Manners are important. They are important for kids to learn, important for us to remember and important for general behavior in society. I have seen a great decline in manners over the years and it breaks my heart! Kids are not as respectful and kind, and parents seem to make more and more excuses for their kids to make it ok that they aren't. Its not ok in our house and my kids will learn that you have to respect authority in public and be kind to others even if you don't agree, like it or think others deserve it.
Since my son was 2 years old, we started saying that the one thing we are always is respectful and kind. We taught him to say no thank you if he didn't want to do something and imprinted in him the importance of always saying thank you and your welcome. (keep in mind, just because he says no thank you, doesn't always get him out of doing something. Sometimes, they have to do it even though they were nice about saying no.) Our kids have opinions about people, activities and things, just as every other kid does. My husband and I were to a point where we were trying to figure out, how do you make them be respectful if the other person is in the wrong or if they don't want to participate? For instance, X had an issue with people he didn't see often, like relatives from out of town. When they would come to visit, we would say, "go hug so and so" and he would scream and cry about it. I thought, why are we making him hug everyone? He's more of an introvert, and it takes him time to get used to people. By the end of the evening, he would hug everyone, gladly!! So how do we, as parents, teach our kids different options to these scenarios? We decided, ok, you don't have to hug them if you don't want to, BUT you will be respectful and kind in the process. So we taught him to politely say, no thank you. We want our kids to have opinions and we want them to be able to express themselves thats in line with their personalities, but we don't want them to be rude!
I could not be more proud of my kids and the progress that we've made in this. We still have instances where we are sad or upset about something, which is completely normal, healthy and part of growing up. However, within feeling all the emotions we have in those circumstances, we need to be polite. We say no thank you or express our feelings without yelling, crying or being upset. We aren't always perfect and as our 4 year old is coming into his 5's, he has learned to have an attitude and say things like, "I'm frustrated" or "I'm mad at so and so because..." This weekend he got mad at his grandma because she wouldn't let him have dessert until he finished his dinner even though I had given him permission. There was miscommunication and he was quite upset and mad at his grandma. After we told him to be kind, use his words and talk to her about it, he did. And he managed to tell her how he felt about it, in a kind, but firm tone; and they were able to work it out. I was proud of him because there are times that even I don't want to calmly discuss things.
And then there's my wonderful husband who has started to teach our son what being a gentleman is. He holds the doors for us now and lets his sister and I go first. My husband felt it was super important to teach him how to be a gentleman now. He also wants to teach his daughter how a gentleman should treat her, so that they both grow to know how to treat others better, and how they should expect to be treated. I want my daughter to know that you are worth something! And a man needs to treat you that way. And I want my son to grow up knowing he is worth something. That as he treats women with respect, he deserves to be treated like the man he is worth.
All of this is so important; and it all starts now at this young age. Our children need to learn to respect us, even when they're mad at us. They need to know how to treat policeman, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents even if they don't like the rules. They will be better people for it. They will treat others well and in turn, we hope that they get the respect and the kindness they deserve. I know that as they grow and get older, reach teen years and adulthood, that this method will change as our kids develop who they are. But I hope, that my husband and I, can at least get the foundation instilled in them to treat others the way you want to be treated, to be respectful and kind even in hard times, and to stand up for yourself in a healthy way when you need to. We are constantly learning too and we will never stop trying to be the best parents and people we can be. I hope that we can always be examples for them and as a result, they grow up to be people in this world that make a difference, no matter how big or small. And I feel like all this starts with a child who has manners.