Bio: As a lover of written words and the authors who wrote them, Antoinette taught 5th grade
through high school. A toxic injury in 1991 led her out of the classroom and into a bookstore –
where she went in short order from bookseller to event planner and developed a reputation
among authors that soon led to her becoming a literary publicist. Seeing the changes coming in
the publishing industry, she added book developer to her resume and soon thereafter founded
the La Jolla Writers Conference. Now in its nineteenth year, the conference has been called by
Writer’s Digest one of the 84 conferences in the country worth the money. Simultaneously, she
also hosted Writers Roundtable radio show for eight years, was the Book Lady on KUSI-TV Good
Morning San Diego for 20 years, and created Nightstand Press.
What are manners? And how do manners differ from etiquette?
Manners are the socially correct way of behaving, whereas etiquette is defined as the formal
manners and rules that are followed in social or professional settings. For example, manners
may dictate that we use utensils when we eat while etiquette may determine which fork or spoon
we use for which course at a formal dinner.
On a more practical level, good manners lead us to consider the feelings and comfort of others
before we act.
How would you describe manners to children? And why is it so important that we teach
our children manners.
I always described manners to my own children – and to my elementary school students – as the
lubrication of society. Think about it. Whether we consider the microcosm of the family or the
macrocosm of society in general, think of a machine. Without lubrication, there is friction between
the parts and eventually, the machine grinds to a halt. Without manners, there is friction between
people, and eventually that friction leads to a breakdown.
It is mannerly to signal when you are going to make a turn with your car. Failing to do so can
cause an accident.
It is mannerly to be polite to those in your family or those at work. Failure to do so can engender
It is mannerly to listen to someone when they speak to you. Failure to do so causes a breakdown
in communication, not to mention hard feelings.
Manners can make tense situations more workable and good situations even more enjoyable.
Conversely, a lack of manners is an irritant that can impact everyone involved.
Why are we talking about manners today?
I brought it up because a lack of manners seems to be permeating so much of society these
Think about the last time you were in a restaurant. If there isn’t someone letting their children run
around through the restaurant, impinging on the space of others, there is a table of folks whose
mothers never explained the need for indoor voices; they seem to feel that the entire restaurant
will enjoy their conversation and laughter. Then there are the people who need to share their
one-sided telephone conversations. We all love that. I was at my favorite breakfast place
recently. I get there early on the weekends and take a seat outside on the deck regardless of
weather. A woman walks out onto the deck with her phone and proceeds to regale us with her
side of a conversation discussing in detail a friend’s recent medical problems. Our breakfasts
The key here is to learn – and to teach our kids – that our freedom ends where the next person’s
begins. No, you boisterous behavior is not suitable for a restaurant. Yes, you may think your
child is adorable, but he and his sticky hands are not adorable to someone wanting to converse at
the next table. Don’t bring your child to a restaurant for adults until he or she has learned to sit at
the table during the meal. And your cell-phone conversations should be for you – they are not
meant to be shared with everyone else in the restaurant or store.
And let’s talk about driving. It is not OK to change lanes without looking, much less signaling, and
simply presume that everyone else will accommodate you.
And these are just some of the smaller irritants.
People with good manners move out of the way when they hear a siren for an ambulance or fire
truck or police car.
They consider their word their bond and don’t try to change contractual agreements just because
they can. Think of how many of our athletes do this.,
They don’t lie just to steal the limelight or to serve an agenda. Think of how many politicians do
Good sportsmanship is borne of good manners.
The list can go on and on. So many of our social ills are borne of a lack of manners.
Why do you think manners have declined in recent years?
This is not a recent years phenomenon. It has been slowly evolving for decades.
The lack of manners we see in so many adults has now been instilled in their children. And this is
an outgrowth of an I-me mentality that leads people to believe that their feelings and needs and
wants are first and foremost. And a lack of understanding of the differences between needs and
wants. We need shelter, food, water, air. The rest is wants. And we now have at least two
generations that don’t necessarily recognize or accept this. And so when the guy four lanes over
on the freeway suddenly realizes his exit is coming up, he glides over those four lanes with little
or no care as to whether or not he may cause an accident; it is up to everyone else to
Then there is the lack of discipline. We have adults who act out with tantrums we would usually
ascribe to two-year olds. Is it any wonder that they do not require self-discipline in their kids? And
these same parents want to be friends with their kids, want their kids to like them. So they are
reluctant to put disciplinary demands on their children.
Here’s a wake-up call. Kids can have dozens of friends, but they only have two parents. Parent
your kids, teach them manners.
And teach them that with every right we claim there is responsibility. If you are not willing to
accept the responsibility, don’t expect access to the right.
But this is a far longer philosophical discussion than we have time for today, so let’s get on to the
What books do you recommend this week?
Baby & Child Care by Benjamin Spock, MD
Dude, That’s Rude (Get Some Manners) by Pamela Espeland , Elizabeth Verdick Grades 3 – 6
A Kids' Guide to Manners: 50 Fun Etiquette Lessons for Kids (and Their Families) by Katherine