“We talk so much about leaving a better planet to our kids that we forget about leaving better kids to this planet. Educate your children! Say no to them every once in a while.” ~ Unknown
When I read this, it immediately struck a chord with me. It seems far too often parents are so busy with day to day life and other distractions that they are neglecting an important part of their child’s upbringing. Parenting has changed a lot since many of us were kids and I say thank goodness. In today’s society it is no longer appropriate to hit, or spank your child. The “strap” is a threat that kids don’t fear or feel on the behinds today. However, many other things seem to have fallen by the way-side which perhaps should not have. There is one element in particular that concerns me – an element that appears to have snuck out the back door and run off without notice of many parents today.
I am talking about respect – the kind that comes from good behaviour and manners. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about using the terms Mr. and Mrs., although I’ll do feel it is a good idea for your children to address elders in such a manner as to show respect…but that could be a whole other post. I am talking about several forms of respect. It seems to me that many children are lacking in respect and it is evident in their behavior. Why is this? Well, I’m afraid to say that for the most part it is because their parents never taught them that they must be respectful.
While the world today is a much more casual place than in the days of our childhood, there is no reason that we must be casual about respecting others. Proper behavior, also known as manners, can go along way to making our world a better place and our children better people. Manners are important but unfortunately it appears as if many of today’s parents missed that chapter in the modern day parenting manual.
Here are some basic manners which I think should not be overlooked:
- Saying “please” and “thank you”.
There is not much to say here. This is self evident and it is the one I think most parents do not miss, but it bears repeating on occasion – or several occasions as we parents are well aware.
2. Do not interrupt.
Nothing drives me crazier than a child who always interrupts others, except perhaps parents who allow their children to do it and become so absorbed in what their child is saying that they forget about what you were saying before their child hijacked the conversation.
3. Wait your turn.
This actually goes well with #2. Children who are taught they must wait their turn are also less likely to interrupt. The big problem I see here is that 99% of children today are never taught to wait, constantly pushing and posturing to be first and if your child has been taught to wait his/her turn, they will always be last. It is as if only pushy people get the brass ring – which is true in many cases as we all know that it takes a certain tenacity and determination to succeed in many areas today. These days so few children are taught to wait that parents can sometimes feel that if they teach their children to be polite and courteous they might be putting them at a disadvantage as they will never be first and will always be left behind in the dust of others.
4. Make eye contact when speaking with someone.
Looking someone in the eye when engaging in conversation is not only a sign of respect, but a sign of confidence. Many adults have trouble with this, but if you teach your child to make eye contact at an early age it will stand them in good stead down the road.
5. Ask to be excused before leaving the table.
I know that to many this might sound old fashioned, but it is just common courtesy. It can also be a good way to teach your child respect and restraint. It will not hurt your child to sit a bit longer at the table and engage in conversation there rather than running off to play their favourite video game on the PS3. Listening to and engaging in conversation with adults every once in awhile is good for a child. They will learn to feel comfortable around adults and will boost their confidence.
6. Wait until everyone is served before starting to eat.
Again, this is a lesson in restraint. I must say that it bothers me when anyone digs in before making sure that everyone is ready to begin eating. Too often I see that children are served first and then are not expected to wait before eating. They “hoover” their food and either ask for seconds before the parents have even had a chance to sit down, or worse, run off to play when others are just starting to eat. Not encouraging this manner, along with manner #5, will do little to encourage the all so important time for family conversation and connection around the table.
7. Say “I beg your pardon” rather than “what”.
“Huh” or “what” is such an ugly way to ask someone to repeat themselves. It might seem ok when they are kids – personally I dislike it at any age – but think about when they are older. Can you imagine you child interviewing to enter the program of their choice at a university and saying “huh” to the interviewee when they did not hear a question. No? Well then I suggest that you break them of this habit now…the sooner the better. Think they’ll grow out of it? I know some teenagers and adults who still respond this way and some kids who don’t even understand what it means if someone says “pardon” when requesting someone to repeat something that was said.
8. When a guest in someone’s home, ask permission to enter another area of the house or wait to be invited to enter.
This too is self evident. Being a guest in someone’s home does not entitle your child to roam free throughout the house. Some areas are private and closed doors and drawers are meant to stay that way.
9. Graciously eat what is put before you when eating away from home whether you like it or not.
Nothing is ruder than saying, “I don’t like this.” when you have a meal set before you. Yes we encourage our children to express themselves but a little restraint goes a long way here. Even if they don’t like it, they should at least try it. If your child really cannot stomach it then he/she should graciously say “no thank you”. I am always stunned how many parents cater to their child’s taste and prepare separate meals for them. This is a sure-fire way to make your kid a picky eater and poor dinner guest.
10. Teach your children that actions have consequences.
If I had a dollar for every time I have seen a child misbehave without any consequences, I would be a very wealthy woman. Many parents are pretty lackadaisical when it comes to disciplining their children. “Oh well, kids will be kids” is a phrase which is often tossed about, but it is more than that. It is an excuse which allows parents to not face the music and teach Johnny that his behavior is unacceptable.
While some mischievousness or poor behavior may seem inconsequential or even cute when they are little, if left unchecked it can lead to increasingly bad behavior, which is no longer is cute. Also, remember bigger kids mean bigger problems, so why not try to start them along the right path now. That is your job after all – to guide your children in life. You, as a parent, must provide them with the foundation and tools they need to help them become the best they can be. Isn’t that what we all want for our children? I do.
Note: All children presented here are lovely, well behaved kids, hamming it up for the camera.