Encouraging Etiquette and Raising Respectful Children
Leading by example is often a good way to teach kids to be polite and considerate of others.
How often do you stop early in your lane to let someone out of a gas station parking and onto the road in front of you? Or hold the door open for someone with a cart at a grocer like Aldi? Or smile or nod at a stranger that you meet eyes with while walking through our downtown to Clawson Grill or another local shop?
Now think of how often those moments pass by without so much as an acknowledgment from the other person.
Or take it to the next level, where someone dangerously cuts you off driving down Main Street and when you slam on the horn, they decide the appropriate thing to do rather than an apologetic hand gesture is flip you the bird.
Each time we are treated in a negative or disrespectful way, each of us is encouraged to treat another in a similar way; a sort of game of telephone that passes the buck through society.
One of my largest criticisms of parenting is when things aren’t clearly explained to children, rather they get a “because I said so” or some other anti-explanation. They are given rules and told to act a certain way, but are given no motivation to follow suit.
For example, we all (hopefully) impart the importance of dental hygiene on our children. When I told my son that he needs to brush his teeth every morning and every night, as well as floss and use mouthwash, he was less than excited.
It didn’t take long before he hated doing it, as it's usually an irritation and a waste of time to kids. But rather than let that mindset fester, I explained what will happen to our teeth and mouths if we don’t care for them. I told him how it happens on a microscopic level using drawings (consult a dentist if you are not aware of these processes), then I showed him pictures of mouths with gum disease and rotten teeth. He has brushed thoroughly and regularly ever since.
The point is, I didn’t just say “brush your teeth” and follow it up with a “because I said so”. I made it make sense to him. This is one of our jobs as parents, to offer practical knowledge and ease them into the crap-storm that is life.
We, as parents, decided to have kids which means we forced our kids into this world and we are responsible for equipping them with the tools they need to survive.
But I don’t just want my son Johnny to survive, I want him to flourish. I want him to live happily and successfully. Sure I’d love for him to be rich and prosperous in his endeavors, but the happiness and success I have in mind are those rooted in self-respect and respect for others.
We likely all encourage respect out of our kids, but do they even know what “respect” means. Do we?
In this situation, the definition of “respect” is to show regard or consideration for someone; to refrain from intruding upon or interfering with them. Simply put, to acknowledge someone’s worth, just as your own.
A set of generally accepted social conventions defining the conduct of people’s behavior that have been developed and have evolved over the years is called “etiquette." Ethical, practical and positive behavior shows others we are aware and care that they have a right to exist.
Etiquette is the most common and often simple way to show respect for others. Teaching etiquette to our children is important, but the underlying motivation of respect should not be overlooked, even if it can be tough to explain to a seven-year-old.
Children are our future...right? So, in our future’s best interest, encourage and promote respect and etiquette to your kids by participating yourself in obvious ways. Hold the door for the next patron when you walk into Dunkin Donuts for a coffee or let someone with only one item cut in front of you in line at ACO Hardware. It's as simple as saying "excuse me" as you try to squeeze past another customer in the narrow aisles of Noble Fish.
The more we can positively influence our children during their formative years, the less likely our future will hold a high percentage of jerks driving around, cutting people off and flipping birds.