Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Importance of Polite Children

We cannot expect all little children, indeed, to be little Lord Fauntleroys or Eva St.Clairs, but they can be taught to be thoughtful, unselfish, respectful and courteous. 

It seems to me that too many mothers neglect an important element in the training of their children. In fact, do young folks at any time have the manners that distinguished those of two generations ago? There has been a sad decadence of manners generally within the last forty years, and unfortunately children have been affected by it more visibly than others. Gone is the oldtime courtesy which children showed to their elders, especially to the aged. I remember when boys were taught to raise their hats to teachers and the girls to courtesy. In reply to all questions it was the rule rather than the exception to answer, “Yes, sir,” or “No, sir,” to a gentleman, and “Yes, ma'am,” and “No, ma’am,” to a lady. The change is to be regretted.

And yet we cannot blame the children. The fault lies with their parents, principally their mothers. We cannot expect all little children, indeed, to be little Lord Fauntleroys or Eva St. Clairs, but they can be taught to be thoughtful of others, unselfish, respectful and courteous. Especially should they know how to behave politely in the dining-room. If there is one thing more than another that shows our bringing up, to use a common expression, it is our manners at table. The way we eat. Yet how often is one’s whole meal made unpleasant by some unruly or misbehaved child. Mothers cannot be oblivious to the misdemeanors of their children in this respect Possibly, however, they may not realise that the responsibility of their behavior or misbehavior rests upon them; but it is as necessary to teach them good manners as that they must not eat too much.

In the first place, are not children petted too much and allowed too many privileges in these days? In many books the children are the real managers. They monopolize the conversation and continually interrupt older ones while talking. This is all wrong. Such a mode, or, rather, lack of training, fosters their selfishness and vanity, and renders them real nuisances of fault-finding and discourtesy.

Only the other day I was greatly shocked while visiting at a friend's house by the ill-manners of her little boy, who was not quite 10 years old. Before we were all fairly seated at the table, he leaned forward upon the table, knife and fork in hand, and exclaimed: “I want some of the plum pudding, but I won't have any cake.” “You must wait, Carl.” said the father. Afterward he was helped three times to the plum pudding, though several of the older ones had a much smaller amount in consequence. I imagined that his mother might feel ashamed of his want of breeding, but the little fellow afterward remarked to me confidentially: “Mamma always says that I may have the lion’s share of anything.” 

A faultless toilet, quietness of demeanor and a willingness to wait for others, the use of the fork instead of the knife, the absence of fault-finding, the proper use of the napkin, eating and drinking without making any uncouth noise, these are all to be equally observed as a part of table etiquette, and the youngest boy or girl can easily practice them. Nor should they forget the “please” and “thank you” that have so much to do toward making children attractive. I hope that mothers will see to this matter and make it a duty to educate their children in this, as well as other elements of true politeness, so that the next generation will rise up and call them blessed.—Mrs. J. M. Colby, in the Housekeeper, 1896

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

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