No. 32

We've all heard some person make the comment, "I want to give my child a head start in the world." There is no better way to prepare a young person for success in life than to teach them respect for authority, to respect the rights and property of others, and above all, the importance of good manners, because all other educational experience will pale in comparison. To go a step further, self-respect is at the bottom of all good manners. They are the expression of discipline, of good will, of respect for other people’s rights and comforts and feelings.
For over twenty five years I've worked with our nation's public schools as a businessman consultant and during this time I spent many hours attempting to motivate students and teach them about the American free enterprise system. As I would begin each session I could usually tell which students had received discipline and moral training at home and which ones had not. I have found the most accurate barometer for making a determination of this kind is a child's manners.
If they responded to my questions or other forms of interaction with the simple words, "yes, sir", "no, sir", "please", "thank you", and "you're welcome", I knew without a doubt they were willing and eager to learn. On the other hand, in a few situations where I was not shown the courtesy and respect that should have been afforded any guest, I knew some valuable time would be wasted as I had to first prepare them to learn.
To illustrate what I'm saying, please let me share this true story with you. For several years I had been calling on a particular school superintendent, attempting to sell him my services, but he would never purchase any of my materials or even let me talk with his teachers. However, when I called on him some time ago, I sensed that something was different. After about thirty minutes, he invited me to come talk with his teachers and then he went on to tell me why. In this town of about 1,500 people, the school had just had their Junior-Senior Awards Program and it was conducted entirely by students. He said the program was a real disaster. The bad language, dirty jokes and the way these students conducted themselves was embarrassing and humiliating to the administrators and the teachers.
As he said, "it was a good thing the school board and the parents were not there." The situation had finally shocked him into realizing that something had to be done. Well, it
should have been done a long time before, starting at home, by parents teaching these young people good manners, along with some old fashioned discipline, but when they arrived at school they still needed leadership by example, by both administrators and teachers. Many schools have discipline; students are taught respect and you would never hear bad language or dirty jokes in any school program. In the case of this superintendent, it all comes back to his own childhood.
If you have never thought about it before and have children or grandchildren of your own, I would like to suggest for your consideration, if you want to give them a head start in life, teach them to say, "yes, sir", "no, sir", "please", "thank you", and "you're welcome." As the twig in bent, so grows the tree. Do something special for these young people and it will be like the soap commercial we've all seen: "what a nice reflection on you." It will be great for them and it will also be good for America. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)