I’ve had so many conversations with other moms about how our children behave differently in public than they do at home. Some children are complete angels at home, but when they head out to the store or church or school, they have unleash their wild sides! Others might be like our boys: generally well-behaved and polite in public, but who tend to forget manners and respect at home.
I don’t think either situation is cause for panic – children have unique personalities and, on the path to maturity, they just need some instruction in learning how to act in a variety of social settings!
It’s why we’ve been trying to focus on the importance of manners and social etiquette with our boys, but I started to realize the appearance of politeness was becoming more important than the heart behind it. So there is another concept we are teaching them to guide this process: integrity.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines integrity as firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values, but I like the definition I once heard as it applies to personal character:
”Integrity is who you are when no one else is looking.”
And this is where we have begun with the boys. Learning manners and social etiquette is all fine and good and necessary, but it should NOT be about putting on a mask for others and acting a completely different way when those people are not around.
Kids are kids and there most definitely times for them to be wild and crazy. I have boys – this is reality! I must allow for their energy and adventurous spirit to be fully expended on a regular – daily! – basis. Trying to contain or restrict this energy will only lead to frustration for all of us!
However, I want our children to know that their “boyness” is never an excuse for rude behavior, at home or in public. And this is where integrity comes in.
Whether we are eating dinner at home, at a friend’s house, or in a restaurant, the same table manners will always apply.
The expectations for listening when another person is talking to you do not change whether it is a brother, parent, or friend talking to them.
Making the right choice is not about who is watching but about who they are on the inside. We will continue to instruct our boys in the ways of manners and hospitality and such, but with the emphasis being more on the heart of it all than the performance.
I wanted to share a few verses that are guiding us along the way…
Do to others as you would like them to do to you. ~Luke 6:31
The Golden Rule is very much at the center of all we teach to the boys. It applies to all social situations – family, friends, and so on!
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. ~Psalm 19:14
We want the Lord to be pleased with what is heard from our lips AND what is tucked away in our hearts. This speaks so well to integrity because it goes beyond the outward performance to their inner workings.
Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgment. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later. In the same way, the good deeds of some people are obvious. And the good deeds done in secret will someday come to light. ~1 Timothy 5:24-25
The good and the bad we do when no one is watching is still known to God. May the light find more good in us than bad!
And lastly, because we all need the reminder that we can’t “be good” on our own…
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. ~Philippians 4:13
Each night, we talk with the boys about asking God for renewed strength to do what is right and follow Him. I always remind them that I need to ask for God’s help multiple times throughout each day so they know they are not alone in needing grace and strength from Jesus!
Our goal is not to raise good performers in public, but men who are gentlemen whether they are being watched or not – men of integrity!
*We are still enjoying the lessons from Manners Made Easy, a biblically-based manners workbook by June Hines Moore! This is a great resource for social etiquette with Scripture and activities to support each lesson!
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