“Mother may I?…. Yes, you may”
That was one of those playground games I played as a kiddo. I can’t remember if I thought it was weird or not playing, ‘Mother May I?’ and being a boy. I’m sure I thought the irony of it was a hoot. But, I digress, this post isn’t about schoolyard games. It’s about manners…
We just returned from our family vacation to beautiful northern Michigan (read: God’s Country). What set this vacation apart from most others was the sheer amount of ‘parenting’ we had to do. We have wonderful kids. Again, I say wonderful kids. But for whatever reason this vacation felt less like a ‘vacation’ and more like ‘object lessons for a parenting seminar’.
We woke up in northern Michigan, and our kids were different.
It was something akin to the body snatchers movie.
They were on vacation from their manners, and we were NOT about to let that happen. As I have time to digest and reflect on the change in my kids, I wonder if somehow their ‘testing of boundaries’ was a subconscious cry for normalcy. The drive was long and crammed, and their environment was not the norm. Did they need to push the limits in order to get their emotional bearings? I could speculate on reasons all day.
The fact of the matter is, we require manners regardless of reasons.
Tonight at dinner it really struck me that as a culture we have severely waned on our emphasis of manners and basic respect. Revelation of the year, right? Seriously, you don’t have to walk too far out your front door to notice that one…
Now. Here is my question for you… Do you need to walk out your front door to notice? Or has it crept inside?…Is there sin in the camp?
Tonight Maddi jumped up from the dinner table and took off running to go play. I stopped her and asked her what she was doing. She replied, ‘I’m done.’ I then told her to sit back down and ask, ‘May I be excused?’ As I gave that instruction, revelation came. I’m not merely requiring this exercise in etiquette from her for the present time. I am building her up for later.
I’m reminding her that she is not the center of the world.
I’m teaching her a long -lost skill: how to submit to authority.
Gently and with patience (a LOT of patience), I am reinforcing the fact that Kelsi and I set her boundaries for now.
I’m teaching her social graces.
I’m teaching her how to discern appropriate action when she cannot remember how to behave.
I’m teaching her how to willingly restrain herself.
Manners and social graces are like gold.
In fact, they are more like lost treasure.
In today’s day and age when you meet an adult who can tactfully execute elegance it is as though you have found a social sage in a world of ambivalence. Now, today, your children are either tomorrow’s sages or simpletons. And, tomorrow your children will be a reflection of how you trained them today.
Teaching and requiring basic manners from your children produces far more than social zombies, it fosters future elegance.
What manners do you instill in your children? Why? What do you hope it will produce? Remember, you are the instruction manual you wish your child came with.