Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
–Ephesians 4:29

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
–Ephesians 5:4

Good manners: The noise you don’t make when you’re eating soup.
–Bennett Cerf

I am a stickler for good manners, and I believe that treating other people well is a lost art. In the workplace, at the dinner table, and walking down the street–we are confronted with choices on how to treat people nearly every waking moment. Over time these choices define who we are and whether we have a lot of friends and allies or none.
–Tim Gunn

Dear Munchkins,

My Mom passed away 44 years ago when I was in my mid-twenties. She would have been nuts about her grandkids (your mom) and head-over-heels nuts about you great grandkids had she been able to get to know you.

My Mom raised her four sons to practice good manners, no easy task given that we were typical boys who were a tad rough around the edges. While I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I’m very thankful my Mom cared about us turning out right in this particular way. I think she understood that if you are going to send your children out into the world properly, you need to make sure they are well-versed in good manners.

For my Mom, good manners meant the following:

  • You say “Yes, sir” and “No, mam” not “yea” or ‘nah.”
  • You say “Excuse me” and “I’m sorry, would you mind saying that again?” not “What!” or “Huh.”
  • You say “Please” when you want something.
  • You say “Thank you” when you get what you want.
  • At the dinner table, you chew with your mouth closed, pull up to the table, keep your elbows off the table, let others be served first, don’t reach across the table for food (ask someone to hand it to you), don’t talk with your mouth full, never slurp, use a napkin, don’t rush to eat and leave the table, participate in dinner conversation, have proper dinner conversation (you don’t talk about gross stuff), and use utensils rather than your fingers.
  • When talking to others, you avoid talking too loudly, interrupting people, and dominating conversations.
  • You never use foul language, something Pop does on occasion even though he knows better.
  • You never burp or pass gas in public, something you munchkins seem to find great delight in.
  • You say “excuse me” when you need someone to move out of the way, not “move it or lose it” like some people are prone to say.
  • You hold the door open for others.
  • You arrive on time out of respect for the fact that other people’s time is as valuable as yours.
  • You pay attention to good hygiene—no one likes bad breath or body odor.
  • You offer your seat to those who are elderly, disabled, or physically compromised.
  • You don’t chew gum in formal settings (if I had my way, all gum-chewing would be forbidden).
  • In movie theaters, you never talk during the film, put your feet on the chair in front of you, overreact to what’s happening on the screen, or be irritating in any way.
  • You don’t gossip about others (either tell them to their face or keep it to yourself).
  • You don’t touch or take things that belong to someone else without their permission.
  • You clean up after yourself.
  • You don’t invite yourself over to someone’s house or presume to stay very long unless they want you to.
  • You stand up when adults enter the room and look them in the eye.
  • You shake hands (firmly) when meeting someone for the first time.
  • You smile at people rather than frown.
  • You don’t tell people what you dislike, you tell them what you like.
  • You don’t comment on how other people look unless you’re paying them a compliment.
  • You knock on closed doors and wait for a response (unless you want to shock yourself and those inside the room you’re trying to enter).
  • You don’t call people mean names or make fun of them.
  • You cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and you never pick your nose (unless you want your head to cave in—get it, your head is full of buggers).
  • You don’t grumble when someone asks you to do a favor.
  • You return things you borrow.
  • You always hug and kiss your grandparents when they arrive and when they leave (that wasn’t from my Mom, it was from me).

Munchkins, I could go on (as if I haven’t gone on too much already!). I think you get the point—good manners are important and serve as your international passport to better relationships with others. Whether your peers, parents, or grandparents practice good manners or not, make sure you do—you’ll never regret it.

Love,
Pop