Google+ Authentic Parenting: Just a Child

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Just a Child

written by Meredith Barth

We were having a nice, relaxing morning at the library yesterday when I made the mistake of picking up a parenting mag and stumbled across this gem called “25 Manners Kids Should Know.”  I started scoffing out loud, visibly twitching, and I'm pretty sure I felt the beginnings of a rage-induced coronary coming on.

Some of the highlights:
"Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are finished talking."
Translation: The things that matter to you are unimportant. Your needs are unimportant. Unless you are dying or in need of a ride to the hospital, you are utterly unimportant. After all, you're just a child.

"When you have any doubt about doing something, ask permission first. It can save you from many hours of grief later."
Translation: You are void of discernment, incapable of making safe, respectful choices. Acting on your own judgment will end in disaster. After all, you're just a child.

"The world is not interested in what you dislike. Keep negative opinions to yourself, or between you and your friends, and out of earshot of adults."
Translation: No one cares what you care about; the things that matter to you are trivial. Your opinions are unimportant. Negative feelings and opinions, warranted or not, are unacceptable. Bottle them up and don't bother anyone with them, especially not a superior adult. No one cares about your real feelings, only how you make them feel. After all, you're just a child.

"Even if a play or an assembly is boring, sit through it quietly and pretend that you are interested. The performers and presenters are doing their best."
Translation: Don't be authentic. There's no kind way to genuinely express yourself; it’s better to be fake and “nice.” What you think and feel is only okay if it's in line with what everyone around you says is okay. After all, you're just a child.

"If you come across a parent, a teacher, or a neighbor working on something, ask if you can help. If they say "yes," do so -- you may learn something new."
Translation: No matter what you're doing, it's unimportant compared to what an adult is doing. Any and all adults' priorities overrule your priorities at all times. You have nothing to offer, only something to learn. After all, you're just a child.

"When an adult asks you for a favor, do it without grumbling and with a smile."
Translation: No one cares about what you want or how you feel. You are not capable or worthy of choosing what you do with your time or how you respond to a request. If you are anything other than blindly obedient, you are an inconvenience. After all, you're just a child.

"When someone helps you, say "thank you." That person will likely want to help you again. This is especially true with teachers!"
Translation: Manners are a tool for manipulation. Don't express genuine feelings, express expected feelings, and only for the purpose of getting a desired result. Hey, at least this one isn't exclusive to children.

The fact that this list of “manners” was written by a Ph.D. (in clinical psychology no less) shouldn’t surprise me, I suppose. It seems our most educated on all things children are often our most clueless. But that the editors of Parents magazine published this is quite disturbing. These magazines aren’t in the business of advising people or challenging them to improve as parents. They are strictly out to publish pieces that will resonate with their readership and the parenting population at large in order to sell more magazines. And this is what resonates with parents today.

Our culture’s utter lack of respect for children is astonishing, and so widespread that Parents magazine felt no need to sugarcoat it. We treat them as property, talk down to them, and teach them they’re not worthy of simple human dignity, then expect them to magically transform into respectful and dignified adults. How can they offer the world something they’ve never experienced? How can they give respect to others when we’ve deprived them of the ability to respect themselves?

We’ve got it all wrong. Our children don’t owe us; we owe them. It isn’t their responsibility to show us respect; it’s our responsibility to teach them respect. And the only way to teach them is to show them.
A respected child is a respectful child, and a respectful child becomes a respectful adult. If we want to change the world, we’ve got to start by changing the way our world sees children.

About the author

Meredith Barth is a work at home mom to two boys under 3, who is openly and authentically blogging her way through her parenting journey at The Positive Parenting Challenge.. A writer, web editor, leader of her local Holistic Moms Network chapter, and active member of La Leche League, she’s passionate about holistic living, community building, and all things birth, breastfeeding and baby.


