After having our children enroll in their first etiquette class last week, I have been thinking about my first-born, Jackson and how he sets the bar so high for the rest of the gang. We are quite consistent as parents to instill manners, but he takes it to another level.
He is the first to help a kid who has fallen and the first to tell someone when they are being mean to another. I can recall upon leaving our etiquette class when he turned to his instructor with his big beautiful brown eyes and said, “Thank you for having me.” She turned towards me with such a big smile and said, “Great job mom.” If you didn’t read about our experience learning proper etiquette with whom I like to call the “Manner’s Whisperer,” Mrs. Parker, you can read about it here.
Truth is, I felt grateful that she thanked me, but deep inside I wanted to tell her he does this on his own. He has soft, gentle disposition about himself and you can count on him to almost always do the right thing. He’s the boy who stands up for the underdog, a kid that knows how to say “please” and “thank you” without a parent reminding him, he is that kid that will give his cookie away if he sees a friend without a dessert. Something tells me, as he gets older, he will surely become a true prince charming.
Turns out Mrs. Parker was right. I have been consistent and I do not allow them to behave poorly with other children regardless if my boy is a sweet one.
At the beach this past Easter weekend, he saw a boy throw sand at another kid and immediately said, “Why would you do that? That’s not nice.” It’s funny because I too find myself puzzled at horrible, cringing behavior like that. My kids are not the type to push another kid in the pool, throw sand in another’s face or take a toy and run away teasing. Nor would I ever allow my kids to behave that way.
However, I am having a little bit of a challenge with my three-year old because he is rightfully so, fighting to be heard. Maybe it’s because he’s the youngest or maybe it’s because he wants to play and keep up with his older two siblings. I have to work harder with him on his manners and correct him when he barks out orders or exhibits unruly behavior. One thing I am learning is that I also have to acknowledge that Roman is only three.
Here are some tips I use in my house to fine tune the boys into sweet little gentlemen.
1. Examine your expectations by age. This one I have had a little bit of trouble with. I often forget that Roman just turned three and sometimes he can’t look someone in the eye and say thank you. That’s ok and can be mastered by five years old. However, there are some things I can do to reinforce manners with my preschooler:
- Wash hands before eating
- No toys at the table
- No banging utensils
- No throwing your food to the floor, in our case to the dogs.
- No walking around with food
- Say please and thank you
- This one is challenging, but i am telling Roman to ask to be excused at the end of his meals.
- And the last one is clearing his own dishes
I simply remove my children if any of them are doing things that are unacceptable, explaining that their behavior is not good manners.
2. Encourage compassion. Being married to a sweet southern gentleman I have learned that compassion is an essential trait for respecting others. Boys who are becoming young gentlemen do NOT bully, or tease. I still believe a lot of this is innate in my oldest and my youngest Roman is still finding his way, but what I do to reinforce compassion is talk to my kids about other people’s feelings. It’s working in my house and when they experience not-so-nice kids they tell me. They talk about what they didn’t like and we talk about not doing that to others.
3. Yes Ma’am & No Sir. It might be a Southern thing, but it really is the way to go. I learned this during my six plus years in North Carolina. This formal type of responding to people was so foreign to me being from New York City, that I often looked at people in shock when they would say, “Yes Ma’am” to me. However, implementing it in my home has really enforced my kids to respond to people with great manners. When someone asks them a question they say, “yes ma’am” instead of “yeah,” like what I grew up saying. Trust me, “yes ma’am” sounds a lot classier than “yeah” any day of the week.
4. Boys respond less to words. A long time ago when Jackson was little, a southern woman from my church told me to try going down to his level hold both of his shoulders gently and say I would like you to clean up the mess you just made. Be soft and gentle, but direct and be at his level and don’t forget to look him in the eye. She said this technique could be used anywhere… restaurants, grocery stores, or at a friend’s house. Reinforce and repeat manners lessons, consistency is key.
5. Be a role model. I couldn’t agree more that we as parents should behave how we want them to behave. When your kids see you being kind to others and doing great acts of kindness, it’s bound to rub off on them. We are the epicenter of their world and it’s our job to influence the behavior we want.
Overall, I want my boys to be the guys that open doors, help strangers in need, play fair and are honest. Our job as a parent is not an easy one and it’s up to us to raise true men, men that demonstrate social graces and generosity with their time. I hope these pointers give you some ideas on how fine-tune our little rascals.
Here are some great books on how to raise your little ones with manners! Enjoy!
Parents of boys, I would love to hear what you are doing at home with your boys to instill manners…. Comment below! Comment for a chance to win one of the books above!