It is my absolute pet peeve when kids don’t have basic manners. It’ hard to be around bratty ones, but I really like being around the kids who are trying. Gak, I sound like the manners police. Oh well. If you don’t think it’s a pain in the *** to be around someone’s kid who is rude and arrogant, there is something wrong with that picture. Anyhoo, I consider basic manners to be saying hello and goodbye when in an appropriate situation, saying please and thank you when appropriate. There are many more and here is a great list from Shine.
It’s great to teach these in your own home and have kids execute them out in the real world, or at least remember when prompted because it does take A LOT sometimes :). This got me to thinking that there are a lot of moms and my close relatives that are afraid to remind kids to mind thier manners when around adults. There are lots of reasons for this change ranging from ‘It’s not my job to raise someone else’s kid’ to ‘I don’t want to be the person who tells any mom what to do’. I used to think that way, until an old friend once told me, “I don’t want my kid thinking that there are different rules that come from me versus grandma or my friends. They’ll learn that fast, trust me, and exactly who they can get away with. I really do want to have a village to help me.”
I thought about what she said, a lot. It makes sense. It really does take a village of people to help raise a kid, from the kids learning social rules to fit in as well as adults returning the favor of helping ‘remind’ kids what the rules are. Most unknown adults would never remind a kid in public what the manner rules are, but I wondered if my friends and family would help to reinforce the norms.
In a ‘manners’ community, it is a group of people, your friends and family, who have agreed to help remind kids about what the manner rules are. The idea is that during direct interactions, the other individual has the liberty to remind the child about please and thank you as well as some basic manners. I’m NOT talking about these people disciplining your kid, yelling ‘rules’ across the room, or talking ‘down’ to your kid. With that, I am building a ‘manners’ community with my family and friends.
1. Ramping up your own manners
There is a great guide from Babble that gives guidelines on what types of manners you can start teaching. From 0-1, you can start teaching gentle, politeness in speech, as well as respect for others. Annabelle, who is a year old, is learning these three different types of behavior control. She is starting to explore the different types of levels of voice (what will happen if I continously yell in the grocery store?) to the subtle differences in touch (like hitting people on their face versus giving people a high five) and learning from us proper bahavior. The hardest one for Bill and I is showing different polite manners around the house versus when we are outside of the house. We understand the subtle difference, but Annabelle doesn’t understand the distinction just yet. We have to constantly remind ourselves that we have a little watcher who is learning from everything we do, so we are working to make sure we are polite to each other and then explain it to Annabelle. I’ll be honest, this is hard to do, especially after Bill comes home from a long day at work and I’m tired after a full day with her.
2. Sharing “manner” information isn’t about parenting other kids
In the community that I am working to set up, the only time you would ever have the interaction is during specific interactions with another child. So for example, if I was over at my friend Julie’s house and her daughter was asking me to play with her, and she didn’t say please, I would simply ask, “What is the magic word?” before engaging in a yes. I am not trying to replace the mom, but simply reminding Julie that there are some social cues. If she didn’t say Please, then I would go no further, it would be up to Julie to determine if further action is warranted. This type of ‘manners’ community is built on the mutual respect that two adults have for one another as well as the benefit of being able to share with a child that social rules are standard.
3. Sharing “manner” information isn’t about dissing the other parents
Kids, being that they are new at a lot of things, tend to forget about the right thing to do. There are going to be times that she will be across the room from me engaging with another individual and I think autonomy is good (I don’t want to be my child’s clinging shadow). That being said, I also like engaging with my friends’ kids, they are often engaging and its fun to see how they are growing. Like Annabelle, they are learning a lot of new things. If a kid forgets to say “thank you”, I don’t make a judgement about the other parent being a slacker. Rather, kids are learning a lot of new things and it’s hard for them to remember every single thing. I remind the kid of the social norm and that’s it. In talking to my friends, they like having the same prompt given to their kids as well. Again, a manners community isn’t about parenting other kids, it’s just realizing that kids are forgetful sometimes and nudging them to remember the social rules.
4. Talk to your family about a ‘manners’ community
This is the hardest when your family has very different ideas of what manners are. This is also hard to form when your family lives in different states. I started off by talking to my Mom (Grandma) about what a manners community was and the basics of application, which is simply a verbal reminder. She was happy with this because she wanted to be treated with respect in her home, but also did not want to be some sort of disciplinarian. The hardest decision that we are having is that in our home, we have certain rules. When other kids come to visit, do we suspend our rules out of being polite and not trying to step on other parents rules or do we stand firm about what our rules are in the house so Annabelle sees consistancy. We have decided on standing firm with our rules and talking about them in our house. I’m sure storms will brew.
5. Talk to your friends about a ‘manners’ community
I haven’t joined up in a Mom’s group, but will be in this coming fall. I am planning on talking to them about a ‘manners’ community to see what they think. I’m not sure how it will go and I don’t know if everyone will like it. I am thinking of broaching the conversation as explaining the concept, like I did with Grandma, and then letting the other Moms know that if Annabelle needs reminding, that I would not be offended if they said something. So far, the friends I have talked to about the ‘manners’ community are on board and responded just like Grandma.
6. What about those outside of your ‘manners’ community?
Once you start a manners community, it’s hard to turn it off outside of that group. I have found myself reminding kids to say please and thank you. Most of the time, it’s at the park where I don’t know the kids and the Mom is off to the side at a table or something (not a judgement, when Annabelle is old enough I don’t plan on being her shadow at the playground). I don’t do it all the time, I’m not the manners police. I wonder though, if it’s annoying or not. I haven’t heard anything if it’s annoying yet or if they like it (I guess I will find out when I’m not invited back!).
The second part of those outside your manners community, are those people who reward your kid for bad behavior. For example, when I’m in the grocery store and Annabelle is yelling her head off, a lot of people will smile at her and when they pass, praise her. WTF. This happens to me pretty regularly, and now I speak up and let those people know that I’m trying to teach her to use a quiet voice and that it isn’t good manners to shout in a grocery store.
I think it helps parents to have a community where the rules are the same. I also think it is mutually beneficial to have a village where each of the participants have some of the same consistant rules that we do at our house. This, I believe, teaches them larger concepts like the whole and the individual which are some of the more difficult things to do. I have wondered if I am putting Annabelle at risk, but I’m not quite sure what risk I would be putting her in since I’ve placed her within a trusted community. At any rate, I’m excited about building this type of community and I hope you build one for yourself. Let me know what you think of this type of community, does it help or harm, and would you set one up for yourself?