One more thing on a parent’s TO DO list

Children, tweens, teens, teenagers and preschoolers can learn about manners at home from parents. it takes repetition. It takes family dinners. Parenting is about repetition. good parenting is about doing things over and over. "manners and kids" is important. Do not underestimate it. Teach manners at home during family dinner.

Teaching your kids manners takes repetition, modeling and reinforcement. Nothing about good parenting comes easy, free or cheap.

Yesterday a young visitor shook hands when we were introduced. “Wow, a firm grip and you’re looking me square in the eye,” I said, returning the courtesy to the 15-year-old.

I turned to his parents and said, “Nice job. He knows how to greet people. My brother Jim taught me a long time ago, Firm grip and square in the eye.” This simple gesture says, “I care about how you feel.” That’s the essence of manners.

My seventh grade science teacher Mrs. Lewis used to bemoan about misbehaving students, “Lack of home training.”

I agree. Don’t go overboard, either like a manners cops, demanding a please-and-thank-you every other minute. All I ask is for kids to make eye contact and pleasant conversation; to unobtrusively say, “No thank you” if they don’t something; and to chew with their mouths closed.

Like most good parenting habits, teaching manners requires role models, repetition and reinforcement. Family dinner is an ideal place to model, repeat and reinforce consideration for each other and the cook. It’s not a chore to teach manners, it’s a practice.

When the snacks were gone and the gathering nearly over at 4 pm, I set out a wedge of gourmet cheese. An 11-year-old asked nicely, “Is there any real food?”

I offered my standard option to those who don’t want what is served. “Would you like a peanut and butter and jelly sandwich?”

Hungry from swimming, she accepted. I put some frozen bread in the toaster and got out the peanut butter and jelly. She assembled it, said, “Mmm. Good jam!” and ate it unobtrusively.

That’s my kind of kid. Appreciative, asked nicely for what she wanted, and accepted what was offered. She showed good home training.

Manners are like exercise — do regularly for the best results. And keep at it.

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5 Comments on “One more thing on a parent’s TO DO list”

  1. Brian Says:

    Yes, I agree. they all need to learn manners and the one good place is at mealtime around the table. Keep your mealtime as a together time… If they don’t learn these things at home, where will they learn them? At some point they will find themselves in public and having meals with others, and if they never learned at home, how will they be viewed and treated in the world?
    I realize this is getting off on a tangent, but related. It’s my .02 about where manners are learned, at mealtime. They also learn cooperation, and being polite. Interacting and telling stories or sharing whatever is happening in their lives are all things that are shared around the dinner table and just generally keeping the family as one happy unit. It’s a natural, all around good family activity that promotes bonding that will be in our memories forever.

  2. raising able Says:

    Yes Brian- especially love the storytelling!

  3. erin Says:

    I am surprised that you are ok with being asked for “real food,” even if the request was polite. Cheese is real food.

    • raising able Says:

      LOL. Getting soft as grandmotherhood approaches. She had just paddled across the pond and was hungry. I helped her make the sandwich :-) Saga cheese is too good to waste on an unappreciative 11 year old.


  4. When I was growing up, adults really instilled in us the value of a firm handshake and eye contact. I don’t hear much about those gestures these days.

    My 17-month old has recently started saying “thanks” when I hand her milk. This is not something we actively taught her, just something she picked up. I am making sure that her dad and I use “please” a lot in front of her.


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