Courtesy is the external manifestation of a right spirit towards others. Its basis is in an unselfish and fitting regard for the rights and feelings of those with whom one is brought into intercourse;
-H Clay Trumbull
Mr. Trumbull argues that courtesy is a sort of cardinal habit that we ought to take the opportunity to train our children in while they are still young. He suggests that a child who posses all other good qualities but lacks courtesy will struggle in life. Courtesy then can be thought to be quite the advantage. Pride has been labeled as the root of all sin. A focus on self over others can certainly lead astray and bring to a dark place of self absorption and loneliness in self. A great disadvantage. I am of the belief that God wants us to focus on others and on Him. Mr. Trumbull gives some practical hints for parents looking for ways to help their child to courtesy.
In training a child to courtesy, it is of little use to tell him to be forgetful of himself; but it is of value to tell him to be thoughtful of others. The more a person tries to forget himself, the surer he will be to think of himself. Often, indeed, it is the very effort of a person to forget himself, that makes that person painfully self-conscious, and causes him to seem bashful and embarrassed. But when a child thinks of others his thoughts go away from himself, and self-forgetfulness is a result, rather than a cause.
To tell a young person to enter a full room without any show of embarrassment, or thought of himself, is to put a barrier in the way of his being self-possessed through self-forgetfulness. On the contrary, to send a young person into a full room with a life-and-death message to someone already there, is to cause him to forget himself through filling him with thought of another. This distinction in methods of training is one to be borne in mind in all endeavors at training children to courtesy.
Another way described is to ensure that a child gains the habit of focusing on their playmates. The principal matter when they are with them is to discover what interests them and make what they say and do surround their discovery. What a useful and pleasant habit this would be. A good way to start to build this habit is to inquire from the little one what interests their friends until they can tell you. Then once they can tell you inquiring still on what was talked about and done to ensure the other was enjoying themselves.
If a child has shown any lack of courtesy, Mr. Trumbull urges parents to instruct their children to be frank and outspoken in expression of their regret for their actions and their desire to be forgiven, no matter how slight the discourtesy. He holds that true courtesy involves a readiness to apologize for any and every failure.
Here are a few practical hints to consider as habits.
Directly following an event and as soon as you are alone with your family consider presenting questions such as these:
- For the younger child who is just becoming aware of others, “Who did you meet?”, “What was there name?”, “What do they like?”
- For the child who has began to consider others, “Who did you meet today?”, “Did they enjoy themselves?”, “Why do you think that?” or questions like “What did you learn about Ruthy today?”, “What did Isiah want?”, “Did you help?, and “Did you do what you wanted to do or what Isiah wanted to do?”
-A takeaway from Hints on Child Training by H Clay Trumbull
As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.