Thursday, June 25, 2009

Parenting Advice: Teaching your Children Respect

Something happened yesterday with my 15 year old that reminded me how important it is for parents to begin teaching their children respect when they are very young. My son and a couple of his friends, little men already at 5'10" with sprouting facial hair, and deep voices, had an encounter with some neighbors. The boys have cut through these people's property for the three years we've lived here, as a short-cut to the Bagel Shop across the street.

My son has chatted up the man who lives there, as he is usually on his riding mower or working in the yard. Yesterday, his wife came out and, to give my son's version, she started screaming at the boys for cutting through her property. He came home and told me about the encounter, and said that he and his friends just kept on walking.

About an hour later, this couple rang my doorbell. I had never met them before. They felt that the boys were disrespectful while she was trying to talk to them. They weren't upset about the cutting through, just about their view that the boys ignored her while she was speaking.

She was absolutely right. Both my son and I apologized and he explained that it wasn't his intention to ignore her. He was very sorry. Later, I picked up an impatien plant as a peace offering, and all three boys accompanied me to their home. This time, we took the long route instead of cutting through.

We rang the doorbell and this woman looked at the boys and plant and had the hugest smile on her face. The boys apologized again, and she was overwhelmed. She gave each of us a hug and thanked us for the gesture.

When I initially informed the boys that I couldn't make them come with me, but I thought it was the right thing to do, they moaned, groaned and obviously didn't want to come. Yet, on the way home, (this time cutting through the yards,) they thanked me for making them go. It was just really a nice human moment.

As a teacher, I have been disappointed to note the lack of manners so many of my students demonstrate. By three and four years old, they should be saying please and thank you on a regular basis. That is the exception in my experience, not the rule. I don't understand why this is happening. Manners are the basic form of respect.

In my classroom, the children learn very quickly that they must use good manners. Of course, there will be mistakes along the in the story about my 15 year old. Children model their parents' behaviors, so begin by using good manners at home. Trust me, teachers can tell which kids learn it at home and which don't.

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