Our ultimate goal as parents is to prepare our children to face the world and hope that they help to make it a better place.
September is National Courtesy Month. The American culture is so fast and impersonal these days that it is easy to forget the rules of politeness that once governed our society. Take advantage of this month’s focus on courtesy as a chance to teach your children skills that will let them reap lifelong benefits.
You’re their First Teacher
Children aren’t born knowing how to hate. They aren’t inherently rude. In fact, children are born with an innate need to please their parents. That being said, bad habits are often learned from their environment.
The good news? You are your child’s first teacher. Encouraging good habits and manners from day one can set your child up for success. Even before your child says their first words, they are observing the customs of their environment. If you want them to say “please,” “thank you”, and “excuse me”, do so in front of them. Be courteous to others.
National Courtesy Month is also a good time to reflect on your own habits. Hold open doors and hand out compliments.
Courtesy is Contagious
Kids learn by example and adults can learn this way too. When you are on your best behavior, others will pick up on that. If you compliment a stranger, that person will wear a smile all day, and they might pass the courtesy on to others. Likewise, when you are courteous to your children, recognizing their good behavior, they will return the favor.
Teach Good Deeds
One of the best things you can do for your children,
and the world, is to teach them how to give back to the community. Take a Saturday to show your kids what community service looks like. Clean out your closets and help them go through their toys to give to others. Volunteer at your local food pantry or shelter. Get involved in a church project. Your kids are never too little or too old to help out.
National Courtesy Month is also National Literacy Month. You might read to your child’s class about community service. Take a trip to your local library to learn how you can help combat the national literacy crisis.
Children should learn that good deeds are rewarded by good deeds. Please don’t offer your children treats or money for doing what is right. If you do, they’ll come to expect a reward for behavior they should present regardless of reward. Bribes result in children who feel entitled and may refuse to exemplify good manners without a reward.
Go on an Outing
As a society, we now put less focus on proper public behavior. Parents in France don’t worry a bit about taking their small children out to fancy restaurants or stores. They expect their children to conduct themselves properly. Too often, we feel that we are too busy to correct behavior that is inappropriate.
Take the time this month to teach etiquette (age appropriate, of course). If your children are old enough to hold their own utensils, teach them a bit about proper table manners then go out to lunch. Have some fun showing them place settings. When your child has a tantrum or speaks loudly at the table, try pulling them aside and explaining in a way that they’ll understand that their behavior disturbs other people. If it doesn’t help their behavior now, it will help them later on.
Every day you will experience teaching moments. Try to remember, even when you are completely at nerve’s end, that when your children act up or are disrespectful, you have a teaching moment at hand. Rather than yelling or scolding, take a deep breath. Here are a couple of options.
First, tell your child that you disapprove of their behavior. Then, you can either tell them why, or you can enforce without explanation. For example, if your child hits their sibling, you can say “Don’t hit your sister,” or “Don’t hit your sister, because it hurts and you wouldn’t like it if she hit you.” Either way, be sure to be consistent and praise good behavior. Teach your children to politely solve differences and seek help when they are struggling to do so.
The Future of America
Our children are America’s future. Let’s teach them to be the good people that you want to see in the world. Lead by example. Courtesy is something that children learn at home. Children’s good behavior will be contagious to their peers.