What is civility and why should I teach it to my children?

Civility is the art and act of caring for others. — Deborah King

Civility is the recognition that all people have dignity as persons, no matter their age, race, religion, gender, sexuality or ability.

Teaching civility is an obligation of the family. — Stephen Carter

Civility is more than having manners, but manners are a good place to begin. Good manners for children are not automatic nor do they develop without some thoughtful teaching and modeling by adults. Children are not born with the ability to treat others politely and courteously. They must be taught there are others besides themselves; they must be taught to treat other children and adults with respect.

Manners help children get in the habit of respecting one another. Civility comes to life when children think beyond “me” and push outward to others.

Young children can be taught gratitude because it is the beginning of civility. Saying “please” and “thank you” can be taught as soon as children can talk.

The website www.parents.com/manners says there are three manners parents should teach children: how to have eye contact, how to shake hands, and how to begin a conversation by asking a question.

www.alprodad.com adds the following:

• Put others first. Holding the doors open, stepping aside, giving your seat to others, carrying groceries and offering to help are thoughtful things to do.

• Teach children to get things for others — teacher, parent, grandparent.

• Be polite to others who serve. Make eye contact and turn phones off when talking to the cashier at the fast food restaurant or grocery store. Say thank you for change and food.

• Practice manners at family meals. There should be no TV, phones, or distractions allowed while eating. No burps or chewing with your mouth open. Take small bites and no gobbling. Please pass the food; no grabbing.

Matthew Lynch on the website www.theedadvocate.com suggests “30 Manners Your Kids Should Know by Age 10.” Some are covering their mouth when they sneeze, washing their hands before meals, avoiding bad language and returning items after borrowing them. Giving sincere compliments, not making negative comments on another person’s clothes or appearance, doing tasks for others, writing thank-you notes when you receive gifts and just doing for others what you want them to do for you shows manners that children can be taught. Good manners show children value the feelings of others.

Civility costs nothing, but buys everything. — Mary Wortley Montagu

For older children, practicing good manners relates to a student’s personal behavior. Being willing to listen. Being considerate and practicing restraint in the criticism of others. Being kind in their actions such as sharing seats in the cafeteria, not cheating on tests, and not sharing assignments without teacher permission shows they are growing in civility.

We live in a society that increasingly looks for ways to drive us apart, and teaching civility (manners) is one way to turn that tide. — Brian Gatens

Southern Arizona resident Bette Mroz is a former teacher, reading specialist and principal. As a mother and grandmother, she continues to help her family learn. She can be contacted at bettemroz@gmail.com

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