The Easy Fight & Hard Life of High Standards

Understanding the importance of instilling good behavior patterns in children is vital if you want happy well behaved kids. A true road map exists, but some parents simply don’t know how to read, believe, or follow it;  others think they can take short cuts; and some, with good intentions, do not have a clue where to find these reliable directions for bringing up polite civilized children. The road map however, exists (and endures) with true and high principles for rearing well behaved children.

I wish more parents would follow the directions.  I recently saw a British documentary about difficult out of control children. The parents and counselors had good intentions but gave their young “wards” little positive instruction with do’s and don’ts.  No discipline, little guidance, and few boundaries left the kids frustrated, the atmosphere chaotic, & the adults exhausted.  Discouragement filled everyone’s days. So unnecessary and such a shame. Many American families are headed the same direction.

Friends of Protocol Matters are different and I want to encourage you in your sincere endeavor to raise children with good character and polite behavior. Don’t get discouraged by society or in your efforts to navigate the highways of life. Guide your children according to biblical principles even when you don’t’ see instant “perfect” results.  I’m not talking about squashing personalities with rigidity, but applying principles that work for the benefit of youthful souls. Kids respond to clear instruction as well as good parental example. Your use of and instruction in good manners is a huge vehicle that helps them along the way.  And, everyone’s happier when on the right road.

Stay your course. Refuse to compromise high standards. Don’t be dismayed if your little “angels” get side tracked once in awhile. That’s normal. Often the best results appear later, down the road, after daily consistent effort on your part. Keep your bar high. Kids are up to it–don’t underestimate their ability. The proof is in the pudding. Our family has kind and considerate adult children– in spite of all parental shortcomings and failings as “ideal” teachers and in what, at times, seemed like futile attempts at civility during the growing up years.

Although difficult at times, the challenge to live with high standards is worth it. Adler, of great books fame, says “It’s easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them” and most of us would agree. It takes concentrated effort in every area in life: marriage, work ethics, child rearing, relationships– and etiquette. Your manners, good or bad, in turn affect life in every area just mentioned.

It’s not always easy to put our best foot forward, especially when we don’t agree with a certain etiquette rule or see necessity for it.  Sometimes, we simply grow tired of submission to those higher principles. There are occasions when dad wants to chuck the tie or mom wants to forget social politeness with a pesky neighbor in favor of “letting off a little steam” but all actions make a statement and kids are taking it in.

Our practice of good manners must begin at home–every day. Notice I said practice because manners take practice. Things like talking respectfully  to one another , no swearing, no name calling (including negative nick names), no grabbing a toy away from sister or brother,  listening rather than interrupting, and deferring to elders are a few that come to mind. So does using a respectful tone with our spouse. These aren’t impossibilities.  Such practices build character. Children are like parrots and, although they can come up with their own disagreeable inventions, they mainly imitate what they see and hear. Scary, isn’t it?

Therefore, when weary of maintaining high standards in your manners, don’t ditch them. Remind yourself that there’s strength for the fight-(and indeed each generation must battle against selfish antinomian behavior– the type that resents good laws & rules governing Christian behavior.  Rules are, after all, often inconvenient. They pinch our “freedom”)…

…but, back to strength… It comes “in Christ through whom I can do all things”.  Strength includes his wisdom and indwelling power to fight the wrong urges. What good news! Civility and ordered politeness are genuinely possible. They may go against the courser grain, but worth the effort. We must be serious about “putting on right behavior” and have children do the same.

I’ve enjoyed teaching numerous students, and without exception, they like learning about etiquette. They embrace the rules. If there’s a seldom resistance, it’s usually a lone parent who belittles such efforts.  They set the bar too low for themselves and their kids. Short sighted adults miss the big point of etiquette and its power to foster respectful behavior. They want responsible well behaved kids, but they are uncomfortable with protocol, often claiming its passé or only for “high society”.   Do you see the irony?

While I was preparing for an interview with a British station I became aware of a serious widespread “bully” problem in their schools.  Front page news. Responsible adults were looking for answers. They turned to the Golden Rule of “do unto others…” along with specific instructions for children to stop hitting, shoving and bullying. When this was taught and enforced, the results were…well, somewhat spectacular in behavioral changes. We, in the USA, also have issues. We must get back to God’s golden rule in spite of silly objections from atheists and malcontents.  Much in etiquette stems from applications based on Christ’s commands. I need this kind of help and so do you and you children.

Etiquette requires paying attention to others and being willing to serve people. I know there are times we don’t like putting others first (especially the irritating others).  It demands our time and refinement. Of course, in some situations we can forget a rule or may not know what to do, but many of etiquette’s respectful smaller actions take only a moment along with some common sense.

Good manners show how we put others first:
Hold a door open for elderly persons and allow them to pass through first-show a little honor.
Don’t cut in line or cut off the driver trying to merge into your lane-show a little grace.
Pitch in, do the dishes, take out the garbage without being asked-show a little thoughtfulness.
Remember to phrase a request with “please” and follow up with “thank you” – show a little appreciation.
Dress for the occasion -show a little respect.
Hold a biting retort-show a little patience.
Cover your cough or sneeze and turn your head away from others near you- show a little consideration

These are a few etiquette rules that come quickly to mind. Small actions with big results.

Now here’s the bottom line reality:  Our actions matter. They form character. Their practice serves as a means of grace and instruct the children around us. And, we find ourselves in a happier and improved state of relationships.  Thus we “walk the walk, not just talk the talk” that we are all so good at.  So fight the good fight, continue living and showing forth those higher ways. Your practice of protocol matters!

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