Say Hello and Mind Your Manners!

by - Wednesday, January 23, 2013

After reading Pamela Druckerman's French Children Don't Throw Food, something dawned on me. Druckerman explains that in most cultures, children are taught two magical words related to manners: simply "please" and "thank-you". In France, however, they are taught four, with the addition of "hello" and "goodbye" as compulsory phrases each child should learn and use. 

By greeting another person, we essentially "recognise" them as a person: another individual with wants and needs that are as important as our own. French children who refuse who greet adults when they visit are apparently considered ill-mannered, whereas in England (or at least, for much of my own experience) adults do not expect children to recognise them in greeting (and often forget to greet the children in return).

Saying "hello" and "goodbye" is second nature to me, a trait which has (mostly) been passed down to my children by example. Yet the realisation that greeting demonstrates recognition of the person is new and valuable. It naturally forms the basis of good manners.

In this light, I would have to agree that children develop poor manners because they value their own wants and needs far more than those of the people around them. They see no point in gratitude when they feel entitlement, no recognition of another person when overwhelmed by a selfish nature in a world of instant gratification. 

Aside from the problem of insulting others through lack of proper manners, this behaviour ensures people lose their own value in society. 

A few days ago I waited in the entrance of our local mini-market while Princess went in to purchase a loaf of bread. As she reached the front of the queue, she said hello to the cashier who looked up and smiled. Princess thanked the lady as she handed out her change, and then said "have a nice day". The cashier looked shocked (in a most pleasant way!) and wished her the same in return. I beamed inwardly at the realisation Princess had learned that behaviour from having heard me do the same. Not only had she made a good impression, she had brightened another person's day.

Good manners do not rely on knowing when to say your pleases-and-thank-yous; they are best formed by recognising the people with whom we interact. I believe we should respect others in order to earn respect ourselves and hope that my children will grow into adulthood with a similar, ingrained morale. 

Perhaps in leading by example, we can ensure others in our community will learn to do the same.

Image credit: Chi King, via Flickr

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