Thursday, September 16, 2010


By Geri Copitch, guest blogger

I’m always surprised when someone compliments me on my sons’ manners. “Josh is such a polite young man,” or “We’re always glad to have Ethan over, he’s so polite!” Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted to hear that my children use their manners, somewhere. But really, what did they do that was so special?

When I’ve asked these parents they’ve said things like, “He thanked me for having him over.” or “He always says ‘please.’” Wow, to me that all seems pretty basic! Didn’t we all learn to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’? Don’t parents still teach these basic words to their children? Apparently not.

I was tutoring a pre-teen not too long ago, and before we started he turned to his mom and demanded, “Get me a glass of water.” What surprised me almost as much as his lack of common courtesy, was that his mom didn’t say anything about the way he spoke to her - but went and got the glass of water! And let me assure you, she’s not a meek parent who tries to avoid confrontation.

Then again, all one has to do is listen to how many parents speak to their kids.

Take out the garbage.
Get me the paper.
Go brush your teeth.
Do your homework now!

They converse with their children in barked out demands. Now you may be asking why this should matter, after all, they’re adults, and kids are supposed to do what adults tell them. It matters because your kids learn an awful lot by watching what you’re doing. All you have to do is watch your little girl play with her dolls and you’ll hear your words come out of her mouth. Or watch your little boy use a blanket as a cape and fly around like his favorite super hero. Children imitate what they see and hear going on around them. This process is called modeling.

Modeling is a powerful learning tool. Teachers use it all the time to teach new skills. If we want our children to use ‘good manners’ we have to show them how to use these manners. Some parents feel that they lose authority with their children if they use the word ‘please’, as in “Please take out the garbage.” Why would you lose anything? You’re still the parent. Some parents argue, “But if I ask, David might say ‘no’!” Yep, he might, and then you’ll have to deal with the issue of why he won’t do his part to help out the family.

We are asking our children to participate in being part of our family. They will do what they want to do, regardless of how you ask them to get the job done. That’s human nature. But along the way we can teach them how nice caring people, like you, get their needs met. And the social niceties of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ go a long way in smoothing the way. If you want polite children, you have to model politeness, day after day. Your children are listening.

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