By Ron Ross
The child sitting down the row from me in a dark movie theater needed to go to the bathroom. As he passed me in the darkness he stepped on my toe. He did the same thing on his way back. He never said, “Excuse me” or “I’m sorry!” He acted as if I was the problem because I was in his way.
Why are so many children unruly and ill-mannered in public? I have the answer: Because the adults who are supposed to teach their children how to be polite have not taught them. Here are four possible reasons why parents fail to teach their children good manners.
ONE: They were never taught manners themselves. Parents cannot teach their children to do something they do not know how to do themselves. How many adults do you know who have let the door slam in your face or never said please or thank you?
TWO: They are afraid of reprisal. Have you ever seen a little kid throw a great big fit in a grocery store because his mother wouldn’t buy him a candy bar? He screamed, grabbed an item in her basket and threw it at her and generally raised holy heck. Everyone who watched thought, “That kid needs a good swat on the butt.” No doubt the mother thought the same thing, but she also thought, “If I swat him on the butt someone here is going to call Social Services or the cops and within a few hours I’ll be arrested for child abuse.” In today’s politically correct world it is a legitimate fear. So the mom decides it is easier to let the kid humiliate her and make a public nuisance of himself than it is to take the chance of going to jail.
THREE: They are exhausted. So many parents work a full-time job and come home tired every night. They spend eight to ten hours putting out fires at work dealing with employees or employers who have temper tantrums. By the time they get home at night they are too tired to discipline their little ankle biter so they let him/her run wild.
FOUR: The parents believe it is their job to make their kids happy. When you discipline a child or teach them mannerly behavior sometimes you must make the child do things he/she does not want to do. That is when they scream, “All I want to do is be happy!” If the parent agrees with the child the child is in control of the household.
In his book, “Have a New Kid by Friday,” Dr. Kevin Leman says the goal of parenting is not to create happy kids; rather, it is to create responsible kids. To teach them to be responsible means you must repeat yourself over and over again until they learn, and that gets tiring. It also means you will have to know where, when and how to discipline them and to do it no matter how exhausted you are.
It will be worth it, believe me. Consider it an investment now that will bring you substantial returns later. You will be proud of your mannerly, well-behaved child. Everyone else in the grocery store, movie theater, or classroom will too.
With some extra effort, in a few years you will have raised a polite, responsible child. And as your child learns to be polite and responsible he/she will also be happy – because manners matter.
- Manners Matter 7
- Manners Matter 9