Manners! What are manners?
In today’s world, are manners still effective?
Do we respect people more if they are mannered?
Is saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ enough?
Is there more to what Dr Montessori called her learning area ‘Grace and Courtesy”?
As early as the third millennium BC, social graces, self-control and kindness to others was written about (Ptahhotep). Confucius (551-479 BC) looked at governmental morality and personal correctness. In the middle 1600, during the era, norms were established that provide guidelines to social graces and standards of behaviour.
Today, each culture has a set of rules and norms that in fact, define that culture: each valorising respect and care for others. In Southern Africa, the Zulu woman does not look into the eyes of a leading man; that would be highly disrespectful. In Australia we expect people to look at us when we are speaking as a sign of respect. It is therefore evident that our cultural background will establish different expectations of what is polite and respectful.
In the school community of CMS as in every Montessori environment, Grace and Courtesy underlines all areas of curriculum and philosophy. We understand that manners are outward behaviours of a much stronger sense we are trying to build in each individual. We want children to develop ‘complex thinking processes’; we would like to be able to provide our students with opportunities to learn easily through trust and care. We aspire to provide experiences that build many neurological pathways to stimulate positive learning.
None of this can happen without children living in an environment of true nurture and respect.
Manners, Grace and Courtesy can start with a please and thank you, however there is much more below that thin surface. Just as an iceberg, underneath a simple ‘please’, there is a world of “Let me help you”, “I am really sorry you are sad”, “Let me offer you my seat”, “Take this little flower, as I can see you need comfort”, “Please help me, I am stuck”.
Adults are role models and we know that children emulate what we do and say. If we share ‘good manners’ we actually prevent negative behaviours and possibly support great mental health (Val Curtis – executive functions).
I would like to challenge each of us, to start an experiment and use beautiful manners (more than we are already doing) in our home for a month and see if this makes a difference to our wellbeing and children’s behaviours.
“What is social life if not the solving of social problems, behaving properly and pursuing aims acceptable to all?
– Dr. Maria Montessori, page 225, The Absorbent Mind