As our children get older they begin to feel their independence and they want to show that they can do things on their own. They may begin to feel that they no longer need to tell us, their parents, when or where they are coming or going. Even if they do tell us, they may feel a certain amount of resentment about having to do so.
So how do we overcome this inclination? When my children were growing up, whenever I was getting ready to leave the house, I always made sure to tell each of them individually that I was leaving, where I was going and what time I expected to return. At first I just made this a practice. Later as they got older, I explained to them the reason for doing so.
I did not want them to wonder where I was if they were looking for me. I wanted them to know when to expect me to return, in case they had something to talk about or ask me. I explained to them it was my way of showing my respect for them. Then as they got older, I could ask them to do the same for me. I had set the example.
Was it or is it required that a parent tell their children – even when there is another adult in the house? Of course not. But doing so gives you an excellent argument when your child feels like it is intrusive to their independence. It is demonstrating good manners – showing kindness and respect.
Manners are so important for children to learn as in the words of Clarence Thomas, “Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” When we use the good manners of saying please when making requests, or thank you when others have done a good deed toward us, we are showing that the feelings of others matter to us.
In the past year we have talked about courtesy and empathy – both of which are required for us to practice good manners. All of us have heard someone say the words “thank you”, but we did not feel the emotion of gratitude coming from their heart. As we teach our children the etiquette of using polite words, we also want to help them to imagine how others are feeling and appreciate the need to treat others how they would like to be treated.
Our goal at Balanced Life Skills is not just to be an outstanding martial arts school, but also to have students who others look at and recognize as having great manners, a positive attitude and compassion for others. If that is your goal too, you are in the right place – as we work together to help our students be those people.
Each month we will discuss a life skill with all of our students. This month the word is Manners. This word will be defined in the following ways for our students.
Young students: Manners: “I do kind things and use polite words!”
Older students: Manners means: Words and actions that show kindness and respect for others.
Each age group has a worksheet that parents can use to continue the discussion at home with their children, and one for adults to allow them to think more deeply about the skill and how it applies to them. Would you like to receive the worksheet? Stop by our studio at 133 Gibralter Avenue in Annapolis, MD and tell us the age of your child. We will give you a worksheet and invite you to watch Mr. Joe discuss the word with the students in class. You can also follow our discussions here on this website.
If you would like to become a member of Balanced Life Skills, come TRY CLASSES FOR FREE. We are not your typical martial arts school, in fact we are an education center, working with our students on physical skills along with character. We are building confidence in each child. Balanced Life Skills takes part in community service and encourages each student to do the same. You are welcomed to come in and talk to the parents that are here and watch the class for the age group you are interested in.
I had a conversation with some of my classmates the other day about eating meals with our Chinese companions. The fact is, noisy eating doesn’t carry the taboo of bad manners here the way it does back home. Notice your own reaction as I describe this– lip smacking, loud slurping, and that “chuk chuk” sound you get when someone chews with their mouth open. How did you react? Did you crinkle your nose, or have a little involuntary shudder? It’s pretty ingrained in me to have a fairly strong reaction to these behaviors, and I gather that most other westerners feel the same way.
Change gears for a second. I once watched an lecture on TV about wine tasting. The instructor talked about essentially slurping the wine. Our sense of smell is such a large part of our sense of taste, so getting air into the wine and the bouquet into your nose lets you taste the wine more completely.
So what if our Chinese companions are experiencing their food more completely than we are thanks to eating habits that we won’t even consider because we have been taught to find them gross? Please don’t misunderstand, I am not arguing for slurping and open mouth chewing. But I think this example illustrates pretty clearly the idea of a cultural blind spot: an idea and experience that people of a given culture can’t even perceive because a cultural inhibition stops them from even looking in that direction. And I think this example also makes clear how subtle these inhibitions are. Coming to another country, living here, and being forced to deal with this culture as a daily reality instead of a holiday novelty has made me question many such customs that I had taken for granted before. I have been forced to reconsider the difference between being of a specific culture and being human.
Have you ever noticed that the word please and thank, sometimes come out of mouths almost like “well I have to say it” sort of attitude. In fact in our efforts to teach ‘manners’ to our children they may say it just to please us parents, without the spirit of the words behind them. On the other side of that, children may begin to believe that the word “please” is indeed a ‘magic’ word that will work for anything that they want. (As parents sometimes we tell them that)
No wonder they soon start using it as a magic word. It goes something like this. We are in a store and they see a toy that they really want and they ask for it. “Mom will you buy this toy for me?” and just as quickly out of our mouths comes the words ” No, not today.” Suddenly they remember that you told them “What’s the magic word?” one time and so they try it. “Please can you buy it for me? Please, Please, Please, Please….” until we cannot deal with it any more and we as parents do one of two things. We either get angry and snap at them or we give in and buy it for them.
I told a group of students the other day, that this was disrepectful of their parents and that “”Please” does not trump the word NO”. When a child begins to believe that the word please is a magic word instead of being a word that we use to show respect for the other person they may begin demanding with it. Yes the way we say something, or the way we use our words, is just as important as what we say. What a child is saying to a parent in effect is – I don’t believe that your word NO is what you really mean and if I say magic words enough or strong enough, you will give in and I will get what I want.
As we teach our children about manners it is really the ultimate form of empathy, a characteristic we have talked about before. The use of the words please, thank you, your welcome, are all ways of being considerate, respectful and kind to each other.
Each month we define and discuss a word of character development with all of our students. This month the word is Manners. It will be defined this way.
Young students: “Showing kindness in everything I say and do!”
Older students: Manners means: Words and behaviors that show respect for other people.
If you would like to see how we will deal with this subject with our students please follow our discussions here during the month of April.