Teaching and Displaying Manners: Just an Old-Fashioned Custom? (page 2)
At the conclusion of an evening presentation I gave for parents about "raising resilient children," I invited the audience to ask questions. The questions posed were very relevant to the topic I had addressed and ones that I am accustomed to hearing. They included:
"What do I do about sibling rivalry?"
"I have three children each with different kinds of temperament. How do I meet their unique needs, including having appropriate expectations for them, without each of them feeling I am not being fair?"
"My husband and I have very different discipline styles. He feels I don't set limits on our children and I let them get away with doing anything they want. I feel he's too strict. How do we resolve that problem?"
"How do I get my daughter to do her homework?"
"My kids never help out at home. They expect me to pick up their dirty clothes. What can I do so that they will be more cooperative?"
"My eight-year-old son is shy. He told me that sometimes he felt lonely. I keep telling him he has to make an effort to make friends, but he says he just doesn't care. I'm at a loss to know what to say."
It is not unusual after a Q&A period with the entire audience for parents to come up to speak with me privately. Understandably, some are hesitant to share concerns they have about their children in the presence of neighbors. Others have said to me that they tend to be shy and don't like to speak in public. Still others begin with the statement, "I didn't want to bring this up in front of other people because it might sound silly." In my experience these "silly" questions are not silly at all and are actually on the minds of most parents. Such was the case at a presentation I offered last year. A couple approached me. Since they were the last people on line I had a little more time to speak with them.
They told me that they were parents of a four-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son. The mother spoke first.
"This might seem like a silly question, but since you spoke about teaching kids to be respectful, do you think it's okay to expect a four-year-old to say words like 'please' and 'thank you'?"
I replied, "I certainly think it's okay." Then I smiled and said with some levity, "Without wishing to sound too much like a psychologist, I'm curious why you're asking.
The mother said once again, "I hope this doesn't sound silly, but we've noticed that some of our friends don't seem to ask their children to use polite words like 'please' or 'thank you' or 'excuse me.' As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I'm asking is the other day a friend was over with her five-year-old daughter. When my daughter asked for a glass of juice she didn't use the word 'please.' I said to my daughter in a nice way, 'How do we ask?' My daughter said, 'Mommy, can I have a glass of juice, please.' When our daughters were both out of the room, my friend said something that surprised me."
I asked, "What's that?"
"She said that she didn't insist her daughter say 'please' or 'thank you' since young kids really don't understand what that means."
I wondered, "What do you think?"
The father said, "My wife and I discussed it and we both think that it's important for kids to be polite and respectful. But we wondered if we're being overbearing when we remind our kids to say these words. We're also wondering if our kids are just saying those words out of rote and don't understand what the words really mean. Also, we notice that a number of our friends' children rarely say 'please' or 'thank you' or similar words."
I responded, "You've brought up some good questions. There are several things I want to say, but I have a question first. You used the word 'overbearing.' I wasn't certain what you meant by that. Have your kids said or done something after you remind them to say 'please' or 'thank you' that makes you feel you've been overbearing?"
Permission to reprint granted by Dr. Robert Brooks. All rights reserved.
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