Editorial – Teaching Courtesy to Children

Jesus was always an example of true courtesy. He “was never cold and unapproachable. The afflicted often broke in upon His retreat when He needed refreshment and rest, but He had a kind look and an encouraging word for all. He was a pattern of true courtesy.” Testimonies, Vol. 4, 488

Heaven is a place where all the inhabitants are courteous to each other, and now is the time to become courteous as Jesus always was. Ellen White wrote about 150 years ago of the necessity of teaching courtesy to our children.

“No pleasanter sight is there than a family of young folks who are quick to perform little acts of attention toward their elders. … But if mamma never returns a smiling ‘Thank you, dear,’ if papa’s ‘Just what I was wanting, Susie,’ does not indicate that the little attention is appreciated, the children soon drop the habit. … By example, a thousand times more quickly than by precept, can children be taught to speak kindly to each other, to acknowledge favors, to be gentle and unselfish, to be thoughtful and considerate of the comfort of the family.

“Scolding is never allowable; reproof and criticism from parents must have their time and place, but should never intrude so far upon the social life of the family as to render the home uncomfortable. A serious word in private will generally cure a fault more easily than many public criticisms. In some families, a spirit of contradiction and discussion mars the harmony… . It interferes seriously with social freedom when unimportant inaccuracies are watched for, and exposed for the mere sake of exposure. Brothers and sisters also sometimes acquire an almost unconscious habit of teasing each other, half in earnest, half in fun. This is particularly uncomfortable for everybody else, whatever doubtful pleasure the parties themselves may experience.

“In the home where true courtesy prevails, it seems to meet you on the very threshold. You feel the kindly welcome on entering. No rude eyes scan your dress. No angry voices are heard upstairs. No sullen children are sent from the room. No peremptory orders are given to cover the delinquencies of housekeepers or servants. A delightful atmosphere pervades the house—unmistakable, yet indescribable.” The Health Reformer, February 1, 1874