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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 ? Or smile or nod at a stranger that you meet eyes with while walking through our downtown to 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 for a coffee or let someone with only one item cut in front of you in line at . It's as simple as saying "excuse me" as you try to squeeze past another customer in the narrow aisles of .

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.

Barbara Musge May 28, 2011 at 01:04 PM
Mr. Cox, while I understand your point and don't disagree with you, I don't feel you've presented a complete picture. I generally do explain to my children why I've asked them to do something but the reality is compliance should not be based on a discussion of the merits of my request. Let's take brushing your teeth for example. My children know why they have to brush. I've explained it, the dentist explained it, presentations have been made at school about it, but tooth decay is a long range problem that my children just don't care about. So, in the end, they are doing it because I said so. When your boss tells you to do something at work do they explain why you have to do it? Mine never did. You do it because you were told to do it. If your boss explained the "why" behind everything they asked you to do, there wouldn't be time to get the work done! I guess my point is, sometimes it's reasonable to explain, but it's also reasonable to expect them to do it because I said so and I don't think that's poor parenting.
Lisa Vel May 28, 2011 at 01:10 PM
Only a dog owner, yet my Pointer daughter is always corrected at behaving properly. Emily Post would all be proud if we followed Ryans article. Bravo to you, a beautifully written piece.
michael J May 29, 2011 at 01:10 PM
This is why it takes a Village to raise a child, reflecting on the statement from Ms. B M above.
michael J May 29, 2011 at 01:25 PM
Postulates and Therums, Solving for X, or Brushing of Teeth as a child as is potty training is learned by example, thru trust later by Proof, since we are all born with a blank pc. of paper, and parents get to fill in that paper, for 5 short yr's then big brother takes over. I could go on endlessly, as to how kids learn and comprehend, If they see the logic or suffered some discomfort it will set in sooner or later. One teaches the first step, so some day they can walk away. (only a michigan man can find the whole number of pie.)
Ryan Cox May 30, 2011 at 01:12 AM
All great comments, again. Yes Miss Musge, it isn't a complete picture here, but I am restricted to a certain length in my articles. I could riff on this topic for hours, but a 7000 words delineation of this aspect of parenting is suited to a sociological or psychological journal, or even an in-depth parenting magazine, not so much for Patch.com! You've made a good point about sometimes the "because I said so" method needing to be employed in certain situations, but my point was it shouldn't be the only method. If the explanation of why a child shouldn't drink arsenic isn't hitting with your kids, then other methods are needed. But just saying "don't drink the arsenic" is not far off from an invitation for most kids as they are in a constant exploration mode.
Ryan Cox May 30, 2011 at 01:25 AM
MJ: I agree, but to a less absolute degree. There are so many factors, influences in variables in comprehension and behavior science, as I'm sure you know. It truly is a nature+nurture situation as some are predisposed to being more mindful while other more rebellious; some more this, some more that, and so on. But again, I can't delve to deeply in any article as I'll bump my head on that wordage ceiling.
Ryan Cox May 30, 2011 at 01:32 AM
Thank you everyone for commenting. You are using this section for what it was truly meant for: continuing the conversations started by my column, adding things I've left out, or just plain disagreeing with me is always wanted and appreciated. I do my best to post relevant, comprehensible, practical and accurate articles, but if there is ever any bad information, newer studies or some other issue within my writing, I applaud anyone for voicing their opinion or citing sources. It does take a village, and not just to raise kids. Resources like Patch.com, conversations with neighbors and doing what we're doing right now is using that village to continue to grow and expand our adult minds; we don't stop until we stop.
michael J May 30, 2011 at 11:53 AM
These resources were not and have not been available for, well since clawson has been, that is why you read such expounding differences in what was and reality,to what the young would like perhaps in a an idealology way, to the more experienced what has transpired and done quietly. Young ones think we are mad or up set, when it is more of don't be so beleiving this is what has been, till we get younger people in / on council etc. to break the hold of the past way of doing things to the new Transparancy, that is trying to come out of the woodwork. Some of the avenues are spouting up around us. One Little settled way of the past, "OPEN MEETING" meant, a very small room with ONE CHAIR for the public, I always thought the idea behind this, was cause the make it easier for the Gov. body to not have to deal with the public. send a message yes it is open, but in name only. Now it won't be tolerated, the young ones look at us like mjo way, that never happened. there are so many more examples, of small town "itest" as I call it, when if transparent it woiuld be so much easier.