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29 comments:

  1. Sing it, mama! This resonated with me so much. Articles like this really steam me and I'm so glad to read your inline responses while nodding in agreement. This magazine, which I somehow got on the mailing list of and cannot get off no matter how many calls I make, makes me angry. I read an article once about a similar topic that infuriated me to the point that I threw it against the wall and stomped through the house. I try to live my life with compassion and empathy, so when my husband witnessed this, he began hiding them before I could see them. I haven't a clue if they're still coming.

    Yet, another reason I'm saddened to see Mothering disappear from the newstands. Now there's not even a chance that a new parent looking for advice might accidentally pick up and read about a different, gentler way :(

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  2. Hear hear! It baffles me just how self-centered people can be when it comes to interacting with their children, as if they aren't people in their own right. This isn't the first time I have come across baffling articles in parenting magazines. I've had my fair share of conniptions.

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  3. I read that article, too, and totally recognized it as I read your responses here! I also could NOT believe what I was reading. I took it for the (bad) grain of salt it was and pretty much ignored it. That's not an article I'll pay any attention to, that's for sure. I'm just glad to know I'm not the only one who was baffled as to why this even made it to print!

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  4. You are sure it is not a magazine from 50 years back?
    Maybe they found the article in such an old magzine? Just dusted it off?
    It is scary that it is being published.

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  5. @Zoie
    Mothering is gone, but Natural Life (who was selected to fulfill subscriptions) is a stellar publication!

    Meredith, what a great piece this is. You're right, this "expert" advice is what is resonating with so many grownups today (and not just parents). Instead of listening to "experts" maybe we should look to those households who seem to have the most love, creativity, bravery, respect, inspiration, and genuine good-feeling flowing through their homes.

    Unlike others here I am not surprised or baffled at all. This is textbook mainstream USian parenting.

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  6. @ Kelly: not just US, that's an article that could well be in a European publication too. If possible, authentic parenting is even further away here then in the States

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  7. "Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are finished talking."
    soo...um....I'm just saying....This is kinda a good life skill to have. Try applying it to adults as well. Is it ok to teach our kids to interrupt whenever they want?



    "If you come across a parent, a teacher, or a neighbor working on something, ask if you can help. If they say "yes," do so -- you may learn something new."

    they said "if you come across" (which i read as "if you are not doing anything and see someone who needs help") not "if you are doing something else drop just drop it." Also a good life skill for adults--help other people if you can.
    i could go on; just my opinion

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  8. (p.s.) Btw I'm not saying I think we should talk down to our kids or disrespect them; i'm just saying that that does not sound like this article's intent at all....

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  9. I would imagine that the article was written not quite in the spirit in which you interpreted it.

    Translation: The things that matter to you are unimportant. Your needs are unimportant. Unless you are dying or in need of a ride to the hospital, you are utterly unimportant. After all, you're just a child.

    So in order to show your child they are important, you should stop all conversation or activity as soon as they request it? Is that how you expect a clerk at the Post Office to deal with you--You just march to the front and interrupt the current client? Children should be taught to say "excuse me" or wait until the adults are finished talking--The same courtesy that I, as an adult, show children who are talking. Waiting your turn is a life skill begun at age 2!

    Translation: You are void of discernment, incapable of making safe, respectful choices. Acting on your own judgment will end in disaster. After all, you're just a child.

    By all means, eat that fifth slice of cake at your friend's birthday party. Go outside whenever you want, even if it's -20 and you're wearing pajamas. Adults are meant to give children appropriate boundaries--Their brains aren't capable of operating on an adult level yet. They should be making developmentally appropriate choices, and asking permission otherwise. Have you ever met a toddler who can operate without adult guidance?

    Translation: No one cares what you care about; the things that matter to you are trivial. Your opinions are unimportant. Negative feelings and opinions, warranted or not, are unacceptable. Bottle them up and don't bother anyone with them, especially not a superior adult. No one cares about your real feelings, only how you make them feel. After all, you're just a child.

