I spent the first weekend in June at the one-day Immaculate Heart of Mary Conference in Lafayette, Louisiana. It’s one of my favorite places on earth, and the enthusiasm of the homeschooling crowd was obvious. The speakers and vendors were in one large hall in the Cajundome, which afforded me the rare treat of being able to listen to speakers other than myself, and I came away with a new angle on an old idea, courtesy.
For years I have been encouraging homeschoolers to insist on strict rules of courtesy in the home. Phrases like, “Please,” “Thank you,” “Would it be too much trouble?” “I really appreciate it,” and so on, render family relationships more pleasant and homeschooling more effective. Conversely, homeschooling can be torture when brothers and sisters argue among themselves and children are rude and defiant with their parent-teachers. Good manners, or lack of them, also determine whether family events, like meals and car trips, are enjoyable time spent together or just another source of stress.
One of the speakers at the Lafayette conference, Terry Arnold, a long time homeschooling mom from Houston, offered another benefit of good manners in her talk, “Tips I’ve Learned over the Years.” When Terry recounted how her adult children’s excellent patterns of politeness have helped them to get jobs they were seeking, it made me think about the many benefits my own insistence on civility in the home have brought to my children, even outside our family nest.
We ate our meals together as a family, sitting at a table, using knives, forks, napkins, and ceramic plates the way one does in polite society. When visitors came, my children knew how to greet and introduce them, make polite conversation, and offer them refreshment. They learned to automatically call any older person by title and last name, and that it is a sign of respect to dress appropriately for the occasion. Of course, these good habits have helped them outside the home.
When young adults do not worry about the choice of utensil or its proper use, they feel comfortable making polite conversation at meals with employers, or customers, or even potential in-laws. Social situations are not threatening when they understand a few simple rules about introductions, the comfort of guests, and casual conversation. Most adults are automatically attracted to young people who act and dress respectfully. Not only will your children’s good manners contribute to peaceful family life, but they will have a positive impact on their future success as well.
Header Image CC Dinner Series