Chapter 6 Teaching my children manners…

“Give a man a fish he will eat for a day. 

Teach a man to fish he will eat for a lifetime.”

– Chinese Proverb


Thank you card from the 1st graders at St. Bernard

Thank you card from the 1st graders at St. Bernard

Hey God, it’s me Lori,

Please help me to teach my children respect,

kindness and compassion for all of your people

Teaching my children manners…

It seems like a little thing that may not effect many aspects of a child’s life.  Have you ever noticed a child to whom manners have not been instilled?  I truly believe that if you teach your child manners at a young age they will learn the value of respect, kindness, consideration and compassion.

Before I was married and I still lived at home with my parents, a new family moved in next door to us.  I was in college at that time.  They had one little boy at the time he was about 8 years old.  He came over to my house not knowing us at all and knocked on the door.  I answered the door and he politely introduced himself as my next door neighbor.  He said he was happy to meet me and wanted to know my name.  I told him and also told him if he would ever like to come over to the house he could swim in our pool in the backyard.  He said “Thank you Mam it was nice to meet you.”  The conversation may have only lasted 2 minutes but it left an impression in my mind and atttitude that has and will last a lifetime.  That child was so gracious and polite that when I closed the door I said to myself I will strive to raise my children to be that polite because all else will follow.

I tell people all the time my children’s first sentence is always “May I please be excused from the table?”  People laugh they think I am joking but I am not joking.  If you ask to be excused from the table you are being considerate to those still eating.  At my house if people are still eating you wait until everyone is finished even if you are 2 years old.  This happens at breakfast, lunch, snack and dinnertime.  My children do this any time we are out to eat as well, it has become a habit.  It shows respect for the people they are eating with.  They are also learning how to take turns listening to each other.  At the table each person gets a turn to listen to the other person’s stories of the day.  I constantly ask one question but I forewshadow it with “I am going to ask you all a question think about the answer before you say it and I will go around the table one at a time.”  This is teaching them a few things; to reflect on their answer before they just blurt it out, to wait and listen patiently to the other person first and that their voice deserves to be heard by all the people at the table because they too are worthy of that respect.  It is amazing how little lessons such as this can reinforce self worth to a child.  If they have the floor to speak and their siblings and parents are quiet and listening they know that they are important to others.  It is also teaching them consideration of others feelings by really listening to what others have to say.  This is my over all goal for the table however my children have no where close to perfected these skills.  We have children that talk over each other and get in trouble for doing so, these are things we constantly reinforce each time we are at the table and there have been rare occasions when no one has been corrected that is one of the things that helps to encourage us to keep it up daily.

They must say “May I please have.. and thank you or no thank you or yes please”  These are not options in my house for my children or those I babysit, these are requirements.  Have you ever heard a 2 year old say “May I please have some milk mommy?”  there is nothing sweeter to my ears.  They can learn it very early in fact some of the first words I teach are please and thank you.  These core essentials teach a child that everything in life is not there for their consumption you have to ask nicely to receive what you want and sometimes the answer is NO.  Which is another part of teaching manners, how to not throw a fit when you don’t get what you want, self-control, but that is another chapter all together.

I don’t know how many people have commented on how polite my children are but there have been many through out the years.  It’s not that I have perfect little children that never test the limits.  It’s that I taught them as soon as they could speak manners.  They also witness their older siblings manners and mine as well.  If you decide to teach your child at a young age it will become one of the most wonderful habits they will ever learn.  If they are polite to others how can they be rude?  If they are kind with their words to others how could they ever hurt another person on purpose?  If they are well mannered, I hope, the people they come in contact with will feel respected by them. Think back in your life when you have encountered children, teenagers or adults who have said “Yes mam, No sir, thank you, please etc. don’t those people stand out to you?  It’s because not enough parents are teaching their children manners.  Somewhere along the way I think some parents decided it wasn’t worth the battle of instilling these habits.

  When I teach my children manners I don’t say just do it because I said so.  I use Jesus Christ as an example and often refer back to God.  Whether you believe Christ is the savior or not you have to know he was a good human here on earth.  That is the example I want my children to follow.  So instead of saying because I said so, try teaching your child about Jesus or another exceptional person who lived their lives for the good of mankind.  Talking about another person that your child already loves and admires would help if you can think of someone you know well that has very good manners, a grandparent, friend, aunt or uncle.  I think as moms it’s easy to say just do it.  However when you lay a foundation and it makes sense to a child they are more likely to understand and follow the rules because they are not empty but full of meaning.  For instance if my child asks me “Why do I have to say thank you”?  I have explained that saying thank you acknowledges that you  are happy that another person has given something to you.  It makes the giver feel that the receiver liked it, whatever it is a gift or food or just a compliment.  You are acknowledging the other person means enough to  you to say thank you.  When I receive a thank you card especially the ones I am not expecting like the one in the picture above, I am personally so moved that others really appreciate what I do enough to take the time to let me know in a significant way.  I will keep that card to remind me that those children and teachers cared about what I did that year.  There is so much caring and respect wrapped up in manners.

Manners may seem like a little thing unless you have crossed paths with a child who screams at their parents.  Then it seems like a worthy cause.  As a mom you must personally decide for yourself what is a priority and what is not worth fighting for.  Manners to me is a cause worth fighting daily for.  If your child is well mannered and learns to understand why it is so important it will help to define who they are as a person.  Like I always say if you teach your children manners the rest will follow, respect, consideration and compassion…

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