy going to high tea or a “fancy” or fun restaurant to practice manners. Or invite over someone who grew up in another culture and have them answer your kids’ questions about manners there. Don’t forget, manners can change even from region to region in the U.S. and from generation to generation.

Focus on manners that make life better for others – including table manners! To sneak in extra lessons, focus on different aspects of manners like table manners, hospitality manners, manners when speaking to others, manners when meeting new people, etc. Then find fun ways to practice them. Don’t forget to find a corresponding Bible lesson or scripture for each one, while making those verses in Philippians your theme verse for every lesson. (The spaced repetition of the verse over time will move it to their long term memories, where it can be remembered for years to come.) Before you know it, your kids may just have wonderful manners worthy of tea with the queen!