Manner-Filled Kids, No Money Down

Recently the New York Times ran a piece called Eat, Drink, Be Nice. It discussed paying folks to teach your kids manners. Here are some ways to do so and keep your money in your wallet.

There are many parenting jobs – or roles, lets say – being outsourced to other folks. You can hire someone to potty train your child, sleep train him, teach your kid how to ride a bike, go on college visits, cook your kids dinner, put them to bed, and now… teach your child manners. While much of the aforementioned list is a bit concerning, the MANNERS really stands out.

How did we become too busy to teach basic kindness, positive interactions, table behaviors, and courtesy? We can go forth on a discussion about how we got to this point and why we are all so busy, but that is not the goal here. The goal is to give a few easy ways to bring the manners that you are looking for into your home without having to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Now – full disclosure – I am a Parenting Coach. I work with families to help them discover ways to communicate more productively, discipline with clarity and purpose, and create the family that they envision for themselves. The difference is that THEY have to do the hard work. I may help them find ideas, but the parents must implement them. OK, back to the topic at hand: ways to instill manners.

Way #1: Model
Be the people that you want your kids to be. Nothing fires us up more than tiny ‘tude being tossed at us. It is rude. It is disrespectful. It is mean. It is, er, umm, how we talk. Yes, your kids are watching you like tiny secret spies. They listen to your words and tone. They watch your body language. They survey social situations and cues to put into their repertoire. Then, once they have gathered all of the appropriate information, they try it out on YOU.

If you want your kids to be kind, gracious, patent, thoughtful, and so forth, the people that they are modeling their lives after have to be as well. Before you hyperventilate, not every moment will be a stellar model of perfection, but on the whole, if you do not want to hear it from your kids, do not model it for them. This also goes for those disconnecting electronics. Follow me to Way #2…

Way #2: Connect
This is about connecting and some modeling too. When we go to dinner, have to wait more than two minutes in line, or just want some peace, we plug our kids into something. A video game, the computer, tablets, smart phones. We know it will keep them calm, quiet, and unbothersome to us. As a matter of fact, we are doing the same thing ourselves.  We have to wait at the dentist? Whip out the phone and check Twitter. Coffee shop taking a long time with that latte? Whip out the phone and check Facebook. Waiting for food to arrive while out to dinner with the fam? Whip out the phone – who knows, something more important or better may be going on, right? But what is more important than your kids?

We all talk about how busy we are and we don’t have time to do the activities mentioned above (potty train, teach our kids to ride a bike, cook dinner), but as soon as we get a chance to connect, BOOM, in comes an email, text, or call. When we model this disconnected behavior how will our kids learn to behave any differently? This is not just about kids connecting to parents, but also to those around them.

If kids are buried in electronics they are not observing the world around them. They are
not present in the moment. They are not connecting to friends, family, community. Going
to be at the DMV for an hour? OK, bring out your phone at some point for your kids to
dawdle on. We all would. Lunching with your family? Keep devices away. That goes for all of you. Angry Birds, Twitter, Facebook… even email can wait. To avoid the fights and tantrums that come when kids are abruptly surprised by something new, let them know ahead of time that family outings are gadget-free. No games at the table – not while you wait in line and not even while you are driving in the car. These are all times to connect.

Be equally clear about when electronics can be used. So now you have modeled polite, considerate, and kind behaviors. You are connecting with your kids and not
electronics. Hop on over to Way #3.

Way #3: Clear Expectations
So again, a bit from the previous paragraph, these things really are all tied together. Be clear about what you expect when it comes to manners and your kids. Well, be clear about what you expect all the time, but we can cover that another time. For example, “When we go to the restaurant I expect you to sit in your chair, use inside voices and eat calmly. Why don’t we come up with some fun things to talk about at dinner.”

One reason that kids act out at a meal is that they are bored. No one is talking to them or about anything that interests them. It is fine to stray off kid topics, but if you are going to talk about work, how well your portfolio is doing, how your brother is dating that questionable girl again, your kids are going to begin to faze out, get antsy, or find ways to amuse themselves – and those ways are usually pretty un-amusing to you.
Need some topic starters? Here you are:

  • What was the best and most challenging thing in your day? Also called “Roses and Thorns.” Grown ups, you share as well. Keep it not too heavy, but it is alright for it to be tough. This shows your kids that you, too, are human and have challenges. Also you can share how you coped with or solved a problem. This is NOT a time to fix your kids’ issues or judge them, just listen or ask how they feel about the situation.
  • Bring fun facts to dinner and ask questions. What is the biggest mammal in the world? That is the fastest bug? Who scored the most goals ever in soccer? And on and on and on.
  • Plan something. Go to dinner with an event in mind and talk about it. It can even just be about the upcoming weekend. What are some ideas? What works for everyone? What is so exciting about that idea?

It is not only meal time manners that you can be clear about, it can be conversational too. Be clear about how you would like your children to react when people say hello, ask a question, or simply hold a conversation with them. Keep in mind that all kids are different. Some are more than happy to say hello to friends and family that they do not often see, and others need some more time. The child who needs time to warm up can wave, smile or nod.

Having manners is also about declining things kindly. Perhaps there is a person who is trying to engage your child, yet your child is enjoying a quiet moment. Your child can say, “I do not feel like talking please,” “I am feeling quiet today,” or “I feel like
playing alone right now.” There are many ways for kids to kindly decline an invitation to converse, play or eat, but often kids have no idea what those ways are.

Having good manners does not mean that you blindly do what others tell you, that your feelings and needs do not matter or that you cannot be yourself. Neither does it mean that you are not fun, funny, silly, quiet, angry, basically human – it means that you are considerate of the feelings and needs of those around you and that you aim to communicate, but not hurt or anger. You realize that you are a part of something bigger.

Do you want your kids to have manners? Save the cash and model the behavior that you want to see.  Connect with your kids and those around you, and express clear expectations.
You will find that your children will have the manners that you are looking for, and you can spend those dollars on something WAY more fun.

Like what you read? Sign up for our free newsletter so you can be informed of the latest FREE webinars & teleclasses, parenting articles, & weekly raffles.

Brandi Davis, ACC is a professional Parenting Coach, Parent Educator, and Author of O.K. I’m A Parent Now What? She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and be sure to catch her parenting podcasts on iTunes. The goal of Brandi’s practice is to bring respect, calm communication, teamwork, and FUN into the home or classroom. To discover all that Child and Family Coaching can bring to your family stop by

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.