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My dad taught me how to say “No” and “Yes”

My mother and father tried to teach me some manners, how to behave at home and anywhere else and the proper way to speak to my elders. It was not just “yes” or “no.” To my Dad it was always “yes sir” and “no sir” and “thank you mam, please.”

Slang was pretty well ruled out. I am not sure they could spell the words “etiquette”, “protocol” or “propriety” any better than I could or can. There was no such thing as “talking back” or “sassing your mother” which was almost as bad as robbing a bank and the penalty for doing so seemed to be worse.

Defining “etiquette”, Will Cuppy, called it “Behaving yourself a little better than is absolutely essential.”

In my teenage years and even before there were always new words being passed around from kid to kid, teen to teen and if I ever uttered a word, Mom and Dad either one did not approve, I would be called on it.

That silly old excuse, “everybody,” did not include me in anything my parents did not approve. I was theirs and responsible to them. They had an approved dictionary for me.

Bill Ellis is a syndicated columnist, and convention and conference speaker on every continent.

Bill Ellis is a syndicated columnist, and convention and conference speaker on every continent.

That applied to profanity, cursing, smoking and alcohol, which for anything other than a sore muscle was prohibited. I never wanted to say or do anything that would embarrass or disappoint my parents. They taught me lessons that saved me from big trouble.

I can remember hearing some boys who thought they were “big time tough guys,” refer to their dad as “the old man” or to their mother as “the old woman.” Had I said anything like that and Dad heard about it, I would probably still be pulling splinters from my posterior area.

Dad taught me how to deal with bullies, a problem we hear about in many schools and in the workplace. He believed bullies were cowards. One evening he watched as the “town bully” pushed and shoved me and I did nothing. It was then that I heard his loud whistle. I looked up and he motioned me home. As last, I was rescued.

I arrived at home feeling relieved, but that was all quickly dissolved. Dad said, “I’ve been watching. That bully is making you afraid of him. You go back to that play area and if begins again pushing and shoving you around, you whip him or I’ll whip you.” That was the last thing I wanted.

A few minutes later the fight was on. I won by a unanimous decision. The bully never caused me any more trouble. We became friends. Dad had brought me to a decision to say “no” to the community bully. We never again had a problem.

There may be many things going on in your community, county, state and nation that you and others need to say a strong, “NO” to. We commonly hear, “Silence gives consent.”

By word and example, I could trust my dad – he always meant what he said. Jesus when forbidding oaths and profanity said, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’ ” (Matthew 5:37).

We need to be parents who can be trusted to mean what we say to our children. Children like parents should always tell the truth.

Pythagoras, 582-500 B.C., the famous Greek philosopher, said, “The oldest, shortest words – ‘yes’ and ‘no’ – are those which require the most thought.” John Wilson, a writer of Scotland, wrote, “The knowledge of words is the gate of scholarship.”

Learn enough, know enough, experience enough to say what you mean and mean what you say. That will add significance to your life and those to whom you speak.

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