    Otherwise known as the oft-proven proverb, "You get more with honey than vinegar." Although worded poorly in the article's version, I translate it as, "Hey kids! Say two positives for every negative. You'll be a happier person and you'll be more likely to get what you want." Applicable to both children and adults.

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  10. Translation: Don't be authentic. There's no kind way to genuinely express yourself; it’s better to be fake and “nice.” What you think and feel is only okay if it's in line with what everyone around you says is okay. After all, you're just a child.

    Whether you are interested or not, the appropriate time to express that is not in the middle of a performance or presentation. I would imagine that a child performing in a piano or ballet recital would be rather thrown if the audience began chattering or leaving because of his not-quite-developed talent. So yes, sit politely. Take up your disinterest at a more appropriate time: In a comments box, by not attending the next presentation, or by sending the presenter a letter with constructive feedback. Even a child can do those things, with adult support! Childhood is a very appropriate time to learn that timing is everything.

    Translation: No matter what you're doing, it's unimportant compared to what an adult is doing. Any and all adults' priorities overrule your priorities at all times. You have nothing to offer, only something to learn. After all, you're just a child.

    Where does it say anything about their activity being more important? It says "if you come across." That doesn't imply that the adult demanded you stop your own activity to help! And doesn't "ask if you can help" imply that the child DOES have something to offer? Their time and energy! And wouldn't you WANT your child to offer to help someone if they had the potential to learn how to change a tire or weed a garden? Children need adults to teach them...All the better if the child has instigated the teaching!

    Translation: No one cares about what you want or how you feel. You are not capable or worthy of choosing what you do with your time or how you respond to a request. If you are anything other than blindly obedient, you are an inconvenience. After all, you're just a child.

    A child is most certainly capable and worthy of choosing what to do with their time TO A POINT. They must interact with their household appropriately, and if an adult asks for the favor of picking up toys or taking out trash, grumbling and foot dragging will not help that household run any more smoothly. How about teaching the child to express their feelings appropriately? Your response implies that a child should be autonomous in regard to all of his time (I don't know many toddlers or teens who would find bed at an appropriate hour or before becoming overtired without help from an adult) and all of his responses to adult requests (and teeth do have to get brushed, tantrum or not!).

    Translation: Manners are a tool for manipulation. Don't express genuine feelings, express expected feelings, and only for the purpose of getting a desired result. Hey, at least this one isn't exclusive to children.

    When you are thanked for doing something, doesn't that make you feel valued? Someone appreciated your contribution! Doesn't that make you want to contribute again? Why not teach that to a child? Making people feel good is a very desirable result of manners, and of human interaction. I, for one, enjoy making others feel good. I'd like to pass on that enjoyment to children.

    Again, the original article is worded rather poorly, but the concepts are nowhere near crazy. A completely autonomous child is in just as poor shape as a completely controlled child--Neither can appropriately interact with the world around him!

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  11. If you were to replace the word adult or grown-up or teacher with master, it could be a nineteenth century list of rules for slaves.

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  12. @Anonymous...am I to assume I'm addressing the author of this terrible list? ;) Given the defensive tone and length of the response, it's either that or a parent who has perhaps lived by the list with her own kids and felt a twinge of negative judgment (which btw would only come from within, not from some mom writing an article you read on the internet, so please do give that feeling some attention).

    The fact that much your defense is based on "poor wording" shows me that you missed the point I was trying to make. I may not have explained thoroughly enough, so let me try again. The wording is *exactly* the problem. Had the article been written about adults, we wouldn't be having this conversation because the list, if it existed at all, wouldn't be offensive - and therein lies the problem.

    What it boils down to is this: Are children equally deserving of respect or not? If not, then this list makes perfect sense, as it does to you. But if they are, then imagine yourself saying to an adult: "I'll notice you when I'm ready. Keep negative opinions to yourself. Pretend to feel how you're supposed to. Do whatever you're asked with a smile."

