It happens every year. Attend any performance involving a group of children and inevitably there are one or more who are in obvious rebellion against everything they have been told to do by the director. You know the child. It is the one who shouts into the mic and laughs, even after being told multiple times for weeks to speak normally. It’s the child who screams out to audience members while others are trying to say lines or acts silly in an obvious bid to be the center of attention. (Mind you, I’m not talking about age appropriate wiggling and such.)
At the risk of being called a cranky old lady, what sends me over the edge with these children is their families. I can’t think of one time when the offender’s family has apologized or looked evenly slightly upset at their child’s behavior. Instead they egg it on in often not so subtle ways. When this happens in a church setting, I get particularly upset. What these parents don’t understand is that they are encouraging their child to have bad manners and have no regard for the feelings of the other children, the director or the families of the other children.
Manners education has been pushed aside in many homes as old fashioned and out-of-date, a product of a bygone era. Unfortunately, the lack of good manners is hurting the Church in major ways. The definition of manners in the secular world is doing what is necessary to make others feel comfortable and appreciated. There are four even more important reasons why it is essential, Christian parents spend a lot of time and effort on teaching their children good manners.
- Good manners are the Golden Rule in action. Look behind every rule in a book of manners and there are reasons they became the standard for appropriate behavior. Boil those reasons down to their essence and the reality is that good manners are a way to treat others the way we would wish to be treated if we were in their shoes. Modern life has forgotten this little part of the Golden Rule. It’s not about how you necessarily want to be treated at this moment, but how you would want to be treated if you were the other person in this moment. (Ex: I don’t have to sit, so why should I give up my seat to that little old lady? Because if you were that little old lady with chronic pain, you would love for someone to offer you their seat so you could get a little relief from the constant pain.)
- Others equate the actions of your child with Christians and even God. Is it fair? Probably not, as even the best Christian is still going to make mistakes and even sin. Inexperienced children are even more likely to make mistakes. Yet, that is the reality of our world. It’s probably why God instructed Christians to live such a godly life filled with good works – because it pointed others to God. The reverse is also true. If your child is rude and thoughtless, many will assume all Christian children are trained to be rude and inconsiderate to others and reject Christianity and God in the process.
- Good manners are a way to reflect God’s love and caring concern to others. If Jesus were your child, how would he treat other people? I am guessing Jesus consistently acted in ways that were kind, considerate and caring. He had good manners with love thrown into the mix. A large part of teaching your kids “what would Jesus do” is teaching them how to treat others well.
- Good manners can create the foundation of relationships that can lead to the types of service and faith sharing God wants from your child. Let’s face it. Do you want to be served and learn anything from someone who is constantly rude and disrespectful to you? Others don’t want to be served or hear about God from your child if he or she is a rude, disrespectful person. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge your child has of the Bible. If they don’t treat others well, no one will want to hear what they have to say about God.
So dust off Emily Post or Miss Manners and start some serious manners training in your home. It can make a huge positive difference in God’s Kingdom.