Manners from the Home Maintainance Toolbox

 From the manners toolbox: Quiet speaks loudest Have you considered how noise impacts your home and your relationships? And how it relates to manners?A glance through Strong’s Concordanceshows the Scriptures say much about the quality of quietness in its fullest meaning, as opposed to noisy commotion, and interestingly, as the opposite of insecurity, stressful worry, criticism, strife, and unrest. Quiet doesn’t mean stony silence where never a word is heard, although we know that kind of quiet is better than a house full of strife.

Quiet represents a calm security. It comes from a mind set on God in an attitude of trust, safety, and rest in Him. When David professes to “behaving and quieting himself” in his song of degrees (Ps.131) it carries a calm, peaceful connotation that plays out in his actions. He waits on God. His trusting behavior, including his speech, is free from strife and wordy complaints. He does not spin his wheels on matters too great for him. I find this encouraging.

We can cultivate a calmer atmosphere in our homes by the way we behave using some simple tools from etiquette. People often say, “Your home is filled with such peace. It’s like a retreat. How do you achieve this?”

Well, for one thing, we don’t yell–from room to room, at each other, across the yard, or when we want the last word. There are other factors that lend to a peaceful atmosphere; but foremost is the practice of calm dialogue. (Please don’t misunderstand;–our days are filled with wonderful conversations full of lively ad interesting discussion-but not loud or noisy ones). Of course, our family, like many, faces problems, but those provide no reasons to forget our manners-in fact, minding our manners, help us keep a sense of quiet peace in the midst of life’s storms.)

So let me ask you, “How’s your atmosphere at home? The general tone? What sounds echo through out your house? Is it a sanctuary? Or does it often seem too noisy with little peace and tranquility? Many parents, especially with young children, complain of hectic clatter and commotion while they raise a family. I know one dad who has a  private get-away room where the children may not enter. It’s off-limits, so he can have “some peace and quiet”.

This was never our approach. We love the sound of happy children’s voices, yet we need “quiet” too. I think children do, too. The devices that worked for us came from the tool box of good manners.  I love how etiquette helps make a home a sanctuary–a safe and good place, where everyone has a voice and no one has to shout in order to be heard.  A place where you can hear yourself think–at least most of the time. Parents who want a calmer household have two major tools at their disposal. Both work wonders in producing a nice home environment. They also cultivate better relationships in day to day living.  They come from etiquette’s home behavior rules:

Speak softly. This doesn’t mean whispering, or barely audible or monotone levels, but speaking in a relaxed and slightly softer tone of voice without whining or complaining. It’s conversation minus a high pitched fervor. For most of us, lowering our voice is a learned and practiced skill. Especially when excited or upset.

Using a lower tone of voice means you need to be close to someone when you speak to them. Don’t shout or try to speak cross a room, or from room to room. Don’t yell, “Tim, please empty the garbage” when Tim is in the kitchen and you are in the bedroom. Practice speaking in quiet tones, especially when facing life’s rumble-tumble situations, and teach children likewise. Speaking softly counteracts over reaction. It quiets, rather than escalates, disagreements.

Children need simple instructions like, “Speak softly.”, “Hold your tongue.”, “Use a quieter, respectful tone of voice.”, and “Think before your talk.” These helpful phrases provide positive training.  I can’t recall how many times in my childhood, as I or my siblings rushed into the house to relay a “youthful crisis” or share some exciting news, my parents said, and “Slow down. We’re not hard of hearing. What is it you want to say?” As a result of their frequent reminders my sisters and brother speak with a wonderful style of controlled exuberance. This makes them very enjoyable company.

The other day I saw the effective difference between loud versus soft voices while I was pushing my cart down the super market cereal isle. (As any mom or dad can tell you, this is often THE hot aisle for “discussion” when shopping with kids). One young mother gave her three children their choice of breakfast goodies. She had two children in her basket and another youngster at her side. She provided on the spot manners training for one basket-bound toddler who was demanding (in loud rude tones) a certain brightly colored box. The other two children had already made their breakfast choices and were a bit wide eyed at his audacity.  They watched mom, who quietly and calmly, but firmly said, “Stop. Stop. How do we ask for something?” She persisted several times until the child lowered his voice and said, “Please, may we buy this one?”  Then, she rewarded his correct phrase, with “Yes. Now, you hold onto it and be responsible for it. “And, off they went–all smiling.  The issue wasn’t the cereal, it was his manners and she discerned the difference.

Contrast this with a second mom in the same store who was dealing unsuccessfully with her lone screaming toddler who was loudly pitching a fit over something. Her upset response was just as loud, just as out of control. There was no resolution. She simply out did and overpowered him with her yelling. She didn’t give in, but also didn’t provide any positive instruction, and definitely not the right example. She was training him in bad manners by her actions that “louder and angry” are better. She belittled the child with some very unflattering names. Later as I passed by them in another aisle, they were still going at it. Misery’s angry dark cloud clung to both of them. These frustrated souls need the Savior’s wisdom for living. This brings me to another important manner’s “tool”.

Speak Respectfully“.  Mom, number two above, knew it wasn’t right for her child to scream but she neglected to teach and follow etiquette’s simple rule of speaking with respect. Respectful speech doesn’t rule out firmness, but it certainly frowns on demeaning name calling. A respectful tone is cousin to “speak softly”. They go hand in hand.  Both should be mainstays in our household manners.  They over ride yelling, shrieking, interrupting others, and insulting remarks. They also reduce angry retorts.

You may be wondering “Does this really work with children?”– Yes!  Scriptural principles do not require impossibilities. We raised three sons and some dear foster children with these rules in place. They work.

Let’s keep our homes and relationships in good repair. Etiquette abounds with ways to make a home a sanctuary–one where family members feel loved, safe and secure. Speaking softly and respectfully strengthen relationships, reduce stressful commotion, and help each of us to  “behave and quiet ourselves” in gospel obedience. Protocol Matters!

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