This guest post was written by Kira from A Better Life Lived.
Common courtesy is dead. In the past, general courtesies were offered to strangers on the street. A smile, a greeting, or a kind word was not uncommon. But those pleasantries have become far too uncommon. That’s why we make it a point to make common courtesy common again, and we start in our own home.
I have one young son. And while he may be only two, he has officially reached the point where he understands more about wants and feelings. So, he is now being taught that while his desires are very important, others’ are as well. He is learning that we are not more important than others which means our wants, needs and feelings are no more valid. Our thoughts do not trump those of others just because they’re ours.
To some, this may sound like a radical concept. Or that we are exhibiting to him that his thoughts aren’t important. It’s actually quite the opposite. We are simply making clear in our home the values of the generations before us.
We are reverting to a time before technology and social media fueled the self-obsession we see in society today. Back before parents catered to their kids every desire. Before the self was constantly put before others.
We only get so many years, and then we release him into society as a full-fledged adult member. It’s our job to ensure that we’re making him a good person with value to contribute to society. As such, he’ll have respect for others and himself.
What is common courtesy anyway?
How many times do you see other cars cut you off, run red lights, and fail to use turn signals when you’re driving? I must see it at least 5 times every time I’m out. Not to mention everyone on a cell phone driving 10 miles under the speed limit with no concept of the fact that there is a line growing behind them. It’s infuriating. These people are exhibiting a complete lack of respect and consideration for everyone around them.
Common courtesy is, at its core, a respect for others. People without it are failing to show basic manners and telling the world that they are more important than everyone else.
Basic elements of common courtesy
- Be polite; don’t interrupt, wait your turn, exhibit patience.
- Consider others; be aware of your actions and the effect they have on those around you.
- Give your full attention; focus on the people you deal with and the task at hand.
- Acknowledge others; smile! Say hello, hold a door, help someone.
It’s really unfortunate that these concepts are not more common in the world today, but it’s because these concepts are no longer enforced in the home.
If a child doesn’t learn it at home, they aren’t going to do it when they are out in the world with others. And if we don’t practice it in our home, like every other skill, it will be lost.
So we incorporate practicing common courtesy in everything we do.
Every day, we strive to teach these concepts to our son by making them non-negotiable rules of our home. We extend many of these courtesies to the family pets as well.
What does common courtesy mean in our home?
It means that our two-year-old is not allowed to yell over and over interrupting us and get a response. He is asked to wait until we are finished as long as he is not in danger or pain. It’s difficult for him and he’s just beginning to learn the concept, but he’s starting to develop and understand patience. We also don’t interrupt him if we can avoid it.
It means that when we’re speaking to him, we don’t stop to do something non-essential. We give him our focus and attention. We don’t scroll through our phones while we’re supposed to be playing with him. If we do have to interrupt our activity for some reason, we apologize, explain why, and assure him we’ll be right back. And we always are.
It means showing him that greeting each other in the morning and when we come home, and saying goodbye when we leave are important. No matter how much of a rush we may be in, there is always time for a hug and an acknowledgement.
We show respect and love for each other. If we do something that has an adverse effect on a member of the family, we apologize and correct it. This includes our pets. We make it clear that it is not okay to use the dog as a step stool because they’re in our way. We explain it hurts them, they do not like it, and we tell him that we do not treat anyone that way. He then gives them a hug and says he’s sorry.
Kindness in the home translates to kindness in society
Our habits are formed in the home. We learn what we see, hear, and experience. By allowing Zachary to constantly get instant gratification by jumping to his every request, or allowing him to interrupt conversations, we’re doing him a disservice.
We’re creating the idea that his needs are more important than others. And that’s simply not true. I do not want my son to grow up thinking that what he wants is most important. Because eventually that translates into thinking that other people aren’t important.
Instead, we’re instilling in our son the concept that other people matter. It’s a matter of respect and kindness, empathy and compassion for your fellow man.
Are we perfect? No. We absolutely fail at this sometimes. But that’s part of the kindness we exhibit as well. We understand that we are all human and we all make mistakes. We apologize and forgive. We don’t hold grudges.
When we make mistakes, we have enough respect for each other to acknowledge it and apologize for it. Our mistakes are not something to run from or be afraid of. Our hope is that he grows into a conscientious individual aware that he will make mistakes, and so will others. Some of these mistakes may wrong him but he should be kind and forgiving for those sincerely sorry. And he should be sorry when he inevitably wrongs someone else.
By using common courtesy and kindness in our home, we hope we can help bring back common courtesy in society in general. It’s a large goal, but it’s a start. At the very least, we will release one more kind, respectful person out into the world.