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Etiquette and Civility Will Always Matter in Your Life and Mine

Updated on September 25, 2014

Parents Have the Biggest Influence on Their Children's Social Growth

How many of us grew up in a family environment of courtesy and civility where we could absorb proper manners during our childhood and adolescense? Some of us had this privilege and some of us did not.

For children in the United States, Canada, and many countries in the world today, life is vastly different than their parents' era of youth. Traditional polite customs and common courtesies are no longer being taught and expected in schools. The demographics for children in the home having a mother who does not work outside of the home and a father who is employed have changed sharply.

The Pew Social and Demographic Trends was published on April 13, 2012. In the United States, regarding children under age 18, three in 10 mothers today are stay-at-home moms. In 1969, the number was approximately 40% higher than that. In the 1930s, the number of mothers staying home was even higher.

In the recent polls taken by the Pew Foundation, 40% of full-time working mothers said they always feel rushed or stressed.

These changes in lifestyle have been a component of the decline in mothers and fathers teaching by word and example the common courtesies to their children. There are many other factors, too, such as less time being spent together as a family, less time eating together as a family, and also more time being spent in front of televisions and computers. Additionally, there are vulgar television programs with very bad role models. Many times parents are at work and do not have filters or controls on the computer or television in the household. In other instances, some parents just do not care if their young, impressionable children and teenagers see these kinds of programs where there is no respect for others shown.

Still and definitely, there are a good number of moms (and dads) who do take the time -- regardless of whether the mother works outside the home -- to instill good manners into their children's every day activities -- and many of these same parents are mindful of the technological influences affecting their children. I say Bravo for them. It is not easy in this day and age, but it is so very worth the effort.

A gentleman in tailcoat in days of yore.
A gentleman in tailcoat in days of yore. | Source

Some People Say Etiquette, Schmetiquette

Etiquette, Schmetiquette -- some people say when the topic of etiquette comes up. Some people say this as though etiquette has little relevance in their lives. Those people act as though etiquette is something separate and unneeded. Yet all of us know how it feels to be treated unfairly and unkindly at one time or another. All of us know the contrast in emotions we feel when we are treated respectfully and kindly. These interactions of varying kinds happen to all of us in the busy jostle of life. Therefore etiquette or the lack of it is part of our lives whether we realize it or not.

Etiquette, for the most part, is a combination of common sense and courtesy mixed with equal components of graciousness and compassion. The Irish novelist, Lawrence Sterne (1713-1768) said it well: "To have respect for ourselves guides our morals; and to have deference for others governs our manners."


Etiquette Involves Respect for All Persons

Our children and teenagers benefit greatly when we teach them by word and example the importance of courtesy, poise and civility. They gain and retain self-confidence when they understand how to act in various social situations such as making introductions or being introduced, building positive relationships at school or work, being a gracious guest or being a gracious host -- and many other important but day-to-day events.

Any of us -- adult or youth -- can benefit by learning or brushing up on etiquette because so much has changed in the last twenty years. We communicate in many ways and need to be mindful of not forgetting to communicate in the time-tested ways of face-to-face conversation, written letters and polite telephone calls rather than relying solely on arms-length technology.

Etiquette Workshops Can Be Fun and Very Enlightening

There are classes and role-playing workshops for various ages and topics in many cities today. Prices range from $25 to $100 for an hour-long class depending on the subject and the length of the course. Some schools of etiquette offer weeks or months of training on several combined topics while other schools offer short hands-on workshops on only one or two topics at a time. There are also finishing schools or private schools which wisely combine the academic program with the etiquette training. One school I'm thinking of on Maui, for instance, has fine dining at the lunch hour for the students. Students are seated according to a computer print-out. The students do not get to choose with whom they sit. In this way, the students learn to practice their fine-dining skills which not only includes dining manners but also includes positive, socially acceptable conversation, practicing the art of introductions and learning to follow cues.

Besides formal classes and informal but professionally-given workshops, there are troves of information concerning good etiquette at our fingertips -- online. Some of it is well-presented and is good advice and other online etiquette websites are rather tacky, so we must be careful in choosing information we find online if we are going to present it to our younger family members.


Etiquette and Civility Equals Something Greater

The true worth of etiquette, I think, is so much more than the fun, the challenge or the interesting social interactions which communicate to another person that you do, indeed, respect them. To me, George Bernard Shaw summed it up completely when he had one of his characters say in the play, Pygmalion (Act IV):

"The great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in Heaven, where there are no third-class carriages, and one soul is as good as another."

