It’s that time of year when families will be convening together in closed spaces and everyone wants children to behave well.
Did you know that recess is one of THE BEST cures for classroom misbehavior? Take a cue and take your children outside to play touch football, take a walk to the park, or play basketball in the driveway. Make sure it’s for at least an hour. Spend time with them. This is an investment in a happy holiday.
After exercise, they will be in a better frame of body and spirit to live up to reasonable expectations of behavior.
Parents, start now by holding family meetings and talk about manners — ask, “What will it look like on Thanksgiving to have good etiquette?” Hear their suggestions and encourage them to practice during family dinner at home. Compliment them when they say, “Please pass the salt,” use a napkin instead of their pants. Teach them to say, “This is delicious,” and “No thank you,” to foods they don’t like.
Manners are basically consideration of other people. Yelling out, “That’s disgusting,” or announcing, “Mikey doesn’t eat onions,” or “Can you cook some special pasta for Megan – that’s all she’ll eat,” fall under “lack of consideration” for others.
Manners start at home and by parents modeling good manners at family dinners and constantly reinforcing them. My four “children” are now in their 20s, and even as teens, they despised peers who chewed with their mouths open, made rude comments about food, slurped, didn’t use napkins, and stood up to reach for the salt instead of saying, “Please pass the salt.”
Manners are a lifetime gift you can give to your children — in small doses. If you’re just starting now for next week, you’re a bit late. Take baby steps.
On the big day, be willing to give one warning to younger children then take action by removing them from the situation. Use the outdoors or your car if needed. If they have a meltdown or are out-of-control, consider leaving the family gathering. It might just be too much for them. Go home and have canned beans and carrot sticks. It could be a memorable teaching moment.
Ideally, take time for training BEFORE the big day so children feel confident about the expectations and have boundaries established around reasonable behavior. “Training” includes giving one warning, taking action and possibly allowing the child to go hungry to remind them that sitting at a table is a privilege and certain behavior is expected.
Going hungry for a few hours will show the child you mean business. It takes three days to die of thirst and three days to die of starvation. Missing one meal could serve as a powerful teacher, if you’re willing — or desperate.
Remember to involve them in cooking, setting up for the meal and cleanup. It’s a wonderful time for teamwork and family togetherness.
Happy Thanksgiving! Above all, have fun!