Being a parent is a serious job that entails lifelong commitment: you carry your children in your womb for nine months, give birth to them, and care for them to make sure they are fed, healthy, and safe. However, the bigger job parenthood requires is in making sure our kids grow up to be, ultimately, valuable members of society—not only in what they can contribute to the community, but moreso in being kindhearted and compassionate human beings to everyone they meet.
Forming a child's character happens on a daily basis. Little by little, they develop a discernment for right and wrong, good and bad, from what they see and hear. These days, however, if we are to base it on how the younger generation behave, it would seem like there is a need to re-educate ourselves on the basics of common courtesy.
This was the motivation behind the children's book series Common Courtesies, says author Dr. Didith T. Rodrigo, Ph.D., who is also a professor of computer science at the Ateneo de Manila University.
"The books were a response to the need for good manners on a day-to-day basis. I think that every act of rudeness or inconsideration—jumping a queue, or making a mess for other people to clean up—erodes goodwill and trust and the desire to be kind," she explains.
She likens this "me-first" mindset, which causes detriment to others, to "emotional pollution." It certainly does not set a good example for our children.
Rodrigo, who also authored the inspiring Women of Science children's books about female scientists in the country, says there are five titles in the Common Courtesies series:
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"Common Courtesies At the Table is about table manners—wash your hands, chew with your mouth closed.
"On the Street is for commuting and moving around in public—keep your hands inside the vehicle, don't spit or pee on the street.
"Online has to do with behavior while using the Internet—don't spam, don't shout."
At the Movies is etiquette while inside the cinema. "Don't you hate it when people use their phones or kick your chair when you're watching a movie?
"In the Bathroom is about how to use a public restroom—don't step on the toilet seat, lock the door."
The books are written in both Filipino and English, which makes them an ideal tool for parents and teachers in instilling good manners in their kids.
"We like to talk a lot about making the world a better place in big, dramatic ways, but we can begin in small, simple ways like being considerate. Saying "please" and "thank you" is a form of consideration for others. I think we have to communicate to our children that these acts are important," says Dr. Rodrigo.
"If we convey some basic courtesies to our children, I think it will help preserve or even create more graciousness overall."