Barbara Musge May 31, 2011 at 11:53 AM
Your straying off topic MJ. you can't turn a parenting post into a government post. Mr. Cox, I'll admit I wasn't thinking about your limitations on words. A's a parent currently struggling with her children, I do appreciate the time you take to write your articles. Keep up the good work!
Kimberly Middlewood May 31, 2011 at 12:29 PM
I have read and re-read this article and its comments three times over. We have 4 children. Ages 24, 21, 18 and 6. None of the them were raised to understand respect the way I was. For me, I respected my parents, teachers and elders because 'they said so'. That was that... 'back in the day'. Now, there is new research, studies, and just more general attention paid to this subject. We talk to our children now because we as parents understand the importance of it...where my parents were not given these tools. I have learned that a combination of all that has been stated here works best. When explanation doesn't seem to be working...I have to step up as the parent and state "It is my job to make sure you as my child are taken care of...and I will do my job". Sometimes that ends up sounding like 'becuase I said so.'. But, I am the adult after all. I think a combination of 'tactics' will always work the best. Just as in behavior modification. We need to do the best we can for our children in every area, making leading by example a number one prioroty and then... hope. :)
michael J May 31, 2011 at 01:59 PM
I just wanted to (learn) you how to spell your last name.(lol) Ms. Mudge. Governmental post?
michael J May 31, 2011 at 03:16 PM
Ms. Kim: From now on I will just have you answer for me. The I told you so, was a short reply to a complicated answer, too young to know, or a parents way of saying, when you grow and mature you will learn the answer thru Osmosis (?) you never heard I told you so, on a long summer night, or around a camp fire, usually you would just mutter "I am sorry I asked" it was so long. but during the week it was as said above. came from respect, often at the "dinner table" the dinner table was a great place to reinforce " by example" parents have till age 5 to implement in to their child their values, they spend the rest of the time, chasing around what big brother down loads. or peer pressure "I told you so" = not enough time to answer,manual labor, didn't have an answer, but knew it was the right thing to do.or say, lol. etc. I can tell you I WAS TOLD that Fernand Magelan, did what he did, why did I need to know that?. not one interview or pay raised was based nor asked if I knew. But boy some one decided I had to know. Untill one week end, I was in a sail boat race on a Great Lake, and all heck broke loose, boy I started to gain respect for Ferdand Magellan. I prayed to ST. Magellan, knowing he was not a St. but by Procamation he was elevated to one at that moment, where did that come from, From one of those I told you so's. some How, Ms. Kim, I knew you were out there, I just knew it, perhaps your words, will help some of the struggling parents.
michael J June 01, 2011 at 02:37 PM
The picture in the beginning, shows a boy having to open a door, is that just not Chauvinistic? Answer and I will tell you the rest of the story. never had a girl same age do the same.
Barbara Lusk June 04, 2011 at 01:17 PM
Teach by example and explanation. Start by showing respect for homeowners and the law when dropping off and picking up children from school! I live 2 doors from Kenwood School and have had my driveway blocked by parents to the point where I've had to call for police intervention! Not only is it against the law but it's disrespectful and dangerous to block me in my driveway! When parents do this or park in no parking zones it teaches children that inconvenience over rules all laws. And we wonder why teens get into so much trouble or accidents on the road????
michael J June 04, 2011 at 03:11 PM
MS. LUSK, agree also, how about shooting off back yard fire works, have them land on your camper, then ask you to prove they are the ones they had. Or cutting across lawns, talking back, the permisive parent might take the abuse waiting for the day they mature, mean while the rest of the village is gringing their teeth. One would think that the city after not having mo parking for decades, all of a sudden decide to put in no parking, they would have some one there to monitor it, it's not like it is all day affair, 25 min. in the morning and afternoon..
Ryan Cox June 05, 2011 at 08:37 PM
Very good comment about parking violations. I've seen the same thing at youth soccer matches. Gatherings like that often flood the streets with parking and makes it hard for everyone to find a spot. But that is never an excuse to block-in a driveway or park along an area of a street that has a posted "No Parking" sign.

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