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Navigating 'Island' Parenting: Good manners
Published on February 6, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Mutryce A. Williams

As a child, my grandmother constantly pounded in my head, “Education is good, but it can only get you so far, practice good manners and your potential will be limitless.” She was also keen to note that people treated according to the manners that you displayed. If you are discourteous, you could expect to be treated discourteously. If you are polite and well-mannered, people would in turn be polite and courteous towards you. Having good manners makes for a much easier life, this is something that she also often drilled into my head. I have found these facets to be quite true and I hope to pass this on to my sons.

I came across the poem “Guidance” which was written by Valerie Bloom, whilst reading to my sons from the book, “Under the Moon & Over the Sea -- A Collection of Caribbean Poems.” The poem brought very fond thoughts of my grandmother. After reading it I couldn’t help but smile and say that this should be every West Indian mother’s guide to teaching proper manners. The illustration for the poem shows a little brown girl sitting quite prim and proper at the table, whilst her uncle sits at the other end chastising her, and providing her with guidance. The poem ended with the caption, “Life is very tough for me, when Uncle Henry comes to tea.”
I am almost certain that we have all encountered a similar scenario whether it was with a grandmother, Aunt Maude or Uncle Henry who was stern and tried to ensure that we knew the importance of having good manners. I thought that I would share the poem with you.

Guidance by Valerie Bloom

Wash yuh han’ dem before you eat,
Sit still, teck yuh foot dem off the seat,
Don’ scrape the plate with yuh knife an’ fork,
An’ keep quiet when big people a-talk,
Stop drag yuh foot dem pon de floor,
Ah tell yuh a’ready, don’ slam the door,
Cover up yuh mout’ when yuh a cough,
Don’ be greedy, give yuh sister half
O’ de banana that yuh eatin’ there,
What kind o’ dress that yuh a-wear?
Don’ kiss yuh teeth when me talk to yuh,
An’ mind how yuh lookin’ at me girl,
Manners carry yuh through the worl’
Ah tellin’ yuh all this fey uh own good,
Yuh should thank me, show me gratitude.
Life is very tough for me, when Uncle Henry comes to tea!

“Navigating "Island" Parenting is a submission of insights, quotes, tips and parenting advice that I have gathered over the years as a source of inspiration and as tools to deal with the daily challenges of parenting. This week’s issue focuses on the importance of good manners. The hope is that this submission would cause you to reflect on your parenting skills and also make the journey of parenting a bit easier or brighter.

From the day they are conceived we have high hopes and dreams for them. Their lives are mapped out. We swear that they will be famous soccer, cricket, golf or professional basketball players. We swear that they will be the next Brahms, Mozart, Einstein or Bach. They are going to be trilingual. They are going to be the next man or woman on the moon or make some earth shattering discovery. We read all of the Parenting books, and get plenty of parenting tips, as we know who or what we want to shape. I remember attending a service where the pastor declared that his children were going to, “eat the best, dress the best, and have the best.” I smiled because as parents I am certain that we all want the very best for our children. But I often wonder do we want other things such as the best manners for our children?

I don’t know if it’s just me or if there are other parents who picture the individuals that they would like their children to become when they grow to be 20, 30, 40, or even 60 years old, and I am not alluding to whether they are in a good job, have a family, or have followed their dreams or passions, but I mean what their character will be like. For me I picture two gentlemen who have immaculate manners or good graces, Sidney Poitier types if you get where I am coming from. I want them to be men who have developed respect not only for themselves but for others as well. I also want them to practice humility, and in thinking on this I realize that this will only be possible if I begin to cultivate and nurture the importance of having good manners.

I have come to realize that just like reinforcing the ABCs, 123s and the Lord’s Prayer each evening; I will have to be vigilant in reinforcing those behaviours that depict a well-mannered human being, as I want this to become a part of who they are, and even if I am not around to see them grow into the Sidney Poitier types that I hope for them to be, at least I would have done my part to steer them on the right path, because I firmly believe that having good manners makes all the difference in the world. Most importantly I have realized that in order for them to exhibit these traits I will have to practice them daily as well.

Things I Must Say for Politeness, and Goodness
Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

I'm making a list, I'm making a list of things I must say
For politeness, And goodness and kindness and gentleness
Sweetness and rightness:
Pardon me
How are you?
Excuse me
Bless you
May I?
Thank you

Quotes on Manners

“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.” Emily Post

“Politeness [is] a sign of dignity, not subservience.” Theodore Roosevelt

“Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree.” Marian Wright Edelman

“Good manners open the closed doors; bad manners close the open doors!” Anonymous

Good manners are just a way of showing other people that we have respect for them. Bill Kelly

Teach love, generosity, good manners and some of that will drift from the classroom to the home and who knows, the children will be educating the parents. Roger Moore

Children are natural mimics who act like their parents despite every effort to teach them good manners. Author Unknown

Mutryce A. Williams, a native of St Kitts and Nevis is the mother of 4-year-old Daniel and 3-year-old Nicholas. She not only values the many facets of West Indian parenting but also thinks that there is vast room for improvement. A former educator and a child/youth advocate, Mutryce firmly believes that children should not only be seen but heard.. She may be contacted at
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