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Mind Your Ps and Qs

Mind your manners: I'm teaching my kids to say 'please' and 'thank you' - but nobody says it back

The exchanging of pleasantries is an important social buffer, says Sheena McGinley.

“MAMMY, WHY IS everyone forgetting their manners?”

My family and I live in a village mostly filled with retirees from the middle classes. Our fellow residents rarely say “Thank you,”, “You’re welcome” or even the simple (yet always appreciated) “Please.”

Some teens do, when they look up from their phones. But the older residents generally skip the pleasantries.

I’m not sure if I would have noticed this myself, if I wasn’t in the unfortunate position of currently teaching my belligerent toddler and five-year-old the benefit of manners. But when the five-year-old sees adults around her missing their Ps and Qs, it has her wondering why she should even bother with them in the first place.

Manners start at home

Perhaps the lack of manners and etiquette in recent years is down to the proliferation of gormless world leaders, or maybe people are just becoming ruder, plain and simple.

Either way, this is something, you, dear reader, need to keep on top of – especially if you’re a parent. Why? Because manners start at home.

shutterstock_559526095 Shutterstock / Syda Productions Shutterstock / Syda Productions / Syda Productions

After working in the service industry for most of my teens, I know that manners cost nothing and mean everything. That’s why the rage crept in thanks to a recent tweet posted by radio presenter John Kelly.

He recounted a trip to a coffee shop where “nobody in front of me – not a single person – said hello, please or thank you to the staff. Mostly blokes in suits.” Some commenters suggested that perhaps Kelly’s fellow coffee-drinkers were having busy days, or that it was a symptom of city life – in comparison to more polite rural areas.

I say, manners should apply wherever you live and whatever’s going on in your day. We’re not trying to revert to ye olden times, when people were submerged in etiquette, we’re simply referring to basic pleasantries.

Manners should be automatic. Ingrained.  

At this point, you may be thinking, “pious much?” Patronising? Riding my high horse backwards? Hear me out. Manners matter in society. Pleases and thank yous are a bumper, a buffer for when we encounter strangers. Without those, we’re just careering into each other, deploying a series of orders.  

Here is why manners matter in every facet of life…

• Your children watch you at home (yep, you’re never off the hook). If you’re consistently polite in day to day things, they will absorb that and reflect it.

• Manners are universal and automatically connect us to one another. And that connection needs maintenance.

• Being respectful in your interactions with strangers will show your child cause and effect. If you say thanks and smile at someone, they’re more likely to respond positively. And that’s why I keep trying in my village.

• Manners are most important for a future career, making a giving and receiving of respect. 

• Saying ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ makes the recipient of your thanks feel appreciated after they have done something for you and is therefore just f*%king good manners. 

It takes a village to raise a child. A community of people looking out for each other. 

Recently, the New York Times reported that a man’s body was discovered sitting behind the wheel of his car on a busy New York street. He had been dead there for a week. Nobody got involved during that week, to knock on the window or contact police about the motionless man.

Caring starts with four simple phrases: “Excuse me.” “Please.” “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.”

More: How I moved continents with two toddlers and six suitcases – and survived>

Want to win a night of magical family fun at Dublin Zoo’s Wild Lights? Enter here – and don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly Family Newsletter below! 

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