Friday, March 12, 2010

Manners. Part 1.

Here's the thing. I have worked with kids over half my life. And there are few things that make me want to pull my hair out as kids who are mannerless.

Can't blame the kid, really. They're just giving what's expected of them. (did I say that outloud?)

The other day, I was at Abi's school and the office administrator walked by the kindergarten class. One of the boys said, "Hey, Carol!" To which Carol turned around and said, "That's MISS CAROL to you!" I was speechless that a kindergartener actually called an adult, much less a school official, by her first name!


Part of the wave of new minded parenting trends is that everyone is equal. Parents don't want their children to feel "less" than someone else, or not be on the same playing field as everyone else. Well, truth is, we aren't equal.

Don't get mad. It's the truth.

In any functional business, government structure, or just in society, there are chains of command, so-to-speak, that must be followed in order to have a smoothly functioning organization. Now, the deal is, the higher up you go in that chain, the greater the responsibility of that post. Does that mean that the boss is more IMPORTANT than the janitor? Absolutely NOT. Does it mean that the President is more important than a mayor? Nope! But his responsibility is greater.

In our family, manners are not an option. We demand (yes, demand) things like "Yes, Ma'am," "No Sir," and "please" as part of natural conversations. One of the challenges for Abi is to remember to call people by their title... For instance, it took FOREVER for her to remember to call Karin (one of our closest friends) MISS Karin, because she constantly hears us call her Karin. So, one day, I just said, "Abi, it's just an act of respect to call people older than you Mr. or Miss when you are talking to them." And from then on, I would softly correct her if she forgot. She finally got it.

If Abi says something like, "Give me that cup," I don't even respond. I act like I didn't even hear it. She may say it several times. Then she tries a different approach. "Can you give me that cup, please?" I immediately respond.

See, we're training Abi to be successful in life. I want her to always be aware that no matter how old she gets, there will be someone in her life who is older than she is, in a position of greater responsibility than she is, and I want that awareness to be an automatic response for her.

Of course, there is no mistaking the fact that sometimes the person in authority is simply not a respectable person... Teach your child to give respect anyway. It's for the CHILD'S benefit. (And as far as that goes, we weren't very respectable, and Jesus gave us the HIGHEST respect in laying down His life for ours, didn't He?)

And lastly, in order for us to see respect and manners in our children, we have to possess those qualities ourselves. Make it a practice to speak with kindness, even if demanding is your natural bend (like it is for me). It's much more natural for me to say, "Abi, go clean your room," than "Abi, clean your room, please." But I know she is a mirror... a sponge. She is soaking up my patterns and repeating them. A while back, a girl from our youth group stayed with us for a week while her mom was out of town. When the mom got back, she asked her how she enjoyed her time with us. Know what the girl said? "Mom, it's the coolest thing! They talk so nicely to each other! They say things like, 'Will you pass the salt, please," and 'Thank you for taking the trash out'!" Wow. Talk about a compliment!

Do we always, 100% of the time speak appropriately? Um, we are humans. No. But the important fact is the AWARENESS that we respect each other, love each other, and want to do our very best to communicate with excellence.

I just heard Abi coughing and I yelled to the other room:
ABI- "What?"
ME- "Excuse me?"
ABI- "Oh, sorry Mom. What, Ma'am?"
ME- "Are you ok?"
ABI- "Yes, Ma'am!"

Happy sigh.


  1. What's difficult for me is that children say "Mr. John" instead of "Mr. Smith". When I was growing up we never heard children use the first name even if they were saying Mr. or Miss. Why did that change? It doesn't come naturally for me at all to have Trekker say "Mr. Norman" It FEELS like it should be Mr. Farlow or just Norman. I guess that's why in our circle "Aunt and Uncle" gets used a lot. I better train myself for the "Mr. John" routine or Trekker is either going to be disrespectful or have a million Aunts and Uncles! LOL!

  2. vital..sometimes so missed! It goes even further with boys! My son will never take a seat if a woman is standing, will always open doors and hold them...and hold them..and hold them!:) we have spent ages waiting on him leaving a restaurant as he holds the door for so long!:) I teach 2 year olds for a living! They ask to be excused before getting up after lunch, they can say please and thankyou in English and sign and I expect at least one or the other! The first name thing makes me nuts! It is so disrespectful. Even my best friends are referred to by my children as 'Ms' or ' Mr'. Its just RIGHT! Not that I have a strong opinion on this..LOL!

  3. That's so funny. We've also brought back the "Ma'am" thing in a big way. I would not allow them to answer me without a "ma'am" and Dennis without a "sir". It's an attitude thing. In fact, "yes, ma'am" has come to be synonymous with accepting something with a good attitude rather than grumbling.

    Good post.