I have been contrasting each virtue with a near quality that is not quite the same thing. However, I find no parallel word for “civility.” I think that we recognize that either someone is being civil or they aren’t. Even if the person is gritting their teeth while they are speaking, we still can see that they are being civil.
Civility prospers at home when children observe adults speaking to each other without mean words or violent actions. Adults teach children by saying things like “we don’t talk like that in this house.” Another commonly heard phrase is “if you can’t say something nice about a person don’t say anything at all.” Neither of these changes a child’s thoughts; rather each is teaching civility, a way to get along in the world.
Civility continues to be modeled in schools where even the youngest are taught to take turns and to speak kindly to one another. Bullying is the opposite of civility, and children learn that it is not allowed at school. Name calling similarly brings rebukes from teachers.
The United States at the moment is headed by a president who lacks any semblance of civility. Some actually applaud him for this very lack, believing that civility is unimportant. And some of us find ourselves stooping to uncivil speech and behavior as a result. While we cannot use our political climate as an example of civility for our children, we can certainly talk about why it is not OK. We can’t explain why adults are acting in ways we won’t let children act. But we know that we won’t let the bad examples influence our continuing efforts to impart civility to our young.