    It's perfectly acceptable for an adult to politely enter a conversation when they feel it's appropriate, to express negative opinions in a kind and helpful way, and to be genuine without sacrificing "manners," otherwise known as communicating with respect. Children are equally capable of these things, but we don't allow them the opportunity to learn. We work to control their behavior instead of showing them how to make their own behavioral and communication choices under the umbrella of mutual respect.

    You say a completely autonomous child is in poor shape, and indeed this is true if the autonomous child is being raised in an environment such as the one this list alludes to. But a child raised in a mutually respectful environment is able to tap into his innate desire to feel good, which translates into a desire to help others, smile, show respect, and express himself kindly - because he knows when others feel good, he feels good. This child needs little in the way of "rules" and "manners" training because he's naturally respectful, having experienced respect from the start. The reality is, if you're having to "teach" your child these skills (by age 9, which was the author's suggestion) it's only because you haven't shown them, and that is your failing, not theirs.

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  13. @Anonymous: It just occurred to me that you and I may have different ideas about what an autonomous child is and how a family functions with one, so I thought I'd offer some clarification.

    Respecting a child's autonomy from my viewpoint means abstaining from control through manipulation, coercion, domination, etc. However, it does not mean throwing all of my own personal boundaries out the window. I require adults to treat me with respect, and if they choose not to I communicate with them and ultimately remove myself from the situation if disrespect continues. The same is true for my children. If my two-year-old interrupts my husband and I, it's acceptable for me to set my own personal boundary. I acknowledge his desire to talk to me, respectfully and without judgment explain the choice I'm making (to pause my conversation or finish it), and assure him I will give him my full attention as soon as it's available. This is very different from telling him "never interrupt," especially because the focus is on my boundaries rather than enforcing something on him, This type of interaction teaches "manners" even more effectively - again, because he learns about the greater umbrella of mutual respect instead of situation-specific prescribed behaviors.

    We are not forced to choose between the role of drill sergeant and door mat. And in fact, a respectful relationship requires that we abstain from both.

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  14. From one of the previous anonymous posters (there were two of us, but the lengthy response was from me):

    I am neither the author of the article, nor am I a parent who has raised a child according to this list. I find it interesting that you saw defensiveness in my post, because that is the way I read your responses.

    I feel no 'twinges,' because I find myself in the middle of the spectrum that ranges from the extreme of this article to the extreme of the responses to it. I see a parent's role as respecting a child at all times, and guiding them with a structured release so that as they show more respect, I provide less guidance.

    Respecting a 2 year old looks very different than respecting an 8 year old or respecting a 35 year old. A two year old is learning not to interrupt, and so I actively teach that with verbal instruction and modeling, but I would never give that verbal instruction to a 35 year old. Still, I am respecting the two year old by giving him the tools to interact with his world. I would see it as disrespectful to allow him to interrupt without verbal correction, because I would not be doing my job of guiding him into correct interactions with others.

    I agree 100% with your fourth paragraph, until you say that we don't allow them the opportunity to learn. It sounds as though in my practice, I model and then verbally instruct on how to make those choices, providing less verbal instruction as the child grasps the concept and always maintaining an active model. What I'm reading from yours (and perhaps my perceptions are incorrect) is that the adult should model without verbal instruction, because a child surrounded by models of correct behavior will do it himself.

    We know that surrounding a child with words will only in rare cases teach him to read--He needs direct instruction on sounds letters make. It will certainly help once he begins to learn letter sounds if he has been surrounded by letters, though. Surrounding a child with cowboys won't teach him to ride--He needs to get on the horse and try it, with an experienced helper to point out what to do. He'll be faster to pick it up if he's had it around! In that vein, a child surrounded by good manners may figure it out, and is certainly more likely to figure it out than a child not treated respectfully. However, direct instruction by means of "Thank Grandma for the birthday gift" (even if you don't care for the color of the shirt, she took the time and money to purchase it for you and we can discuss your dislike later when she's not here to have her feelings hurt) or "You may wait until I'm finished talking or say excuse me, but you may not interrupt" (which is what I, an adult, do when approaching two children who are talking but my 6 year olds are still learning because they are still developing the abilities to wait and to consider others before acting) is appropriate and necessary.

