Wednesday Wisdom

July 29, 2020

Minding Manners

By Dr Kathy Weston

Minding Manners


Arguably one of the most important ‘standout’ attributes that will truly get your child noticed is the fact that they are polite. I’ve been reflecting on how a lack of ‘thank you’ from children in my care, or that I come across, makes me feel. At once, I feel taken aback and compelled to remind them that they may have forgotten to do something. Most children know exactly what I’m talking about and amend the situation with an ‘oops, thank you’. Others clearly have no idea what I’m frowning about.

Unfortunately, an impolite child reflects poorly on us, the parents. I have noticed that ‘slippage’ occurs quite frequently with my own children, who still need reminders that if they ‘don’t ask politely, they don’t get’. Any Weston who makes bold demands without a polite plea, is deemed ‘Veruca Salt’ for the day (after the infamous child from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).

A very polite child can really make an impression. I was once given a school tour by a young pupil who had been asked to show me around. He only about 13, yet displayed the grace, courtesy and social awareness of an emotionally intelligent adult.

He listened to my questions about school life intently and I felt flattered by his response. “That is a great question, Dr Weston!” he would reply, cheerfully letting me know that all parents require similar reassurances. He went the extra mile too, offering to wait with me while I frantically wondered where I had left my car keys.

I was so impressed by him that I wrote to his parents, care of the school, and praised them for raising such a wonderful boy. I felt that the way he spoke and interacted with me, reflected a home life where he felt accepted, highly valued and loved.


Believe it or not, research backs up my intuitive assumption that feeling a deep sense of attachment and belonging, both at home and school, helped to enable this child to interact confidently in the world.

We know that children who feel ‘likeable’ and ‘valued’ are more likely to be emotionally resilient, socially confident and even more popular than peers. When children are on the receiving end of adults who are attuned to their emotions, reactions, interests, talents and hobbies, they develop self-esteem that facilitates successful interaction with the wider world. Self-belief stems from feeling loved and accepted, and from being given the opportunity to feel competent. The feedback that I gave to that young man, via his family and the school, will have played a part in consolidating his positive sense of self too.
During adolescence, identity can be shaped and reshaped by a variety of factors and everyday social interactions are key. They play a powerful role in guiding young teens towards self-awareness and helping them discover how the world will respond to them as individuals.

Do you value social interaction and the skills that need to accompany it within your family life? Are you teaching your children to invest in social friendships and relationships in a way that is respectful, courteous and reflective of your child’s true character?


How do our children behave when we are not with them? Will they thank someone in our absence? Will they write that thank you card to grandma without prompting? We want to reach a point where it is simply second nature to say please and administer thanks.

Automatic courteous responses come after lots (maybe years) of practise. They also develop via parental praise; when you see your child behave in a way that makes you proud, spot it and comment positively on it. I enjoy letting parents know by text or email how polite their children are. It is an enormous compliment to them and is no doubt the outcome of much parental labour.

An adjunct of my plea that we value politesse when raising kids, is that we also try to encourage our children to use positive language. Just as a lack of Ps and Qs is galling, hearing a child swear profusely (online or in real life), sounds appalling. We need to help our children navigate the temptation of using profane language for emphasis or shock-value among peers and reassure them that the world will love them just the same (possibly more), if they have the confidence to be polite.

This is my last Wednesday Wisdom for a few weeks, as I need to do some real-life parental engagement and practise all that I have been preaching for the last academic year. I wish you a wonderful summer and look forward to sharing exciting news with you in the Autumn term. I am particularly excited about collaborative talks with the family law firm, Rayden Solicitors, an article I am writing for the Eton journal and continuing some innovative work that I’ve been doing with forward-thinking schools. Until then….

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