I’m often struck by how many children don’t have the slightest idea of how to behave appropriately with others. They lack manners, they have poor communication skills, and they don’t respect their own or others’ property.
Here are a few things you can do as a parent to help your children develop into responsible people who relate well to others.
Teach your children manners.
They need to learn to say “please” and “thank-you.” “Please may I have Julie spend the night?” “Thank you for driving me to the store for poster board.” If your children do not phrase things this way, look to yourself to teach them.
If they ask you to do something and they don’t preface their request with a “please,” tell them to ask again using “please.” If they forget to say “thank you,” tell them to say it. Keep insisting until these words come automatically.
Children should be taught to write thank-you notes. “Thank you for taking me to the show, Grandma.” “Thank you for having me stay overnight at your home.” “Thank you for the birthday present.” Helping children gather paper, pencil, and addresses is a nuisance for parents, but a skill children need to learn.
Another skill you should be teaching your children is to say “hello” and “goodbye” They should greet people when they walk in the door, when they meet someone or when they get in someone’s car. If they fail to say “hello,” remind them: “Say ‘hello’ to Sue.” When they leave the house or someone else leaves, expect them to say “goodbye”. Hello and good-byes should also be said audibly. If they mumble the words, have them repeat them.
Teach your children to look at the person they are greeting. They should not look down at the floor. After all, they should be giving the other person the attention, rather than inviting the other person to make them the center of attention by not making eye contact.
Respect for property starts at home. If you allow your children to sit with their shoes on your sofa, they will do the same elsewhere. If you don’t expect them to wipe up their spills at your home they’re not going to wipe them up at a friend’s house. If they get by with not cleaning up their mess in the bathroom, you can bet they will leave towels on the floor when they stay overnight at someone else’s home.
It’s definitely easier to hang up your child’s coat than it is to hunt him down and have him take his coat to the closet. You may even have to call him back a second time because he failed to put it on the hanger properly. But if you persist, he’ll begrudgingly get the message.
Now, ask yourself the following:
• Do my children say “please” when they want me to do something for them?
• Do my children say “thank-you” when I do something for them?
• Do my children say “hello” when they first come in contact with someone?
• Do my children make a point of saying “good-bye”?
• Do they send thank-you notes?
• Do they treat our furniture and their clothes with respect?
• How am I doing as a parent? Am I teaching my children to be responsible and considerate?
Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World,” “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide,“ and “Thin Becomes You” at Doris’ web page: http://www.doriswildhelmering.com.
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