by Father Lawrence Lovasik, The Catholic Family Handbook

Good manners are the expression of controlled strength. A person who is kind to others and respectful of their feelings has learned the magnificent art of directing his strength and controlling merely animal tendencies.

Early in their life make your children aware of the enormous value – here and now, and just from the standpoint of temporal advantages – of practicing good manners.

In good manners lies the true art of winning friends and influencing people. Lifelong good manners mean real popularity, with the later success in life that comes from popularity. Social and financial success is enormously facilitated for the person who knows the right thing to do and does it.

Good manners are important, because they give us confidence, and confidence is necessary for success. Point out to your children by example and out of their own growing experience how welcome the well-mannered person is in any circle.

Let them know how much you enjoy visits by children who are well behaved, who have a decent regard for other people’s rights, who ask permission before they touch things, who thank people after they have played with their things, and who willingly share with them their own things.

Impress your children with the fact that good manners are not sissy, but, rather, that they indicate a strong character and kind personality if motives are truly Christlike and sincere.

Bad manners are not a sign of cleverness, but the clearest indication of selfishness. A bad-mannered person may betray a real stupidity that holds that the rest of the world is unworthy of his effort to win and retain anyone’s friendship.

Show your children how bad manners mark uncontrolled greed, selfishness, and even ignorance of the most fundamental human likes and dislikes, a sign of the most ungracious disregard for others prompted by utter egotism.

Teach good manners at home

Good manners spring from the deep love cultivated by parents in their home. Only there can a child be equipped with the foundations of good manners – a respect for the rights of others.

The display of good manners between parents themselves is the first real lesson given to children. It is hard to don a new set of manners when you attend a dinner party or go on a date.

Proper manners practiced over and over, day after day, become a part of you. They make you more thoughtful and more appreciative. They cost little – and mean much!

The home, often the place for letting off steam, criticism, and bad manners, should be the training school for learning to live properly and happily.

But you, father and mother, are the teachers of good manners. Your children are great imitators and usually reflect the background of their parents. Children learn fundamental good manners from the way you speak to each other. If your speech is affectionate, if you address each other gently, no child can escape the influence of that example.

There should be no jibes and no insults between you. When you want something done, ask for it politely. Let there be no loud commands, orders without “please,” or favors accepted without “thank you.”

In speaking to each other, never use unpleasant or objectionable – much less insulting – names, even in jest, such as “the old lady,” “my boss,” “the wife,” or “the old man.”

Politeness is something spouses owe each other, and it profoundly affects the manners of their children.

A civilized husband gives his wife the same polite consideration that any gentleman is expected to give to a refined woman. Your children should find in you the manners that marked your courtship and honeymoon.

Their attitude toward their mother and ultimately toward all other women will be largely influenced by their father’s blend of love and politeness.

These good manners are to be displayed in parallel ways by the mother. She treats her husband with the same politeness that she shows to other men. She is a lady measuring up to his stature as a gentleman. Through her example, the good manners of her children will inevitably be ensured.

Your children will be attracted by the charm of good manners as they see you walk these gracious ways. If your manners are bad and your training of your children’s manners is slovenly or nonexistent, your children will almost certainly be rude and will betray “bad breeding.”

On the other hand, if your children have good manners, it is a public demonstration that they have come from a home full of love and respect, a home of charm and culture, where the parents were aware of the decencies of civilized living and passed on to their offspring a knowledge of the proper things to do and the proper way to deal with people.

You can never afford to stop insisting on courtesy within your home. Good manners in the home are far more important than are good manners outside the home. Without the solid foundation laid there, on-parade manners are so much cheap varnish.

Kindness based on love and respect is the fairest adornment of your home. Keep love in your home, and God will be there, as the beloved apostle says, “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

So much we owe to motherhood. What a grand privilege, then, accrues to every woman who becomes and is a mother after God’s own heart! -Rev. Fulgence Meyer, Plain Talks on Marriage, 1927

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