Thoughts On Prompting Children to Use Good Manners.
On a Friday, not too long ago, as we left preschool with my four and two year olds, I wished some of the parents a good weekend. I did that three or four times in a row as we walked by other families on our way to the car. Ten minutes later, we arrived at the elementary school to pick up my other son. As we crossed the street my four year old belted out sweetly to the crossing guard “HAVE A NICE WEEKEND!”
It was heartwarming because so often I hear parents urge and demand “Greet her!”, “say thank you!” or prompt their children “what do you say…..?”and the so popular “what are the magic words?” And I can’t help but wonder how that child feels to be prodded, prompted and even at times nagged about using manners.
What kind of manners are we using when we do that anyways, when we INSIST that our children say thank you, or greet someone? It’s not that polite is it? Surely there are other ways for children to learn all these socially expected behaviors? Can you imagine if adults went around prodding and nudging each other to say thank you?
Is it important for children to learn socially desirable manners – sure! I would like my children to say thank you and to appreciate a nice gesture. I also hope that when they hurt someone they may say sorry. But I would rather it be voluntary, a real sorry, a genuine thank you and not the fake ”SORRY….sigh! All while the child thinks something along the lines of "i only said that because I had to...ugh!"
I cringe every time I feel the social pressure to rush my child and that apology or thank you process along because it’s expected to happen right away. Apologies, sharing, gratitude, these are processes, concepts children can learn naturally. At home, we try not to force gratitude, sharing or apologies. We model, wait and try to be understanding.
The funny thing is, adults really expect children to patiently wait for oodles of things, and yet, how often do we fail to wait for a child to think about their actions, choices or words?
A “delayed” or rather genuine "Thank You!" or apology somehow is so much sweeter and sincere! Just this past week my six year old randomly went up to handsome hubby and said “Papa, thank you for taking time to play with me last Friday, it was awesome!” Yes, it was several days later but It was so genuine, so truthful, so very THANKFUL!
A few weeks ago I had written about how what we do and how we do things is often much louder than just the words we are using with our children. I think this is another example. Sure, we can prompt that thank you or that greeting but perhaps instead, remembering that we are our child’s role model is vastly more important than simply insisting they speak up the magic words.
Are you wondering what we do at the park, the store or on a play-date? That is often a little tricky for us and I will talk about that next week.
Peace & Be Well,
Oh, are you forgetting something?? Did you like this post? What are you going to say???
Ariadne Brill is a certified positive discipline parenting educator. She has three children, loves chocolate and is passionate about helping parents and children create harmony at home. Find Ariadne on Facebook and at the positive parenting connection, a resource for gentle and positive parenting.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net