SOME elderly men were about to start a meeting in the sitting room of one of them. A young boy worked in without caring to greet them as an obligation but casually made straight to the refrigerator in the sitting room to take something.
Being stunned by the unexpected disrespect to the elders, the elders exchanged glances, condemning the boy’s impudence. “This is too bad; children in this day and age lack etiquettes even to greet elders”, they fumed. Having observed the displeasure of the elders against him, the boy pretended not to have heard them and sneaked out.
“Chei, whose son is this boy? He lacks manners. Does it mean that her mother didn’t teach him how best to respect elders?” one of the elders said angrily. In support of the remark, another person said: “In fact, children of nowadays lack home training. I don’t blame them. It is their parents’ fault”.
The issue of child upbringing in the present society is nagging and calls for concern.
In her observation, Chinenye Mbonu perceived mannerism as “individual’s physical appearance, manner of speaking, interactions in private and public. For you to achieve good mannerism in a child, it means you must start when the child is at the tender age”.
It has been observed that parents want their children to be well mannered but many do not seek proper guidance from their better informed and guidance counselors in schools. The first step in child training is to be of good conduct in the home in relation to your spouse and members of the house-hold because children closely observe their parents and imitate them as role models. Cultivating good manners and shunning bad habits is good because when this is absent, it will be difficult for the children to change the bad habit learned from their parents and guardians.
In other words, parents should realise that from the moment they have children, they are perceived as reference points to the way of life of their children. “If parents are rude, the children are bound to be rude too”, Mbonu said.
Rosemary Odu, a guidance and counsellor, said that “the most effective way to impart good manners to children is to make the rules clear to them in writing and demonstration on how to apply the rules in the daily living. You don’t want to overwhelm your little ones or stifle their development by introducing concepts which they are too young to imbibe”.
Examples of basic rules are: “don’t interrupt when older persons are talking, keep your elbows off the table when eating, don’t chew with your mouth open, always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, use an ‘inside’ voice when indoors”.
Continuing, she pointed out that “as soon as you feel your child is ready for the next level of etiquette or rules, let him know that you are proud of how well-mannered he is and that you want to teach him something new. He will see this as a positive thing, and he is more likely to embrace good manners. Although some customs change, good manners never go out of style. Teach the basics of table settings and how to act at the dinner table.
“When eating at someone else’s home, avoid hurting the host’s feelings. Assuming your child went to a friend’s house, let him have it in mind that he is not in his home and be able to comport himself both in his speech, behavior and otherwise. If he wants to answer phone calls, let him do it politely. Remember parents are not left out to these rules.
“They too should observe proper cell phone etiquette and never interrupt a ‘live’ person with a cell phone call. Take the child out in public so she can practice good behavior. Some places you might want to go include family-friendly restaurants and the library, social events or somewhere else.
“Never gossip about people around or before them because they will surely do as you did tomorrow. Hold doors for anyone who has his or her hands full or needs extra help. Be nice to everyone. Again, do not allow them to take possession over things that do not belong to them. And make them know that finding something does not make it theirs. The person who lost his item should not weep when she sees that it has been found or even cause problem. Instead, he should smile and be thankful to the one who founds it.
“Also, teach your child to look for the rightful owner of anything she finds because keeping it without making any attempts to find the person it belongs to is wrong.
There is also the need for them to always respect elders and people in authority. Thus, respect is essential in establishing a good relationship. This is another area where you can set the example to show your child how an outward show of respect looks like. For instance, calling the person by his or her name like Mr, Mrs, Ms, Miss, or Dr. is a good start.
“If it is in their school or anywhere, as far as it is in the public; they should learn, know how to listen to what the person in authority is saying and never interrupt unless there is an emergency. When you see or hear your child living up to your expectations, offer praise without being offensive”, she concluded.
Ifeoma Nwankwo, a civil servant, revealed that establishing good manners in children can be challenging with all the outside influences they will be encountering in their everyday lives. “However, it is possible, but it requires quite a bit of diligence and repetition of the rules. You can even use what the children see as examples of how not to behave. If she sees someone acting out at a birthday party or a cartoon on television where one of the characters misbehaves, ask what the person should have done instead.
“Most of the time, positive statements are more effective than negative ones. However, there are times when you have to use the word ‘no’ to emphasise good manners. After you tell them what not to do, give them an alternative to bad behavior,” she added.
Nwankwo enumerated some of the bad manners usually observed among children like “spitting, coughing or sneezing in someone’s face, intentionally burping or passing gas, throwing things in anger, calling someone a bad name, pushing or shoving, inappropriately touching others, grabbing something from someone else, begging or whining, constantly interrupting others unnecessarily just like what they used to do to each other be it in schools, at playing grounds, various homes, among others.
“Good manners are essential in any civilization. The etiquette your children learn at an early age will be carried over into adulthood and help make them more successful in human relationship, family life, and careers.
All the hard work and effort you put into teaching your children basic manners will bring the reward of knowing that your child is equipped to take care of himself in a civilised world,” she advised.