by Cheryl Jackson Tuesday April 5, 2011

It's such a pleasure to arrange an interview with a man who's devoted to good manners!  We were most civil with each other. Pier Forni not only founded the Johns Hopkins University Civility Project, he also writes books and speaks to audiences about the importance of good manners. I wanted to know what that means for parents and kids - why should we teach manners and how should we do it? That was the subject of our interview.

Forni's most recent book is Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct, and it's a gem. First of all, the title says it all - civility is a choice. Secondly, the book is laid out one rule at a time, making it easy to browse. Some of his rules are

Pay attention

Think the best

Respect others' opinions

Mind your body

Don't shift responsibility and blame
 

These are not "the fork must go on the left" kind of manners. These are ways of behaving with others, which I think line up nicely with our theme this month of Civics and the Environment.  We're social creatures, says Forni, and good manners make it possible for us to live well together. In fact, he writes "civility is fundamental to the making of a good, successful and serene life."  Isn't that what we want for our kids? Of course it is, but how do we do it? Being good role models is important, but Forni says we shouldn't be afraid to actually teach our kids manners. After all, we teach our kids how to play soccer and the violin. Good manners help them get along better at school and could affect academic success.

This idea of civility is similar to others we've explored here such as empathy and emotional intelligence.

If you've discovered any useful tips for teaching your kids manners, I'd love to hear them.