    This is a very interesting conversation to me! Differences make the world an interesting place. I am interested in understanding the 'how' and 'why' of others' methods.

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  15. @returning anonymous
    http://www.authenticparenting.info/2010/11/what-do-we-say.html
    I think to a certain extent you are right, children still have to learn social rules. They learn best by having them modeled, and indeed, sometimes it is best for us to clarify. However, in Western Society, we tend to overuse the verbal clarification where we could make better use of modelling.
    The example of the gift grandmother gave: instead of saying: what do we say, or say thank you, which makes the thank you inauthentic, the parent of a two year old does better saying a well meant thank you himself, and adding that the little one will really enjoy the present.

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  16. @Anonymous: I hoped my silly little emoticon would portray my sense of humor on the author bit...probably should start steering myself away from friendly sarcasm in writing, eh? :D

    I'm glad you find this an interesting discussion. So do I!

    I'm sure there are families doing little to no verbal teaching and relying wholly on modeling. We are not one of those. But in the same breath, so much more of our learning comes from imitation (aka modeling) than we tend to realize or acknowledge. In fact, think about everything a baby learns in its first year...ALL modeling! They don't understand our verbal teaching, but it doesn't stop them from exploding with new skills and even making choices based on our preferences (showing respect?).

    I have to disagree (respectfully of course! lol) with your estimation of the limitations of modeling. Even the most basic human acts of breastfeeding and birthing need to be *seen* in order to be carried out successfully. All the verbal instruction in the world can't teach a woman how to perform these most basic functions like wordless modeling can effortlessly. In the same way, a child will absorb so much from watching a cowboy that he could never get from being taught how to ride. He'll see the cowboy's posture, responses and reactions, minute details that we'd never think to teach. And to use your example, they've actually come to find out that reading to your child is THE most important part of promoting literacy, and that its value goes far beyond any of the teaching parents tend to focus on.

    I think we agree that both modeling and verbal instruction have their place, but differ on the significance and role of each.

    I identify with your statement: "Still, I am respecting the two year old by giving him the tools to interact with his world. I would see it as disrespectful to allow him to interrupt without verbal correction, because I would not be doing my job of guiding him into correct interactions with others."

    Where we diverge is in what that verbal correction sounds like and what our motives are. I would say that focusing on my own boundary (not wanting to be interrupted as I mentioned in the previous comment) rather than focusing on correcting his behavior *is* verbal teaching. However my goal is to guide him to mutually satisfying relationships and interactions rather than a "correct" way of interacting.

    Teaching a child how to "fit in" by doing as society expects (call it being polite or having manners) leads to chronic unauthentic communication, whereas teaching a child how to successfully navigate relationships by expecting and offering respect leads to authenticity that "fits in."

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  17. @Anonymous continued: Expecting a child to say specific words to express gratitude that may or may not be felt teaches a child when a 'thank you' is expected (aka how to "fit in"). Allowing that child to find his or her own way (with guidance if necessary) to express himself genuinely in a respectful way will teach him about so much more! While the former is fixed, only applying to specific scenarios, the latter is transferable and adaptable, allowing the child to apply it to various situations and interactions.

    Instead of "thank you, grandma" it may be "grandma, I feel special when you give me things" or "grandma, it must have taken you a long time to knit that for me." Whether spontaneous or previously modeled and imitated, these statements help a child express gratitude for the thought and feeling behind the gift, even if the gift itself isn't so exciting. It connects them to that gratitude rather than leaving them at the surface ("I don't like this") and faking gratitude with two, often-meaningless words.

    I have a feeling we agree much more than we disagree, but even the small differences in philosophy can sometimes have a significant impact in practice. I'm always interested to hear the perspectives of other parents! I've been blessed with so much growth and knowledge that way...although perhaps not as much as I've gleaned from watching them interact with their kids ;-D

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  18. Dear anonymous poster #2: That is what I would have said but you articulated it much better. Thank you.

