This is the sixth installment of my 10 QUICK RULES FOR RAISING DAUGHTERS WHO WANT YOU IN THEIR LIVES AS KIDS, TEENAGERS and ADULTS. I began with Rule #1: Never criticize “the boyfriend.” Next came Rule #2: Never diminish a broken heart. Then Rule #3: Do not show up at Parents’ Night in slippers. And Rule #4: Get your daughter familiar with the three important words – Honest, Honesty and Honestly. And #4.5: Don’t trust Daddys to be objective when it comes to their daughters! And then #5: Daughters and their dogs – not just puppy love.
And now we are at…
RULE# 6: TEACH YOUR DAUGHTER PROPER MANNERS
Ah, the teaching of Manners. Courtesy. Propriety. Politeness. Social Responsibility.
It certainly is a monumental teaching task, and one left primarily to Mom… but once Manners are learned, a life-long foundation has been established.
And this foundation is the greatest gift that you can pass along to your daughter.
I like to call Manners “the invisible handshake.” Manners settle into everything your daughter will do. Manners settle into the mind of each person your daughter will ever meet.
Manners are remembered more than beauty, more than knowledge, more than ambition, more than ability.
That being said, here are my Top 5 Lessons in teaching your daughter that Good Manners bear delicious fruit!
a.) Teach your daughter that a firm handshake serves as a lasting first impression. Teach her the words of Emerson… “I hate the giving of the hand unless the whole man (in this case, woman!) accompanies it.”
Simply said, a firm and meaningful handshake brings the other person into her world. Into her heart. Into her beauty, knowledge, ambition and ability. The few moments of that handshake are the most significant yielding to humanity that she can experience.
Practice with her. Practice with her as soon as she “gets” it! She may be just 2-years old, but she will “get” the idea of the contact… the connection… the courtesy of it all! And people will remember her.
b.) Along with the confident handshake, teach your daughter the importance of direct eye contact. Teach her the words of George Herbert… “The eyes have one language everywhere.”
Our eyes reach into our souls. So that first eye-lock is a connection to the history of each person she meets. And people will remember her.
Teach your daughter to make note of the eye color of each new person she meets… this will guarantee that eye contact is made! Tell her that her beautiful eyes are worthy to be noticed too… by everyone she meets.
Teach her very early on that her lovely eyes converse even when she is not speaking. Even the shyest little girl will delight in the “game” of knowing the colors of eyes!
c.) Ah, Gratitude! Teach your daughter (at a very early age) to send handwritten “Thank You” notes promptly. I will say it again – promptly.
As early as your daughter can hold a crayon and make a mark or two, teach her the courtesy of the Thank You note.
I know Audrey and Jane will say that I tend to go on and on and on ["and on and on and on!" -- Jane] when teaching lessons, but this one DID hit home with them.
As they sat staring at blank thank-you cards, with a hundred other things on their minds, I would say, “You know, (insert name of gift giver) had to drive to a store, purchase a gift and a card and probably wrapping paper and a bow, drive home, wrap the gift, drive to our home and spend several hours at your party, and drive back home.
“All you have to do is write (on the cards that I provided, and that I will stamp and mail), ‘Thank you very much for the (insert description of gift). I love it. Thank you for sharing my special day with me.’ What took (name of gift giver) hours and hours, will take you less than 2 minutes.”
Well, it worked (or they just wanted me to STOP talking!)… and today my “girls” have the beautiful reputation of sending thank-you notes so promptly that I still often get comments from friends and relatives ["well, more so Audrey than me, the procrastinating daughter!" -- Jane].
Quick story: Audrey brought her lovely thank-you cards on the plane when flying to her honeymoon in Mexico. She mailed them on their layover in Texas, and her guests received the thank-yous before she returned from her honeymoon!
And a quick note: all girls LOVE to have their own stationery, and a reason to use it! This is probably the most important investment you will make in your daughter’s Manner-life! Order her personalized stationery today… and stand over her until Thank You becomes a beautiful habit! People will remember her for it.
And oh yeah… people will also remember her if they have to ask, “Did (your daughter) get my gift?”
d.) Teach your daughter the art of conversation. And even more, teach her to listen.
She will hear more than words. She will learn respect for feelings. She will learn respect for opinions. She will learn sincerity. And even insincerity.
She will learn to be entertained. She will learn to distinguish dialogue from monologue. She will learn to define her own personality. She will learn to interpret and analyze and synthesize. She will learn to concentrate.
She will know when to daydream. She will understand the power of her own thoughts, and how to offer them to the world.
Teach your daughter that everyone has something to say… and people will remember her for it.
["This is probably the lesson that speaks to me the most. I know I am a very good listener, and I appreciate a good listener, as well... someone who is really concentrating on what I'm saying, and not looking over my shoulder to whatever else is going on." -- Jane]
e.) Teach your daughter this: It is always (and I mean ALWAYS) in her own power to be agreeable.
This may sound simple, but it is the simple truth. Even in the midst of matters of the heart, hassles and hormones, she still has the power to interact with others in an agreeable manner.
Anyone (well, most anyone) will understand a “situation” or two, but it is your responsibility to teach your daughter that stomping and screaming and yes, even silence, are unacceptable behaviors.
A daughter must learn at an early age that people who have no control over her unhappiness at the moment also have no desire to suffer her wrath. ["So very true!" -- Jane]
Confidence in her own “being” comes from confidence in her own self-control. We have all been in a situation with parent(s) and a daughter when we could just die of embarrassment for the parent(s)… maybe this could be a Pinks & Blues Contest (oh, my!)… but a daughter who is taught the power to be “agreeable” in the Manners department will be remembered for it. Really remembered!
So back to “the invisible handshake” of Manners…or just plain old courtesy common sense:
Remember that your daughter is, at every moment, looking to you for lessons in propriety.
She sees what you do. She hears what you say. She wants a true sense of direction from you.
With the intrinsic knowledge of Manners, the joys of her childhood, adolescence and adulthood will be all the more joyous with the self-confidence that she deserves. And people will remember her for it!