Character Corner: Courtesy– musings, quotes, and parenting tips from


Courtney grew up in a strict authoritarian family in which children (who should be seen not heard) addressed adults by their titles and last names:  Mr. Jameson, Pastor Samuels and so on.


As a young adult, she often found herself anxious in the presence of authority figures and had a hard time calling her professors by their first names even when they asked her to.  She wants her eight year old son Tony to be more self assured – to feel confident that his opinions and interests will matter to others.

She has always introduced other adults by their first names, and she encourages him to speak up in adult company.  But lately she is aware of him barging in to adult conversations.  He asks for favors as if he is entitled to them and often forgets his thank yous.  She is becoming embarrassed for him.

What Courtesy?

Courtesy is the gift of treating others with warmth and respect. It means according dignity to people by being considerate, responsive, and kind in our dealings with them. It means we are sensitive to their feelings and needs, and also how they may misinterpret our behavior.

Courtesy is the outward manifestation of an inward humility that recognizes how very much others give to us and inconvenience themselves for us.  We respond to their generosity with a generosity of our own. Courtesy facilitates successful interaction and negotiation, laying a foundation for understanding and harmony.

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

There is a courtesy of the heart; it is allied to love. From its springs the purest courtesy in the outward behavior.
–Johann Wolfgang Goethe

Politeness is the art of choosing among one’s real thoughts.
–Abel Stevens

Politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax.
–Arthur Schopenhauer

It is better to have too much courtesy than too little, provided you are not equally courteous to all, for that would be injustice.
–Baltasar Gracian

Life is short, but there is always time enough for courtesy.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bringing it home to your children

  1. Courtesy need not make your child feel small or undeserving.  Insist that children be courteous and respectful – and treat them with courtesy and respect.
  2. Quietly take the time to point out when someone has done your child a favor they didn’t have to do.  Help them to see the give and take of everyday life, and coach them in how to respond to it.
  3. Let your child know that some kinds of respect must be earned—that a scholar has worked hard for his expertise—that not all opinions are created equal.
  4. Cultivate a sense of gratitude in your child.  When you do little favors, or arrange special experiences say, “Who loves you” with a teasing smile.
  5. Even during hard times, be explicit in pointing out life’s riches. People who feel blessed also feel generous—in giving thanks, giving courtesy, and giving of themselves.

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