Manners of the Heart
When teachers and parents voiced concerns about the unruliness in my twin sons’ elementary school cafeteria, I offered to visit one day a week to talk to the children about the importance of manners. Having grown up in the Deep South, I was reared in the belief that manners are just as important as a good education. Little did I know, this would be the beginning of my life’s work.
Remembering to put a "napkin in your lap" was easy when our students used bright red paper napkins. Puppets with spaghetti-filled mouths made it fun for students to realize why they shouldn't talk with their mouths full. The program quickly expanded beyond the cafeteria and into the classroom through the introduction of communication skills and everyday courtesies. While the kids were having fun, teachers and parents were pleased with the results! What began as a once-a-week commitment grew into several days a week and continued for five years until my sons moved on to middle school.
The first week of middle school, disaster hit our home. Just when I thought “one of these days” had finally come after years of school and fellowships and training, the dreams for a bright future and family togetherness walked out the door. My husband made a decision to leave home, which left me and the boys devastated, forcing me to begin searching for a new direction for my life.
The success of the manners program continued spreading. Almost weekly, I was asked to teach manners to Girl Scouts, children’s clubs and church groups. While redesigning my own heart, I became passionate about unlocking the hearts of children. When inquiries from other local schools started pouring in, the realization that the passion of my heart to instill manners in the hearts of children was to be my life’s work, I began writing a curriculum that became known as Manners of the Heart. The title was taken from an understanding of manners from my childhood – “an attitude of the heart that is self-giving, not self-serving; manners come from the heart, not from memorizing a set of rules.”
Incorporated in December 2002 as a non-profit organization, Manners of the Heart® has grown from the passion of my heart—to raise children of the next generation with not only head knowledge to lead, but heart knowledge to lead in the right direction—to a thriving emprise that is bringing a return of respect and civility to our society.
I authored Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World (Simon & Schuster, 2008) and Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World (Simon & Schuster, 2006, 2013) currently being released in a new edition with a small group study guide.
Book sales help to fund the programs of Manners of the Heart® with all proceeds directly supporting our mission.
Today Manners of the Heart is being used in schools and homes across the country. As a speaker, I use music, humor, story-telling and practical suggestions to help parents and educators grasp the critical importance of life lessons. Stressing that education must begin in the heart – in the heart of the educator (parents, teachers and grandparents) as well as in the heart of the child – Manners of the Heart® is determined to bring the old standards of respectfulness into a new era.