We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by teaching civility to the rising generation. As always, the best teacher is example. We can teach civility to our children and grandchildren by being civil – or tolerant - with each other. By using our influence to build civility in our personal circles of influence, we may be instrumental in bridging the great divide in our nation.
As many people may not know the meaning of the word civility, I will first give a definition of it. I found the following definition in an article by Denise Daniels in which she not only explains what civility is but teaches why it is important for our children to learn.
Civility means recognizing the humanity of others and putting the common good above self-interest. These are the values that are crucial to forming positive relationships in our own lives and to creating a productive society and a generation of civil children who will become civil adults.
Learning civility also has personal benefits for children: They develop positive self-esteem, enjoy lower stress levels, and have stronger social skills that help them form healthy relationships with others. Needless to say, it’s also great for character development!
This seems like a no-brainer! What parent does not want their child or children to have “positive self-esteem,” “lower stress levels,” and “stronger social skills” – plus better “character development”? Daniels gives the following five ways to teach civility: (1) Look outside yourself to observe other people and how you can help them. (2) Show by your own tolerance and acceptance how to treat people who may be different – disabled, elderly, homeless, etc. (3) Teach manners and show how to use the “magic words” – such as “please,” “thank you,” and “may I?” (4) Involve children early in community service. (5) Set a proper example for all that you are teaching.
Matthew Lynch defines civility as “being respectful and putting others above yourself.” He says that it is important for us to teach intentional teach civility because our society will teach that the people who are not civil are those who prosper. He says that an uncivil child is “a cruel child.” He shares a list of seven ways that we can teach civility – most of which are included in the above list.
1. Manners Matter: A major part of civility is politeness…. “Please” and “Thank you” go a long way in making others feel seen and heard.
2. Show Tolerance: Children need to learn that tolerance and acceptance are essential to one’s humanity. You must teach your child to accept those who are different. By showing respect for other cultures and being sensitive to stereotypes, you can show tolerance. Talking about this concept also allows you to discuss bullying….
3. Give Examples: When you see examples of people modeling civil behavior, point it out to your children and discuss these actions…. Therefore, when you see an example of a civil debate or good sportsmanship, acknowledge it.
4. Listen Well: To be civil, you must listen to others. You should hear what someone says before you judge or speak. In this way, you are showing you value their thoughts and opinions…. You children will learn to listen well from you.
5. Apologize Regularly: We are not perfect. We will make mistakes. But, our apologies can leave an impression on our children. Our apologies do not just show we messed up – they show we care about someone else’s feelings….
6. Encourage Empathy: Continuing the thought above, when we consider the feelings of others, we are encouraging empathy. Give your children opportunities to consider the feelings of others…..
7. Practice What You Preach: Finally, you cannot just tell your children to be civil – a lecture will not work. Instead, you must practice what you preach. So, strive to model self-control instead of uncivil reactions in the heat of the moment. Watch your words and your actions.
There are many examples of incivility in our nation. It seems that the media delights in highlighting these instances rather than searching for cases of civility for their focus. Most of us have little influence on the nation or even big segments of it. We must concentrate our efforts in our personal circles of influence. However, there is little doubt that we can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by developing civility in ourselves and the rising generation.