It seems that for many generations, children were raised to be much more ‘polite’ than our children. Today, “Little Miss Manners” or “Etiquette Classes” are not as readily available. Are parents these days less strict when it comes to manners or has the focus of parenting just changed? Perhaps a little of both.
How much of our focus needs to be spent on teaching our children manners? Have parents lost focus when it comes to teaching basic etiquette?
I came across an article where parents were using external resources to teach their children manners. I am not quite sure how I feel about this whole notion. Is it necessary for parents to outsource these services or should they relax and have faith that with encouragement and proper exposure, their children will learn appropriate manners?
So what are busy parents to do?
I am a big believer in role modeling for our children, regardless of the type of behavior or skill we are trying to instill. Much of what children learn from their parents and other adults in their life is not ever spoken to them out loud. Children learn by observation, and internalizing that which they see and hear.
As parents, we must be weary of this notion, as this does not always work in our favor. Children are like sponges, and they absorb much of what is around them. It is naïve for parents to think that children are only partially listening, or have selective hearing, etc. So we need to ensure that children hear what we wish them to hear and witness behaviors we want them to learn. In order for this to happen, we must say it out loud, role model, and act that way ourselves.
That being said, kids are kids and they need reminders. Lots of reminders. If my children forget their manners, they are casually reminded. Over and over again, to the point where we wonder if they have temporarily lost their hearing and if any of this information is actually being absorbed.
For instance, in our home, there is no leaving the table without permission. At the end of every meal, our children are expected to clear their plates and bring what they can forward to the sink. If they ‘forget’ what our expectations are, and kid you not this happens at least once per day, instead of formally being reminded to use their manners, we pose the question back to them. As they get up from the table and start to head for the TV or DS, we might say to them. “What do you need to do first?” The question is a rhetorical one. They know the answer. We know they know the answer. But it places them in the position where they understand what our expectations are, and that these expectations do not change just because we haven’t asked for anything directly.
The way I see things, we need to pick and choose our battles with our kids. When it comes to manners, decide which ones are most important to you. Make a big deal about those. The rest of the time, have faith in your role modeling as parents, and give your children room to grow and learn on their own the importance of manners as they get older.
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