Wednesday, July 29, 2009

45) Courteous Behaviour

"Courtesy is the one passport that will be accepted without question in every land, in every office, in every house, in every heart in the world." George D.Powers

Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli were schoolmates and cricket teammates, with a huge talent for the game. Sachin broke records and rose to fame. Vinod failed to get past a few games. Why? It is reliably learned that Vinod's rather boorish behavior lost him friends and the respect of the selectors; notwithstanding his talent. We would not want our children to suffer from bad behavior. Would we?

Good or courteous behavior is born of consideration of others - respect for them, their belongings, feelings and time. When children are insensitive to the needs of others, they will be rebuffed in some way, at sometime in their lives; sadly we too will suffer humiliation with them. That should be compelling reason for us to teach them to behave well at home and in public. When there is a lack of discipline and overindulgence at home, children begin to believe that they have the upper hand, and we are put on the defensive. We cannot let that happen. So, in earnest we should take them through the process of fending off bad behavior.


It is a much misunderstood term. Most people limit its meaning to social norms and good manners, missing out on the core meaning. Etiquette is anchored in 'consideration for others'. Without that anchor, social norms and good manners are adrift. Together, they cannot be tugged apart.

"My son", said a father to his boy, "treat everybody with politeness; even those who may be rude to you, not because they are gentlemen, but because you are one". The title 'gentleman' we give a person, is a crown we place on his head; a recognition; a great honor. Neither is every man a 'gentleman', nor is every woman a 'lady'. When does a person deserve that honor? Only when all his/her ways are rooted in consideration for others. We meet phonies who embellish their behavior with plastic smiles, affected speech and grand attire; and we are often taken in by them. But when they face testing situations their masks fall off, exposing a hideous visage. We also meet people who are genuine. They do not play-act, but are modest and refined, always mindful of others and are kind and courteous. William Wordsworth certifies such behavior: "The best portion of a good man's life is his little nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love". The gentleman's little acts include praising the worthy, encouraging the defeated, befriending the lonely, cheering the unhappy, goading the quitter, uplifting the despondent, teaching the ignorant and calming the angry.'Little' acts indeed!


Adults who wear clothes that stink(oblivious of others), who care little about oral hygiene, who do not bath daily, who use bathrooms badly and who leave behind a trail of uncouth behavior, were once children who were given hygiene-concessions by parents. When such young people find partners, with bad behavior the reason, they end up quarreling and going their separate ways. Some parents may dismiss indifference to personal hygiene as a minor aberration. Try telling that to someone who has to share the same bed with the offender!

When watching cricket matches on TV, we have the revolting sight of players picking noses, biting nails and spitting repeatedly. Embarrassed parents of those famous sons, squirm when they realize that their boys are watched by millions. How they wish they had checked those loathsome habits, when their sons were little boys! Unless such quirks are stopped, even as they start, exorcising children of those demons, as they grow older, is impossible. A little boy found the right word when his teacher asked the class to complete the sentence: 'Cleanliness is next to ---'.
Decisively he answered: 'impossible'. Yes, 'impossible', if personal hygiene is not made a habit early in childhood.


Seldom do we see young people tastefully and neatly dressed, carrying themselves with dignity. Instead we see them in loud T-shirts and tight jeans, sporting a casual style. We let our children compromise on grooming, little realizing that the Corporate World, which is thankfully returning to formal and semi-formal wear, will frown on poorly dressed new entrants. Unkempt hair, unshaven faces, poorly matched clothes and shoes that do not shine, do not reflect good grooming. And our girls should know that showing more skin is not more beauty.


Walking into some homes is like walking into minefields. Tread watchfully, is the warning, because toys, footwear, books and assorted items are scattered on the floor.
Unless there is order in our lives, there will be disorder in the lives of our children. They should learn to do things at the right time and put things in the right place. Play with a toy at playtime and put it back, in its place; so with anything else. The good part about orderly behavior is that children will carry it forward to school, work life and family life.


It is rather embarrassing to watch some children eat. They nosily chew food, scatter food on the table, stuff their mouths, gulp drinks and ravenously eat their favorite
dishes. Ask a child to pass a fork, and he will pass it prongs pointing. Drinking water glasses are stained with grease and oil, because their mouths are not wiped with a napkin, before putting the glass to their lips. Certainly, there is a strong case for children to learn table manners to save themselves and us, blushes.


Disposing of rubbish haphazardly from windows, balconies and running vehicles, is more than just carelessness. What is worse is dumping garbage at or near the neighbor's gate. Slamming doors and windows is noisy and inconsiderate. Not turning off lights, fans, air-conditioners and other appliances, when leaving the room, is not only waste of electricity, but also lack of concern for the person who pays the power bill. Not completely turning off taps after using water is wasteful and negligent behavior. Children should know that even today(as they get water from a tap)there are millions who trek miles to fetch a pot of water. Snatching things from others, even siblings, is rough and unbecoming behavior. If unchecked, the snatching act could end up in wild actions and costly consequences.

"We are what we repeatedly do", warned Aristotle. When our children learn to do the right things repeatedly, they will build strong characters. We owe it to them.

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