Have you seen the film on PBS about Dolly Madison? It's a very good re-enactment of portions of her life using actual journal entries and letters she wrote. I haven't compared Mrs. Madison's year of birth with Emily Post's yet. I'm not sure who came first onto the social scene. But I do think Dolly Madison has much to teach us. In her semi-wealthy days with her husband, she loved to entertain with big weekly parties. Anyone could attend. She died quite poor, but only financially poor. Spiritually, she was rich. She respected people, all people. She was a great lady with natural compassion and a desire to develop her social skills.

Etiquette is a label for what really is common sense, compassion and courtesy. Etiquette has many facets and, like the morning sun shining through a clean window pane, knowledge of etiquette brightens our day and helps us appreciate all the good people in our midst.


3 minute video -- Kindness must come from the Heart

© 2012 Pamela Dapples


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    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      5 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      I agree with you whole-heartedly, MartieCoetser. And there are a lot of books on the subject of 'netiquette' which includes the cell phone rudeness vs good manners. Thanks for stopping by.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      5 years ago from South Africa

      I believe a set of moral rules is needed - how to greet others, saying please and thank-you, don't talk with a mouth filled with food, etcetera.

      Nowadays too many people don't realise how rude they are when they treat their cell-phones like a guest of honour while they are in the company of other people.

      Thought-provoking hub!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      James, thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed the sentiments expressed.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      7 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you for this fabulous article. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Well done! :-)

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Me, too. I would love to see the old ways come back, but we can at least have some of the old ways survive, if not all. And I guess that is why so many of us love Downton Abbey. I've only seen three of the Downton Abbey shows so far and none of the other good show you mentioned in your hub about Edwardian Fashions, but I'm hooked.

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      Hi, I totally agree, in fact I was talking to someone about this sort of thing today. It was in response to an advert on TV. There is a girl who gets the door shut in her face, made to carry something heavy when the guys are talking and so on, I actually said that the second women had equality in the home and workplace, the men seem to have taken it as read that they can now treat us in this way. I would love to see the old etiquette ways come back, but sadly I believe this is in the past now, my mum and dad taught me the proper ways, but I think that was because they were 'old school'. its such a shame, manners are something we should all have, thanks nell

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Thank you, ytsenoh -- much appreciated.

    • ytsenoh profile image


      7 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      Absolutely excellent. Seriously, really well presented, written and a great subject for perpetual conversation. Etiquette and civility are very important elements of consideration in life experiences. Thanks, voted up, sharing.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 years ago from Just Arizona Now






      Thank you for your comments. I re-read the hub this morning after I found your comments and I found I'd made three typo errors. So it's especially kind of you to have liked my hub when it still needed some tweaking. (I write at midnight usually.)

      Suelynn, I'm glad you liked the quote from Pygmalion. And I'm so happy you had the blessing of a gentleman for a father. If only all the world were so lucky, but fortunately there are etiquette books and courses for others. My dad is a gentleman, but it's really my mom who -- in my heart -- is the 'hostess with the mostest'. It's through her example that I realized the importance of good manners. For some people, it may be a great aunt or a grandparent who inspires them.

      Thanks again, each of you, for commenting.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Angela Blair, thank you for stopping in to read. I know what you mean -- those difficult dinners that come up and test our mettle and our capacity to love. But I can well imagine you used your humor and your sassy Texan jargon to turn it all around.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a very well written and important message Pamela. I see so many families today where not only the children, but the parents as well that have no manners or knowledge of etiquette whatsoever. It's not just because the moms are out of the home working either. In some cases (One Affected me personally) the mom or dad have no class, manners, or care for anyone but themselves and that is what the kids learned.

      Well done!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are preaching to the choir with this one. Very important message and thank you for writing it.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 

      7 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Wonderfully written and much needed reminder to parents, children and the rest of us about a civilizing and important subject. Up and more.

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 

      7 years ago from Central Texas

      What a great Hub on a much-needed subject. Having recently attended an informal dinner party with a couple of teenagers -- I'd rather have been at a trough with pigs -- disgusting. Thanks for hitting the nail on the head -- etiquette never goes out of style. Best/Sis

    • Suelynn profile image


      7 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Beautifully written, Pamela, and I couldn't agree more. I love the quote from Pygmalion! My Dad was a gentleman, and as you well know, we learn our manners most from our primary role models. I'm glad to say that my Dad instilled good manners in me. Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting. Thank you.

    • lj gonya profile image

      lj gonya 

      7 years ago

      The entire world could use a healthy dose of etiquette. Maybe some day it will be cool again to be courteous.Great hub.


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