Nice Voice

There’s a joke about a little boy who gets put to bed early. The next morning he asks his parents …

which friends were over last night. The parents are astounded–how did the little boy know they’d had guests over? “Because,” Junior replies, “Mommy was laughing at all of Daddy’s jokes.”


Woodcut of family dining, photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Whoops! There’s little in this world more honest or uninfluenced than the candor of a kid. So when that candor casts a doubtful glance at our manners, it’s time to sit up and pay heed! Why is it we let our manners slip so much around the people we love? Shouldn’t we save our best and kindest selves for the ones who matter most?

It’s a trap we’ve all fallen into at one point or another. If your child or spouse has ever wondered aloud why you don’t use your “company voice” or “phone voice” at home, you’re guilty right along with the rest of us. But common though the problem may be, good etiquette (like charity) begins at home. Let’s set the example and make the homestead a pleasanter place all around, don’t you think?

Instead of this: “JUNIOR! Clean up your room this instant or I’ll start pretending I don’t know you!”

Say this: “JUNIOR! Please clean up your room this instant or I’ll start pretending I don’t know you!”

Big improvement, right?


Well, okay, it’s a work in progress, and manners go farther than “please” and “thank you.” But take that first step, however small, today. It’s nice to bring out our affable and generous selves around friends and strangers, but our families deserve our best. Or as Maya Angelou once said, “If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love.”

How are you minding your p’s and q’s at home today? Or do you think family time is for letting it all hang out?

  1. Ruth Hower says:

    One of the most important things within a family is respect for one another. I’ve been the object of embarrassing remarks about me by my mate, and have also witnessed him speaking kindly to others but snapping and talking down to me. I don’t even know how to make him understand that it cuts like a knife. He’s a truly good person except for this flaw that has caused me to cry without tears many times. I’ve asked him to please talk with me the way he does with others, but it hasn’t changed – he just doesn’t get it. Sometimes I wish I could give him a taste of his own medicine, but it just isn’t in me. Everyone should think about the damage that’s done once unkind, disrespectful words are said – they can never be taken back! They may be forgiven, but never forgotten.

    • Ellen Andersen says:

      Thank you for this, Ruth. It was a reminder of my not-so-stellar at times attitude towards my Mom who has moved in with me. It’s sad that we often don’t give the same respect to our own family that we do to our friends.

  2. Dianne says:

    “You are always so kind and respectful whenever you speak to others”. “Why would you then want to embarrass me in front of others”. “It really hurts me”.

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