    Love, anonymous poster #1.

    and thanks Ms. Barth for facilitating this interesting discussion! :)

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  19. Returning AnonymousMarch 21, 2011 at 11:48 PM

    Thanks for clarifying. I was a little shocked by your initial strong reaction to that article, but it sounds as though we have similar view points on some of these points--Your examples of an 'autonomous child' and of a child interrupting sharpened my understanding. I had a picture in my head of a very polite parent and an uncorrected child taking advantage of her freedom. We are definitely on the same page as far as modeling.

    The discussion has been very informative for me! Happy parenting :)

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  20. I LOVE this. So well written. I have shared it via Twitter. Every parent should be made to read this...impossible though *sigh*.

    Thanks for sharing. :)

    Nev

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  21. @Anonymous #1: Love your sense of humor! Glad you came along for the ride :)
    @Anonymous #2: Thanks for sharing your perspective and for offering the chance to share mine!

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  22. My translation:

    There is no translation. You're reading wayyyy too much into those. Kids don't know how some of these actions affect others' feelings. As babies and toddlers, they automatically express their authentic feelings. So as young children, we need to help them channel these so they can express themselves and make positive changes in their lives without hurting other people's feelings.

    It's always nice when we can do that without loading them down with emotional baggage such as assumptions that anyone requiring manners of children is someone that doesn't care about their feelings or think they are important.

    My interpretation of these rules:

    In general: think of others, not only yourself. This does NOT mean, "You are not important." It means, "Others are ALSO important, but that's easy to forget."

    "Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are finished talking."

    Translation: DON'T INTERRUPT. It's really rude. It's rude when adults do it, too. But we already know not to interrupt, so that's why there are no books stating that children need to be taught this from an early age.

    "When you have any doubt about doing something, ask permission first. It can save you from many hours of grief later."

    Translation: When your conscience tells you something is wrong, talk to someone with more life experience. You may find you were right in the first place.

    "The world is not interested in what you dislike. Keep negative opinions to yourself, or between you and your friends, and out of earshot of adults."

    Translation: The world actually isn't interested in what other people dislike. If you have a problem, solve it. Don't sit there and complain about it. If someone does something for you, don't complain about it. You may leave it, and you need not lie about liking it, but there is no point telling someone you don't like their chicken casserole. "Please pass the ketchup" will suffice and it shows you care about their feelings. They are people, too.

    "Even if a play or an assembly is boring, sit through it quietly and pretend that you are interested. The performers and presenters are doing their best."

    Translation: Be kind to others. They are trying their best and it's not kind to show immediate dislike while people are presenting their art. You do not have to say you like it, but booing is hurtful.

    "If you come across a parent, a teacher, or a neighbor working on something, ask if you can help. If they say "yes," do so -- you may learn something new."

    Translation: YOU MIGHT LEARN SOMETHING NEW. The world is yours to explore and adults would love to help you explore it! There are so many things to learn in life and when you are interested in something you should feel free to ask an adult to join in.

    "When an adult asks you for a favor, do it without grumbling and with a smile."

    Translation: When someone asks for something, that is a chance to do something kind for them. There's usually no need to do it grudgingly. You could make someone's day!

    "When someone helps you, say "thank you." That person will likely want to help you again. This is especially true with teachers!"

    Expressing gratitude is important. Letting people know that you appreciate what they do is important. OTHER PEOPLE are important. They have feelings and they need to be validated, just like you do. If you aren't thankful, well... gosh. Don't ask me for anything. I'm not your slave.

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  23. Lili - I'll refer to you the above comments between anonymous and myself. Children have to know that they matter, that they have value before they can give that to someone else. And when they're ready (a point which will vary between children) they should do that of their own free will, not based on coercion. Requiring manners does nothing to teach children about gratitude, cooperation or any of the things your comment would imply. It simply teaches them how to go through the expected motions to appear polite. I don't want polite children, I want real children who value themselves and others to the point of genuinely desiring cooperation, mutual respect and selflessness.

