Padangekspres.net-When the parents of today were growing up, we were told to respect our elders, finish every sentence with either "please" or "thank you" and eat with our mouths closed and elbows in.
Friends' parents were called Mr or Mrs – very good family friends might adopt courtesy titles of "aunty" or "uncle" – and terms like "bum" and "shut up" were swear words.
Today, there's no denying that attitudes towards manners have relaxed. But while our kids call people by their first names and may not have intricate understandings of when they can use their fork as a spoon, the thinking behind manners hasn't changed – that is, to show respect, courtesy and compassion for others.
The good old days?
Brisbane parenting and happiness coach Ronit Baras doesn't hanker after the glory days of old when manners were beaten into every child.
"I have challenged this quest for good manners for many years," she says. "When I was a child, I was very rebellious and hated anything associated with manners.
"I believe I did that because my parents and my teachers used manners as a way to control their children and students, instead of explaining what manners meant and how we would benefit from using them."
Neither is she advocating a ban on teaching kids manners – what Ronit believes works more effectively is showing kids the reasons for having manners.
"I believe that when children know what it means to have manners and how they benefit from them, they are polite and show excellent manners naturally and effortlessly," Ronit says.
"Manners are just social codes of behaviour that people have discovered over time that show you can read and follow social cues."
Parents want help
Three out of four parents think children are less well mannered than in previous generations, a study commissioned by Disney in Australia revealed last year.
More than 90 per cent of parents want values and manners taught in schools, although 96 per cent admit mums and dads should be mainly responsible for instilling values in children.
As part of the study, many parents revealed they were desperate for help in ways to teach basic courtesy to kids.
Parents' hunger for help in teaching their kids how to be polite world citizens is evident in the number of books, eBooks and online resources devoted to the topic. US etiquette queen Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, has been writing three columns a week on courtesy and good manners since 1978, which appear in more than 200 newspapers worldwide.
But, Ronit says, most parents have the best tools to help their kids learn manners – themselves. "Manners are habits and if your kids copy your language (and they will), they will have enough polite, respectful, grateful language to use as reference," she says.
Five manners all kids should learn
- Saying "please" and "thank you": Eighty five per cent of people surveyed in a US poll a few years ago said they felt the world would be a better place if we just said "please" and "thank you" more often. And they may just be words, but throwing in a "please" or "thank you" can soften a command, or make a response sound friendly and respectful.
- Eating like civilised humans: The subject of table manners could fill pages. But learning some basic politeness like not talking with a mouthful, not reaching in front of others and not burping, passing wind or talking about disgusting topics in public can take kids a long way.
- Respecting others' voice space: If someone is talking – whether an adult or one of their friends – kids should learn it's impolite to interrupt. While teaching them to say "excuse me" is good, kids also need to know that saying it over the top of other is not polite.
- Don't use rude or disrespectful language: Kids, like all of us, need to learn how speak politely to others and not use rude or inappropriate language and put-downs. This is not about swearing – some non-swear words can hurt a lot more – but continuing the theme of treating others courteously and with respect.
- Respect differences: We live in a diverse society now with lots of different cultures, nationalities and traditions. Teach kids to embrace and accept diversity in others.