Politeness covers many areas of personal interaction. To sum it up, politeness is being kind with our words and our actions. In bushido, the traditional samurai code, being polite was about empathy and appropriateness. Not only did they greet people properly, but if that person was temporarily experience a challenge or hardship, the warrior would as well.
A simple example of this would be you meeting a friend on the street and it was raining out. Let’s say you had an umbrella and your friend did not. If it was appropriate, both of you would share your umbrella. If it was not appropriate for you to share, you would put your umbrella away and stand in the rain with them. As you can tell, this is a whole different level of politeness.
Teaching children to be polite is best by using stories. One I like to use with my karate students is this. I tell the student to imagine that one day a friend calls them and invites them over to play a game. The student says, “Sure. I have to get dressed quick and then I’ll be over.” Upon arrival, the friend says, “Why did you dress so funny?” Then I ask the student’s how that would make them feel. Of course they respond, “Not very good.”
Then I tell the student to imagine that part way through the game they come up with a great idea for a new rule that will make the game more exciting. When they tell the friend the rule, the friend responds, “That’s a dumb rule.” Again I ask them how it would make them feel. The response, “Not good.”
Finally, they get to the end of the game. At this point the friend has beat the student. Upon their victory the friend says, “Ha, I beat you. You’re no good.” When I ask them how this makes them feel the overwhelming response is, “Awful.”
Then I proceed to ask them how many times have they told someone they were dressed funny, or they talk funny, or they have dumb ideas, or they boast about winning. At that moment it clicks for them. They start to realize they say those “not so polite” things more often than they care to admit.
I want kids to learn to hold themselves to a higher standard. I know they have all heard from their parents 100 times before, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I take it one step further. I tell them, “Only say nice things.”
Only say nice things. Easy, right? When was the last time you only said nice things? Where do you think your kids learn their “impolite” actions and words from?