Common Courtesy

by Alli

Sometimes it seems as if common courtesy has gone the way of Clackers.  Am I the only one who remembers those things?


Is common courtesy a thing of the past?  I certainly hope not!

Common Courtesy –  excellence of manners or social conduct; polite behavior. a courteous, respectful, or considerate act or expression.

Titus 3:1, 2 – 

Remind people to be submissive to [their] magistrates and authorities, to be obedient, to be prepared and willing to do any upright and honorable work,

2 To slander or abuse or speak evil of no one, to avoid being contentious, to be forbearing (yielding, gentle, and conciliatory), and to show unqualified courtesy toward everybody.

For years I taught an extracurricular class to high school students entitled Social Graces.  As the principal of the school, I was disturbed to find out that many students did not have a proper foundation in basic manners.  So, along with a class on personal finance (because of the same findings) I set out to teach our high school students basic proper etiquette.

Indulge me, please, while I step up onto my soap box.  I was reared (we rear children and raise windows is running through my mind) in an era when manners ruled supreme and our imaginations were limitless.  Given a choice between lying around and watching TV or staying outside and playing kick the can, we would choose kicking that can every time.

Being outside on a long, hot summer day with unlimited imaginations that were not stifled by video games and all things technical, was a pure thing of beauty.  And, for the most part, we knew “how to act.”  And I recall almost crying when the day was done and we had to pack up that imagination and high-tail it into the house for baths and bedtime.

Seems that, as a whole, teaching basic manners to children has gone the way of that rusty old can.  My grandchildren have been taught to say yes sir and yes ma’am, please and thank you, and to respect others, especially adults.  People seem amazed when they encounter my daughter and son-in-law and the boys out and about, and are constantly coming up to them and telling them what well-behaved children they have.  After a while, it tends to get a little embarrassing.  Not because they are perfect.  No child or parent is.  But because they took the time to teach them basic manners that should not be the exception to the rule.


As a child, I was never allowed to call an adult by their first name without a “Ms. or Mr.” parked in front, as in, “Good morning, Ms. Janice.”  It would have seemed like blasphemy to address an adult by their given name. (To this day, I can’t call an elderly person by their first name without the Ms. or Mr. attached.  I just can’t.)  I guess it’s a southern thing!

And we had a reverential fear of our elementary school teachers.  I don’t recall there ever being chaos in the classroom, because we knew better.  “Talking back” to a teacher was unheard of.  It just wasn’t done. Neither was using profanity or bullying.  Not in elementary school.  Not unless we were looking for trouble!

If we misbehaved, we got a swatting on the behind, not child abuse (if we had known that term back then, we would have sworn it was).  And we knew that if we misbehaved at school, we would pay for it at home.  Seems yelling has replaced discipline.  Beating a child down with harsh words, cursing them and telling them they will never amount to anything – how’s that working for society?

I’m appalled when I’m in Walmart and happen to see a child being jerked around by his arm and being screamed at and cursed!  Bad mannered children are usually products of bad parenting.

I could go on and on, but you get the drift.  It’s time for this generation to get a grip on things, step up to the plate, turn off the TV and actually spend some quality time with their children.  Children are products of their environment and it’s ultimately the job of the parents to make sure their children grow up to be productive members of society.

Of course, one bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl (yeah, I’m a member of the Jackson Five in my mind).  And I know there are great parents everywhere doing a fantastic job rearing their children.  It’s just like everything else, you tend to notice the negative ones because they are the ones screaming the loudest.  So I want to give a shout-out to all the good parents out there.  Keep up the good work!  You rock!!!

And here’s some things that I think children should be taught from a very early age.

  • Say please and thank you. Some people think the “yes ma’am” thing is old fashioned and very southern.  It may be.  But I like it.  And I’m very southern!  🙂
  • Always be kind.  Don’t make fun of other children.
  • Respect adults.
  • Basic table manners:  Napkin in the lap, don’t chew with your mouth full, no elbows on the table, no interrupting others – wait your turn to talk.
  • Learn to use their imaginations instead of letting the TV do it for them.

Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

I’ve always loved the following words of wisdom by Robert Fulghum and I’ve actually read them during several high school commencement speeches over the years.  Enjoy!

1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don’t hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
9. Flush.
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
12. Take a nap every afternoon.
13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – “Look.”
― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Bottom Line:  If everyone lived by the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” our society would be better for it!

Where did you learn basic manners?  From your mama?  From your teachers?