Mind Your Manners

Making Proper Behavior a Habit

As parents, we start teaching our toddlers to say “please” and “thank you” very early on.  And luckily, once they enter a Songahm classroom as an ATA Tiger or Karate Kid, they learn more about showing respect toward their peers and adults.  Though the children recite the words, it is important that as they grow and mature they also develop a deeper understanding of why manners are imperative to having success in all aspects of life.

The good news is that through your child’s martial arts training, they are already well on their way to minding their manners.  But don’t underestimate the power of your influence.  Victoria Kindle Hodson, co-author of Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids, says that the most effective way to teach your child proper behavior is by using yourself as the model.  Here are a few tips you can start applying with your family.


Avoid Interruptions

It is not polite to interrupt a conversation between two people unless it’s an emergency.  Children are notorious in forgetting this practice and a simple “excuse me” will alert the others that you have something you wish to say. 
            Kids aren’t the only culprits.  We live in a busy society, so don’t let your hefty daily grind keep you from actually listening to the conversations you are engaged in.  When you ask your child or spouse how their day was, take the time to really listen to the answer instead of sneaking a peak at your smart phone to see who just sent you that email. 


Full-Time Manners

It’s easy to remember to be respectful at weddings, office meetings and even martial arts class.  So, make sure you and your family practice being polite on all occasions.  Sure, you get out of school and become a little more lax at home.  But the more you make an effort to practice these principles, the more natural it will be when it really counts—like in a job interview or parent/teacher conference.  And for the youngsters, yes, this may mean you have to practice being a little nicer to your brother!


Make Eye Contact

            The smart phone is just one of the many tech gadgets that distract our attention.  It’s great that your child says “thanks” but Ingrid Schweiger, Ph.D. and author of Self-Esteem for a Lifetime explains that we want to acknowledge that this isn’t just a formality. It’s a better practice to look others in the eyes when recognizing them.  By making eye contact, you are demonstrating that saying these words isn’t just a habit.  You are actually grateful for what is being requested or received.  Practice this when you answer up in Taekwondo class, too.  Make sure your instructors see your eyes when you say “Yes sir” or “Yes ma’am.” 


Recognize Good Behavior

 This one is for you, parents.  Small children truly may not understand what they are saying is impolite.  Make sure you point it out in conversation so that they recognize they were doing something correctly.  Simple praise such as, “That was very good manners when you held the door open for that family.  I could tell they appreciated it,” will encourage future good habits and behaviors.  Also, be patient if your child is still young and doesn’t always practice the best manners. 


Learning to mind your manners is a lifetime journey.  We could all do a little better at showing others how much we value them. 



Author: Jenny Wolff Originally published in Vol. 21 no. 4 of the ATA World Magazine.  

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