It was not just this show of appreciation that moved me, for
there were other things happening here. There was the imminent
loss of childhood, and the kindness of the relatives who sat
close by. There were memories of past birthdays, and the joy and
innocence they brought. And there was the suspicion that this
would be the last birthday of its kind, before modern culture,
peers, and hormones took their place in my daughters’ life.
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“Oh thank you,” my daughter gushed, as she opened another
present from the pile in front of her.
It was her tenth birthday, and she was on center stage. Gift
after gift was being opened. And after each gift was opened, my
daughter did a remarkable thing: She looked at each of the
givers in the eye and thanked them. And as I watched this from
behind my camera, a tear came to my eye.
Teach them in private if possible. Kids are easily shamed if
corrected in front of others, just as we are. If at all
possible, take them aside and talk to them in private. This
gives them a chance to learn it, and not to feel ashamed.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about how remarkable it was to see
this display of appreciation, and to feel the joy that came with
it. And as I saw it, I was reminded of all the times over the
years when my wife and I had insisted on “please and thank you.”
I was reminded how many times we’d told her how important it was
to show appreciation for the things people do for us. And while
it hasn’t always been easy to be the “nag,” all of our efforts
became worth it as we watched this unfold.
For those parents who’d like to help create what is becoming too
rare these days—a well-mannered child--here are some guidelines:
Teach your kids, don’t criticize them. If they burp at the
dinner table, it’s not effective to yell, “Don’t be rude!”
Instead, be calm and specific about what you want them to do.
Tell them, “It’s not polite to burp at the table, but if it
happens, you may say “excuse me.”
Start them at an early age. Things like saying “please” and
“thank you,” or making thank you cards to grandma can be started
at a very early age.
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Anticipate mistakes from your child. You didn’t really think
your kids were going to learn manners on their own, did you?
They’ll make a ton of mistakes, and they’ll need to be corrected
many times. Don’t let high expectations for your kids create
impatience in you. They’ll learn it when they’re ready.
Prepare them for using manners in advance. When manners will
be expected, as when going to a friend’s house, or to a
restaurant, remind your kids of what’s expected of them. This
friendly reminder will help them remember manners when they get
excited, and are liable to forget.
Expect good manners from your child on a consistent basis.
Once they’ve been taught, expect your kids to exhibit
appropriate manners. Giving a lot of gentle reminders will show
your kids that this isn’t going away. Eventually, they’ll be
consistent on their own.
Be ready for mealtime. Family dinners are prime time for
teaching manners. They can also be frustrating. Prepare yourself
to be patient, and expect mistakes to happen. Creating a
“formal” atmosphere, with low lighting and candles, is a way to
make manners at dinner more fun.
The Public Agenda Research Group (2004) reports that in this
country, 8 out of 10 respondents say that lack of respect and
courtesy is a serious national problem. From all the research
they've gathered, it appears that Americans are more stressed
out and ill-mannered than ever before! Manners seem to have gone
out of style. But parents shouldn’t make the mistake of letting
their kids think they’re out of style. It’s YOUR job to bring
Later that evening, my daughter was still excited from all of
the festivities. “I’m going to remember my tenth birthday party
forever!” she announced
She isn’t the only one.
Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC, coaches fathers by phone
to balance their life and improve family relationships—immediately!
He is an Instructor for the Academy for Coaching Parents
(www.acpi.biz) and author of “Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent
Fathers” Ecourse http://www.markbrandenburg.com/25_secrets.htm
Anthony Kane, MD
ADD ADHD Advances
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Oppositional Defiant Disorder Child Behavior Help