Character Counts! February Pillar of Respect

By: Ashley Winterstein

Although manners seem to evolve with every generation, their existence ensures that everyone can live and work together peacefully. Manners are about showing respect to others, their opinions, and their property. They are simple social expectations that are best learned early in life to become part of a daily routine.

Children can be encouraged at a young age to include “please” and “thank you” in their vocabulary, not interrupt when others are speaking, and apologize when they have made a mistake. Dining out can even be an enjoyable event if the expectations are set early around the dinner table at home. Good manners such as, not speaking with your mouth full, using proper utensils, and remaining in your seat until everyone is finished are excellent behaviors to practice daily.

Relationships between children and their siblings or other close relatives are excellent places to foster the idea of respecting the opinions, privacy, and property of others. Living in such close proximity will require everyone to think about the effect their actions are having on others in the household. Sharing toys, responsibilities, and rooms are all ways to practice good manners and show respect for others.

Once children reach school age, their manners are particularly important. It is logical for children to want to play with other children who are friendly, respectful, and courteous. Not only are well-mannered children more popular and well liked, but studies have also shown that well-mannered children actually perform better academically.

Not surprisingly, studies of adults have shown similar results. The Science Daily ( reported in March of 2009 that, “…high school sophomores who were rated by their teachers as having good social skills and work habits, and who participated in extracurricular activities in high school, made more money and completed higher levels of education 10 years later than their classmates who had similar standardized test scores but were less socially adroit and participated in fewer extracurricular activities.”

Social skills and manners in the workplace are proving to be very important in an increasingly team oriented world. Especially in this competitive job market, manners can give one candidate an edge over the others. Arriving on time with a firm handshake, eye contact, and genuine interest will only help in an interview situation. The same etiquette applies once the job is landed and employees must work together to accomplish a common goal.

With the introduction of each new piece of technology, new rules of workplace etiquette are developed. These “rules” range from appropriate cell phone use to proofreading e-mails to avoid poor grammar. The recent popularity of social networking sites has created both the ability to easily connect with others and concerns of maintaining a professional image.

It often takes a while to collectively determine proper etiquette as new situations arise, but as Emily Post once said, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”

Character Counts! coaches are planning activities to share with their students throughout the month of February that will build the foundation of showing respect to others, their property, and their opinions. Parents and positive role models in the community can help coaches reinforce these lessons by serving as an example when interacting in the home and in public. This will help to build more positive relationships in our community because, after all, the giving and receiving of respect makes life more pleasant for everyone.

If you would like more information about the Character Counts! program or are interested in volunteering as a Character Counts! coach, please contact Jacki Carter at 410-758-6677 or