Monday, December 21, 2009

The gift of good manners

I have been pondering what is one of my biggest pet peeves lately and I was wondering what others thoughts were on the subject that is the focus of my pondering. The peeve is the minuscule number of parents teaching their children the social graces. By no means, do I think that a preschooler should have the ability to hold their own in a lengthy conversation at a party but it has become painfully apparent that there is a breakdown in parenting when it comes to the instruction of greetings when meeting adults in addition to other appropriate polite salutations and responses. "Hello Mrs Smith or Hello Mrs Lori" is how I have my children address adults but I know way too many parents that do not instruct their children to even say hello to the adults and other children that they are meeting, let alone instruct them in giving a proper greeting. Sometimes I will observe a parent instructing the child to say "Hello" and when the child does not, just ignores the opportunity for a teachable moment and moves along in their own conversation.

How about parents helping their children to assist other children when joining in a group or activity such as "Katie, please say hello to Jane and after you do so can you please introduce her to Ethan?"

Greeting and manners such as good morning, please, thank you, excuse me, may I, may I please be excused, etc. seem to have been abandoned by so many and I really think it is just one more symptom of the breakdown of polite society. I see more and more children, much older than my two four year old's that do have this type of training at all. They brush past you as if you do not even merit their attention. It is unbelievable to me! What does being a parent really mean to people? Are we not supposed to be our childrens first and most important teachers?

I take that responsibility seriously as did my parents, who I feel taught my sister and I very well. It has served us both throughout our lives. We are both able to handle any business or social situation gracefully. My sister and I have passed this on to Justin and his cousin Sam already and I am teaching my little ones now. When they see people that we know they always say "Hello" politely without even being asked and when we meet new people I prompt them in the greetings already discussed, if they do not initiate themselves.

So, what are your thoughts on this subject? While you are pondering that one I will "Thank you" in advance for giving me those thoughts :)


Tammie said...

Wow! So you're in the same place I am!

I will admit that I am not perfect when it comes to Erin's manners. My MIL calls me a drill sargeant, but none of her grandchildren or great grandchildren (other than Erin) use manners. I remind her of that each time Erin is told that her behavior &/or manners are not up to par. But when would you like me to start teaching her? At 14 when she should know better?

Have I been remiss at times? Yes. I'm sure that I have.

In my classroom, the children are taught please, may I, thank you, you're welcome & G-d bless you. Too many of them have entered my classroom not knowing these basics.

Carol and Taylor said...


I so agree with all you are saying. Another manners peeve of mine?

I have a friend who allows her children (8 and 10), to bring and then play their nintendos at birthday parties, to play them at the dinner table, and to play them even when the group is singing happy birthday. Blows my mind.

Wanda said...

This is a huge issue with me. I am one hundred percent in agreement with you. I work at proper greetings with my 6 year old (YES - SIX!!)all the time. She squirms and says she's shy and doesn't know what to say. I've repeated everytime - "just do what Mommie does" but it's a continuing struggle.

I'm interested in hearing what other have to add on this. I'll be back to check.

Thanks for starting this conversation.

Wanda (At Last...)

Life with JJ, Starr and Spice said...

Tammie, I know that this is a huge thing for you as well and I really respect you for it!!

Carol, that one is another of my big peeve's...gets me crazy!

Wanda, you are a good mama for modeling good behavior for her. I was painfully shy as well but practice really helps children so much. She will do it on her own at some point; of this I am sure!

Thanks for the feedback :)

Teresa said...

I'm with Wanda. Peter has no trouble with manners (usually), but Caroline didn't like strangers from the day the put her in my arms and we still struggle with her saying hello to adults or children. If I try to encourage her, she just digs in her heels and it only succeeds in making the adult uncomfortable. Like Wanda, I am trying to model the behavior. She's getting better, but I'm hoping she will do it on her own. She's already come a long way in a few years.

Now as for bringing video games to a birthday party?? No way! Peter had a friend over for a sleepover once and he started to play on the computer. I put the kabosh on that and told him that he needs to play with his friend, not on the computer. He hasn't done that since.

tweeters said...

FWIW, my mom is really a very kind and polite lady, but a little socially awkward. I understood this growing up and it was particularly apparent when I was in middle and high school. It was hard for me to know how to act appropriately socially since I didn't feel like I wanted to immulate my mom. I actually tended to avoid those awkward social situations even though I'm not typically described as shy. For example, I'd cross the hallway, pretend not to see an acquaintance, etc. That isn't to say that I wasn't able to hold normal polite conversations, just that it didn't really come naturally to me since my main role model seemed to struggle in this area. What really helped was joining the gymnastics team and being continually introduced to and introducing myself to new people. It can get awkward fast, but I learned quickly how to navigate a conversation with a stranger.

I still think my mom is a little awkward, but she's working as an office manager for a chiropractic clinic, dealing with different people all day long. I really think this has helped her at her age (50!!!!) become more comfortable socially. It is tricky business, isn't it?

All that said, I hope I can model and enforce polite conversation for my hypothetical children. I'd rather they didn't have to learn it at an older age, like me or my mom. It's way less awkward when a 5 year old says something "wrong" than when an adult does.

Tammie said...

Wait, you ladies actually expect your children to leave their DS at home!? And have a conversation!? Or even join in on the happenings!? No way! ;-O

Erin has a DSi that is allowed to go almost everywhere she goes. However, when we go to someone's home or a restaurant or any kind of event, the DSi stays in the car. I absolutely don't understand why parents allow those things to take over.

If your child is plugged into the electronics more than the ocassion, that is a very sad statement. Mealtime - at home, someone else's home or at a restaurant is time for conversation - another lost art. Erin has been taught how to hold a conversation even at her young age. What the heck are people thinking about!?

Anonymous said...

loving this post.. yes yes yes!! it's so important. i repeat myself a hundred times a day.. to make my 4 yr old say pls and thank u, ect.. but bottom line children learn from their parents so we must set the example! thank u for posting this..

Vivian M said...

We have been teaching Kerri to be polite and have manners since her adoption. She (more often than not) has to be reminded, especially when she is in a hurry to do something.
Please, thank you, excuse me, etc. are a given. The harder ones to teach are losing with grace and playing fair, since Kerri is extremely competitive, and she seems unusually concerned with being the best/winning at everything.
I come from a time when children "were seen and not heard" and had to sit like porcelain statues in the presence of adults. I am not raising my daughter that way, but I do insist on good manners. There are lots of great age appropriate books for kids on good manners, and no reason why a parent should not spend the time with their child and teach them well - instead of allowing the TV, a computer, DS, etc do it for them.

Shari McConahay said...

Thanks for the post Lori! I totally agree with you and the manners thing being so important and helping our children in life. It has been a real challenge for us with Chianna since she is still just learning English at an age when most of her peers are much more far along with the intricacies of social interaction. But it is an important reminder for all of us to keep vigilant on the manners front!

Tamara said...

We always talk about good manners, good behavior, polite behavior- etc. It amazes me that people let their kids run around like wild things. I just "love it" when other parents say things like- "how do you get them to say thank you(or please, yes/no sir/ma'm)-
I always tell those parents- it's not an option- it is required and they know it. I don't want my kids to be the kids no one wants to come to a party because of behavior. I have friends whose children are so ill-behaved that other frieds don't want them to come to events.
Some don't parent- they want to be pals.