Character Chats

What are Good and Bad Manners?

What are good manners and bad manners?

Here at True Balance Karate in Downers Grove, Illinois, we have a social-emotional learning program called True Character.

This month, we’re talking about courtesy, showing kindness, and using our respectful manners to those around us. For the adults, we talk about it being consideration for the people in our lives, taking into account what they think and feel.

And I’m Master H, owner and chief instructor here at the studio. I have two master’s degrees in education. And we’ve developed this program to best meet the needs of our youngest students who are three or four years old. And our oldest students, who 83 or 84 years old.

Good Manners at Home

And like I said, we’re talking about courtesy this month. And last week, we talked about what courtesy looked like. I shared a story about my kids demonstrating courtesy in a restaurant.

And this week we’re talking about good manners and bad manners. But I think that depends sometimes on where we are.

So for example, let’s talk about courtesy with our family. If we’re sitting at the dinner table and we’re demonstrating courtesy, what would we say? What would we do?

ome of those seven magic words of respect might come out, “Please, will you pass the bread?” Or, “Thank you. This was really delicious.” Or if somebody has passed you something you’ve asked for, “You are welcome.”

sing those kinds of words. Those are our good manners. Those are positive ways to show courtesy.

Bad Manners at Home

What shouldn’t we do? Chew with our mouth full, quite possibly. Interrupt somebody when they’re talking, definitely. Demand, “Pass the butter, please.”

That’s not really showing kindness, especially if you think about your tone of voice. Maybe you say, “Please pass the butter.” And that is the exact opposite of courtesy.

Now, that’s kind of bad manners. Yes, you used the seven magic word of respect, but you didn’t use it in a respectful manner.

So when we want to encourage our younger students to use these words, we want, as more mature figures, we want to model the behavior that we’re looking for.

Good Manners at School

Let’s talk about in the classroom or in the workplace.

Good respect, good courtesy would again be using some of those words. “Do you have a stapler? Could you please hand it to me? May I borrow?” Notice it’s may, not can I. “May I borrow a pen?”

Raising your hands to ask a question, for my younger students in the classroom, “May I please get help with this?” Coming up with those kinds of questions or recognizing what’s needed.

Offering to go and get some of the supplies that are needed for the meeting or the lesson or whatever it might be. That could be a courtesy as well.

Bad Manners at School

What would be bad manners? What would be not so nice things to do?

Talking out in class, not raising your hands, chewing gum quite loudly, walking over to a fellow colleague and just taking their desk supplies without even acknowledging them or acknowledging that you needed it. Any one of those kinds of things.

We all kind of know what that looks like when it’s not courtesy and we forget what courtesy does look like at times.

Courtesy in the Studio

Here in the karate school, we talk about making sure that things get put away.

We teach the kids how to put their supplies away when they’re done. The square pads, some of the students use special dots that they sit on, sometimes we have what we call pork chop pads, they’re kind of a circular pad with a handle, wave masters, those kinds of things. So we talk about putting them back where they go.

And even as instructors, we’ll be like, “Okay, please do this. Please put it there.” So that, again, we’re modeling the behavior we would like to see in the other students.

That is our biggest focus when it comes to teaching courtesy, because we don’t want to see them slip into any kind of bad manners.

Bowing in the karate school is a courtesy. It’s showing kindness and respect to the space.

And each place can have similar respectful courtesy things that we do. And each place can have different ones.

I’m not going to bow as I walk into target. However, I am going to still use my please, my thank yous. I am still going to make eye contact with somebody who might be talking with me, even if it’s just the cashier at the checkout. I am going to make sure I put things back where I found them, instead of being like, “Oh, I don’t like this dress,” and dropping it on the floor.

Those kinds of courtesy things are things that just make our world a better place.

Leading By Example

And so, as we’re going through, we want to make sure when it comes to courtesy, showing kindness, showing respect, using our good manners and showing consideration for those around us, that we model the behavior that we would like others to give to us.

When I was growing up, one of the phrases in my house was, “It’s not what you said, but it’s how you said it,” which goes along with courtesy.

Somebody hands you something, you’re not going to look at them and be like, “Thanks,” because that’s not really respectful and it’s not very sincere. But you would look at them and be like, “Thank you,” or, “Thanks. I appreciate that.” Some type of more friendly voice.

So that plays a role in our good manners versus our bad manners.

And as we continue through, we’re going to keep having discussions about what courtesy looks like.

And I have a feeling those magic words of respect will show back up again and again.

Thanks, and I’ll see you on the mat!


True Balance Karate was founded in 2012 by Master Sue and Paul Helsdon.

We offer kids karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up. These lessons are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need — specialized for their age group — for school excellence and later success in life.

Our adult martial arts training is a complete adult fitness and conditioning program for adults who want to lose weight, get (and stay) in shape, or learn self-defense in a supportive environment.

Instructors can answer questions or be contacted 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week at 630-663-2000. You can also contact us here