Parenting Q & A
by Mary Allen

A Potpourri of Essays about the Family, the Home, and Parenting

"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted..."  Ephesians 4:32




Best Manners

March, 2010

Q: My little ones have gotten “please” and “thank-you” down, but how about some practical ways to instill a little consideration of others in everyday life?

A: Good manners are all about showing consideration for others, so this is a great question to pursue. I like to promote the “good~better~best” approach. 

Friday night found our family watching Pollyanna together…the old Disney version starring Hayley Mills. Now, we all agree that dear Pollyanna wouldn’t recognize a real problem if she fell into one.

Be that as it may, this is such a great movie for families. Pollyanna exemplifies the “best” in our hopeful striving to teach our children the “good~better~best” lifestyle.

What is the “good~better~best” lifestyle? Why, it’s the grading scale of who you are, and how you represent yourself (good), your family (better) and God (best). Practicing “good” manners becomes the bare minimum against such expectations.

For instance, when Pollyanna and Nancy are out do-gooding, handing out Aunt Polly Harrington’s charity jars of calves-foot-jelly, Nancy wants to be quick about it, drop the jars off and hurry to the next recipient. But Pollyanna stops to chat, to try to make it seem less like charity, and more like friendship. Wow. I want children that go the extra mile, don’t you?

We have family rules such as: “Always leave the bathroom nicer than when you found it” and “If you see something out of place, take the time to put it away.” These rules aren’t just for our home, they apply at church, the library and friend’s houses. Even if it’s not our particular mess. That’s the point! Going beyond good enough. We have a long way to go, but we’re on the way.

How can we encourage our children to look past “good enough” all the way to “best” when it comes to their attitudes and actions towards others? Here are a few ideas:

       Talk about and practice establishing strong eye contact and really “being attentive” during conversations with others.

       Wait for the hostess to eat first before eating—this has become a “game” in our household, with three cooks, sometimes it’s a wait-and-see game to figure out who put dessert together!

       Keeping an eye open to serve wherever needed.

       Role-play appropriate behavior prior to important events. For instance, how do you react to a birthday gift received that’s not to your tastes?

This lifestyle is an easy one to implement, especially if you start young. Even a three year old can catch the enthusiasm with the right approach. And best of all, the outlying ripples are sure to affect those around you for the better. Look at how the townspeople of Harrington came around to Pollyanna’s “glad game”. What a change from their prior griping about all their selfish wants and needs.

I can pull about ten families up in my mind whose higher standards make me want to match theirs. Have we arrived? No, but we’re striving! Iron truly does sharpen iron, and the best place to start is within your own family. Won’t you join me?

Good~better~best anyone?



Rejoicing in hope... Romans 12:12

by Mary Allen

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About the Author:  Mary Allen is a stay-at-home, homeschooling, country-loving mom. She makes her home in the mid-west amidst Border Collies, horses, cows, a horde of chickens, her beloved husband of 16 years and their three girls. She writes articles for several online publications, including her own website, Home-Steeped Hope

(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.  Used by Permission.)

Published March 25, 2010

Updated March 27, 2014

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