“My girls will never get on without conventional manners. They shall be taught from babyhood, to emulate the speech and bearing of ladies. They shall be instructed in the proper behavior for every occasion. They shall walk and dance and write and speak with graceful perfection.”
Most mothers hold, consciously or unconsciously, one of two theories about children. One mother says: “Manners are only the outward sign of the inner nature. If my daughter has a kind heart and a well-trained mind she will behave in a gentle, charming fashion. I will teach her compassion, respect for age, unselfish zeal for helping with the world’s work. Her manners will take care of themselves.” Another mother says: “My girls will never get on without conventional manners. They shall be taught from babyhood, to emulate the speech and bearing of ladies. They shall be instructed in the proper behavior for every occasion. They shall walk and dance and write and speak with graceful perfection.” Neither method, says the Youth’s Companion, produces altogether satisfactory results. Unselfishness is truly the foundation of good manners, but not the superstructure.
Many conventional restrictions have grown about social relations. Some can be explained by the demand of kindness and some can not. Could a child infer from his desire to help others, that he should not eat with his knife? Many offenses against good taste interfere in some way with the rights of others, but many others do not. Still, no set of rules to produce a polished lady, will achieve a result fit for the strain of life. The members of the French boarding school may adorn the ballroom, but are too likely to fail at the breakfast table or in the crowded car. The woman of perfect manners must re-enforce her unselfishness by social rules, and conventionality must be vitalized by the warm desire of others’ pleasure. The best of life never comes naturally, whether in manners or morals. The secret of charming manners is the desire for them. When the mother wishes them for her daughter as much is she wishes the other gods of the world, her daughter will have them. – San Pedro Daily News, 1907
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