I was given an opportunity to write about how to make a home a secure and stable environment for kids, thus creating a good atmosphere for learning. I have thought long and hard about the topic, and what I was going to write about. The purpose of having a secure and stable environment is to help reach the goal of raising secure and stable people.
I joke around about what stinkers my boys are, but they really, really are good guys and I am very proud of them.
Not to toot our collective parenting horn, but Handsome Hubby and I are both on the same page when it comes to expectations about manners and courtesy, and I think it shows. Our boys are pretty comfortable in almost any social setting and we are fairly confident that they will not embarrass us. (Let’s be honest… as parents, isn’t that sometimes our immediate goal?)
HH is fond of saying, “Kids are as smart as they’re ever going to be.” What he means by that is that they have infinite capacity for learning at all ages… and that it is never too early to start teaching.
Dave Barry said, “A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person.” It’s obvious what he means by that.
Manners are a measure of respect for those around you. Good manners are learned as the result of good habits. They aren’t something that are to be taken out and used for special occasions, they are for everyday. It is only if you use them everyday that you comfortably use them when you “really need to.”
(Oh, and by the way? Humor helps.)
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- Cook one meal. - You’d be mortified if you were at someone’s home for dinner and your child told the hostess, “I don’t like this food. I want a hot dog instead.” You are not a short order cook and the world is not your child’s personal smorgasbord. I’m not a You Must Clean Your Plate kind of mom, but I am the Thank You For Trying One Bite kind. Unless your child has a food allergy, there is no reason this shouldn’t be your policy from early on. (Unless you like raising finicky kids and cooking multiple meals at a time, then knock yourself out.)
- If you say grace or give a toast at the beginning of each meal, have your kids take a turn. - Being ready to say grace if asked, or to give a simple toast is an often over-looked, but important skill. (And little kid grace is adorable. Conner used to say “God is great to my lettuce” instead of God is great, God is good, Let us thank him for our food.)
2. Eat like a Human Being. If kids are eating like wolves, it’s because their mamas let them. Kids are never too young to learn basics. The parents who opt to let meals be a free-for-all for the little kids get frustrated when the child reaches an age where they should “know better.” Or they are embarrassed when their kids don’t act properly in public. That’s so not fair to your kids. Start early.
- Sit up straight. Things I say on a regular basis: “Please bring your food up to your mouth, not your mouth down to the food.” along with “You have a skeleton, and I promise that it will hold you up.” Good posture just plain old looks better.
- Elbows off the table, napkin in your lap.
- Don’t talk with your mouth full or chew with your mouth open. Nobody likes See Food. (Well… boys think it’s funny, but you want to nip that action in the bud ASAP.)
3. Say please and thank you. - We are often more polite to strangers than we are to the people we live with. That’s wrong. Always using please and thank you conveys everyday appreciation and respect, as well as makes it second nature for your kids when they are away from you. (And you’re not around to shoot them the Stinky Eyeball for not using them.)
4. Talk with your kids at the dinner table about a variety of subjects. - We never need a conversation prompt, but don’t be afraid to use one. The more your kids can take part in conversation, the more they develop good communication skills and the more comfortable they will be in other social settings. One of the things we have noticed is that our boys have ZERO problem sitting down and carrying on conversations with adults. We get have gotten many comments about how easily they engage in conversation, and they are just as comfortable at the Big Table as they are at the Kids’ Table. (They also learn how much of a it bummer it is to be interrupted and are less likely to do it to others.)
5. After dinner…? Your kids should clean the kitchen. - As soon as your child is old enough to toddle over and toss their dish in the sink, you are teaching them that they are capable of “pitching in” to help. Age appropriate tasks teach them them that they are part of a team, and helping to clean up after dinner shows an appreciation for the cook. One of the best moments you will have as a parent is when some other mom says “Your boys were so helpful! They hopped right up and helped out in the kitchen.”
(sniff. So proud.)
None of this is a condemnation of anyone’s parenting style, so much as it’s a recommendation that yields positive results.
What do you think?