Parents cannot endow their children with beauty or brains, but, with patience, they can assure the personal grace and ease that stem from beautiful manners. Attractive behavior and all that it implies-- courtesy, poise, consideration--can outlive beauty and enhance brains.Share
While many people spend large sums of many to have their children's teeth straightened and a small fortune to have their brains developed, the inculcating of manners represents an investment of a different, more personal, and sometimes more difficult, sort. It requires not only the patience for years of persistent training, but the patience to be a continuous example oneself, the patience to be consistent, day in and day out. One cannot expect a child automatically to say "Excuse me" when he bumps into someone on the street, if it has never occurred to his mother to say "Excuse me" to him when she bumps into him in the house. Nor is he likely to listen to his mother if she habitually ignores him when he tries to talk to her....A child needs constant, gentle reminders and explanations, but if he is treated with respect and courtesy, he will absorb much of these qualities by osmosis....
If a child is not pushed too hard or nagged, if you do not expect behavior of him that is beyond the capabilities at his age, his natural urge to act like an adult and to earn your approval will lead him, sooner or later, to want to learn good manners. But a child who is put under too many pressures may rebel and develop a mental block that is almost impossible to overcome.
If a child is going to be in a social situation, you should try to explain to him beforehand what you expect of him. If he does not live up to your expectations, you should not humiliate him by correcting him in public. When you are alone, ask him why he behaved as he did, and tell him it was not a grownup way to act and that you hope he will do differently the next time. If a child is tired or upset, however, or if an occasion is simply too exciting or too confusing for him to remember his manners, too much should not be expected of him.
~ Vogue's Book of Etiquette and Good Manners (1969)