I have been reflecting on the importance of manners. In the society in which we are currently living, the isolation (we are regularly glued to devices and living outside communities away from extended family) and the fast pace of life, we may be seeing some slippage in the explicit teaching of manners to our children. Good manners are not just a matter of conforming to society’s sociological norms, they are about the assumption of the basic value of all people and they force us to think kindly and compassionately towards others. Good manners dictate that you treat others with respect and kindness. At the core of good manners is respect for oneself and others.
Neuroscience research tells us that when one person is nice to another, the chemical oxytocin is released in the brain of both participants, causing the recipient to respond with kindness. Conversely, when people are faced with distrust, they experience a sharp rise in testosterone, provoking an aggressive response. Research shows us that those who release higher levels of oxytocin have better quality relationships of all types, including friendships, romantic relationships and family relationships. This means that the nicer we are to others, the kinder and more compassionate we are, the more oxytocin we will release and the happier we will therefore be.
High stress levels inhibit oxytocin release and the resultant reciprocation of nice behaviour. So if someone is rude to you, don’t lash back – give them the benefit of the doubt – Science tells us that they are probably having a stressful day (or they weren’t encouraged to practice good manners in their childhood!). Oxytocin encourages us to behave with compassion for others by allowing us to experience shared emotion.
Modelling good manners at home can go a long way towards teaching children that good manners are just the way we do things. Some tips include modelling and encouraging your children to say “please” and “thank you”. Saying “thank you” means taking the time to make another person feel appreciated. Saying “please” respects the other person’s right to choice – to not do as you have asked. We can teach our children to use polite words such as thanking the cashier and leaving a table at a self-serve restaurant or food court clear and ready for the next diner.
As Montessori educators and parents, it is ingrained in our practice that we treat our children with the same politeness that we do an adult so that they experience courtesy, respect and appreciation. We hold them to that standard and expect nothing less of their behaviour.
Have a wonderful week!