Respectful Parenting; How can we teach manners authentically?

I saw this quote the other day and it touched my soul ✨💫🌙

In my 17 years of studying and teaching in early childhood education I have learnt and seen so much from other educators/parents/adults and the children in my care.

One of my pet hates is seeing educators stand over children with a piece of food in their hand and repeat “what do you say?” And as my job as a child advocate/educational leader I find myself having to step in explain that we cannot withhold a child’s human right to eat by asking them to perform like a monkey and say “please and thank you” to please adults.

When children are put in these social situations they can close up and not want to speak. It can be overwhelming and scary for a young child to have an adult towering over them controlling and demanding them to say things that they don’t genuinely feel or are unsure about what might happen if they say the wrong thing. Especially if they don’t have a connection or relationship with that person. Picture yourself as an adult in that situation? How did it make you feel? Did you walk away feeling awkward and ashamed that you didn’t know the answer? And maybe how rude you thought that person was to make you feel so belittled?

Many of us, including myself were brought up with our parents/grandparents/adults saying,

“What do you say?”
“What’s the magic word?”
“Say thank you to the lady”

I have also heard the argument many times “then how do I teach my child manners?” “They won’t learn if I don’t teach them”

Well, when we are genuine with children they learn to be genuine in how they feel and what they say. When they are comfortable in their environment and the people they’re with they are more themselves and authentic in the way they respond socially.

When we genuinely role model desired behaviour to children they learn to follow and it naturally becomes second nature. When they are trained and forced to say things they maybe don’t mean or feel comfortable saying, what are we teaching them? (This goes for saying sorry too but that’s one for another day)

I would rather my child be authentic and genuine in his responses than a robot that doesn’t think and just says what he thinks he should, even though he doesn’t mean it.

For example, my 5 year old son can come across as shy or reserved/cautious in new situations (just like myself) and we’ve had people in retail demand things “you should say thank you to your mum” and I always stick up for him and respond with something like “he’s ok” and move away from the situation as he looks at me like ‘who is this lady and why is she making me say stuff?’ Because in 30 seconds when he’s away from the adult that he doesn’t know, his genuine and authentic reaction is to say “wow mum you’re the best, thank you so much for buying me a muffin” (actual quote) and I love that so much more than people pleasing to an adult I don’t know or will ever see again who’s going to stand there and judge me no matter what I say or do anyway.

Gratitude is a true feeling and can not be taught through scare tactics and rewards/punishments.

We can show gratitude and appreciation in other ways, perhaps it’s drawing a picture or writing a card to the person that bought them a present? Maybe it’s returning the favour and making someone a cake or picking flowers to say thank you and show people how you are grateful.

Just because we were brought up in these old school mentalities of “this is how we were taught” and “ there’s nothing wrong with me” doesn’t mean we need to continue this controlled way of thinking into our next generations.

“It takes an incredibly brave parent to seek out and accept information that contradicts their past parenting choices. Instead of putting in blinders to protect their ego, they face the truth in order to protect their future children” unknown

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