It seems that politeness and courtesy have gone out of style, and the teaching of such things has gone right with it. Everywhere you turn you see temper tantrums, and children running with abandon through stores and restaurants, their hapless parents seemingly unaware or unconcerned that their offspring are behaving atrociously and annoying everyone simply trying to eat or shop.
The problem is rampant permissiveness to do as they will without consequences, either because it is too much work to correct or too little courage to enter into a battle of wills with a child, but parents who won’t teach politeness are doing their children a disservice.
Children must be taught to respect others – their property, their space, their right to eat without being stared at by the child in the next booth. Realize that respect is a two-way street. One way to teach respect is to offer it in return. I cannot tell you the number of times my children have nearly been run over by a shopping cart steered by some adult who thinks it is acceptable to push a child aside or cut them off. This is a great opportunity to point out that such behavior is rude and should not be done by anyone.
If I am going to instill respect for others, I must be the example. A couple of rules of the house are as follows: if my bedroom door is closed, you must knock and await an invitation to enter; children are not allowed to take or use something that belongs to another person without permission. These rules are not only for the children but for the parents also to lead by example.
Please and Thank You
The teaching of polite behavior must begin as early as possible in order to be retained and ingrained. When someone offers you something, be it a cookie, a compliment, or a seat, say thank you. I have heard others denigrate this method, saying it is not teaching politeness but rote behavior with no association of a social obligation attached, but I disagree. If you are making a request, say please. This shows the concept of equality between the parties involved. A demand signifies entitlement as does receiving a gift or service without acknowledging it as such.
A parent’s job is to instill good values and societal graces. Your child needs guidance, not a best friend. Failing to teach good manners is setting up a child for failure in relationships with other adults and children. There seems to be at least one child in every group that no one wants to play with because of the child’s attitude and one that defies teachers and administration personnel as well, which can cause isolation – from others and from the class as disciplinary measures escalate, eventually leading to suspension and/or expulsion.
What sort of adults will these children be? Becoming socially acceptable can very well come later in life when the results of bad behavior lead to a desire to be accepted, but it is a long hard road that no parent wants to subject their child to. A parent who teaches good manners and polite behavior are setting their children up to succeed in life and polite society.