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  24. I just want to say that I did not think the longer-winded anonymous was defensive in any way. I think you both make sense and that a little perspective from someone else is always helpful.

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  25. To add my own opinion: It really is annoying when parents let their kids constantly interrupt, and it's annoying when adults do it too! I want my kids to be respectful of others conversations. Sometimes I have to stand and wait a LONG time before other adults acknowledge me - but I do it.

    The second reminds me of advice I find very useful, "When in doubt, don't." Or "Think of someone you really admire. How would you feel if they knew you did this?" It is helpful to be taught to exercise caution when you are uncertain what is the right decision for you.

    Sitting quietly in an assembly you find boring is not "playing nice" or being fake. It's just being polite. Kids should learn to be polite! If it's really bad, an adult would leave as opposed to be loud and make a fuss. Other people might be enjoying it!

    When someone helps you, do say "thank you!" For no other reason than to just let them know you appreciate your help.

    I see this list as mostly telling us all how to get along and be respectful, whether we are children or adults. If you don't want to do something someone asks you to do, then you should be able to say so nicely. But it also never hurts to say yes and see what comes of it. It's your choice! Sure - the article didn't say that, and maybe Meredith did. But it's not suggesting "blind obedience" either.

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  26. Meredith - Here's my last thought this morning. I wonder how we both define the word "polite." You said, "I don't want polite children, I want real children who value themselves and others to the point of genuinely desiring cooperation, mutual respect and selflessness." And I don't see how children can't be everything you said, AND polite. To me, the opposite of polite is rude. And I don't see how kids can value themselves and others to the point of genuinely desiring cooperation, mutual respect and selflessness and still be rude.

    In most arguments, I think both sides are actually wanting the same outcome but using different language or just not hearing the other team well. I think that's a lot of what's happening here.

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  27. Christy, when I think polite, I think of "showing or characterized by correct social usage" (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polite). Certainly both of our definitions are correct, but my reaction to the word is based upon that particular use of it. I don't want kids who exhibit "correct social usage" of language or behavior, but kids who are respectfully authentic.

    As I said to Anonymous#2 earlier, it's the wording of the magazine article that sets me off, not the concept of respectfully waiting to enter a conversation or refraining from making a scene at a play. The wording exposes the author's (and our society's) view of children as inferior. As I mentioned in our private correspondence, the trigger for me on the performance was the word "pretend." I'd want my kids to understand that the middle of a performance isn't the time to express any opinions (disruption isn't respectful to audience or performers) and that after the performance only constructive criticism offered upon request (how'd you like the show?) would be respectful. But it wouldn't be because they were instructed to "pretend" or keep their mouths shut. It would be because of an innate desire to show respect to the feelings and needs of other people. They could identify the things they did feel positively about or positively express the things they didn't love - either way they are able to be both authentic and polite instead of faking or pretending.

    And the same goes for the "thank you." It should be about gratitude, not parroting polite words based on expectation as the article instructs.

    And as I also expressed in our email correspondence, your input and assessment of comment tone is much appreciated. I likely misinterpreted Anonymous#2's passionate response for defensiveness, which was probably influenced by my own tendency to react to criticism by defending my position before opening myself to a competing argument...at least I always come around to openness in the end ;) Maybe with enough practice that will be the first reaction some day!

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  28. I've come in late to the discussion - and haven't read every word of every comment - but I did love the post. How sad that children have not respected as human beings in our history. They are full of dignity and worthy of attention, love and respect. Thank you Meredith.

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  29. Yeah I'm with you on this one we should ask our kids to make decisions for themselves in all circumstances! That is the mark of true respect! Or is that anarchy? Seriously, teaching your children manners is one of life's most important lessons. It really doesnt matter if you can read write or count, if you can ask nicely you will be amazed what can be accomplished.

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