Recently I took the children to my friend Jane's house, whose daughters are away at college. Her husband was traveling and mine was out, so it was us ladies and my children. My children happen to adore this friend, Jane. We parked in the driveway, and I sent Brody to the front door with a bottle of wine, which he presented to Jane as she greeted him, while I got the others out of the van.
Jane made pasta and meatballs. The children played in the bonus room while Jane and I chatted, and I helped her get ready for dinner. When dinner was ready, I called the children upstairs to the table. Everyone sat in their seats, used their utensils, drank their milk, and ate their pasta... in an exceptionally civilized fashion. I vacillated between relief and pride, but also sighed a big sigh of relief that we"d be welcomed back another time. They each asked to be excused when they were done (except Treyton, who barely talks), and they thanked Jane for dinner before they headed back to the bonus room to play.
The entire visit was wonderful. Jane sent me an email the next day complimenting me on how well behaved and well-mannered the children are. Woohoo!
My children behave well in public. But I seem to field a multitude of compliments from folks, even from perfect strangers, whether it's at church, school or the grocery store, which I initially found perplexing. It wasn't until I was at a Boy Scout dinner function that I began to realize just how well-mannered my children really are, comparatively speaking. I offered a slice of grilled cheese to each Boy Scout, down a long line at a breakfast style bar. From one end to the other, each of the ten Scouts gave me a "no" or a "yea" answer (not y-e-s!), with the exception of two boys: Brody and another boy. Frankly, I was dismayed that parents do not set higher expectations and standards for their children, particularly with others.
I've taught my children what I feel are simple manners:
- When I put a child on the "naughty chair" and we have our post-naughty chat, I say, "do you understand me?" and the answer is "yes ma'am."
- If I ask a question with an offer, the answer is either "yes please" or "no thank you."
- If someone wants something, they ask, "may I have such and such please?"
- When my son meets someone for the first time, he shakes hands and says, "pleased to meet you."
- When my son plays a sport or attends a birthday party, he is to find the coach or host at the end, shake hands and thank that person.
- When someone belches or toots, we say "excuse me," and we respond "certainly." Admittedly, this is not without laughter at a sudden bodily function!
- When we need to move around someone in a tight space, we say, "excuse me."
- When we sneeze, we say "God Bless you."
It never occurred to me that not all parents teach their children simple manners that I find so basic and so fundamental, until I realized that my children seem to be an anomaly. This should be the norm!
Imagine my reaction when my son, barely two years old, after I changed his poopy diaper and slathered his sore bum with cream and with a matter-of-fact proclamation, "fankyoumama!" My pleasure, little man.
My children have also learned by our example. My husband and I treat the children with the same respect and manners that we expect of them. And the return on our investment is proving to be priceless. May I please ask you to do the same? Thank you ever so much.