My husband and I tried to teach our children lessons in politeness from an early age. When our son and daughter were babies, it started out by saying “Please,” “Thank You,” and “You’re Welcome.” It was pretty basic stuff, but eventually, they began copying us and using those phrases regularly.
As they got a bit older, we began to work on how to form full sentences and ask for things politely, such as, “May I have a glass of milk?” Sure, our kids don’t speak perfectly all of the time–far from it. But whenever we can remind them of the polite ways to speak or to treat someone, we do our best.
I don’t pretend to know if they act the same way at school that they do at home, but I would hope some of the social graces we instill under our roof stick in the outside world. However, what do you do when not every parent raises their child with those same values? How can you raise a polite kid who is not a pushover?
Suppose little Susie is playing blocks at school with another a friend. They are sharing nicely and working well together. All of the sudden, little Johnny enters the scene. He runs up to the block area, swipes one of the other children’s blocks and knocks their tower down. The polite children don’t react — mostly because it hadn’t ever occurred to them that another person would do that. They are surprised. They are sad their tower got knocked down. Johnny gets reprimanded but does the same thing the next day. That day after school, little Susie tells her mom that little Johnny always knocks her tower down and that he is not good at sharing. Eventually, little Susie doesn’t want to go to class anymore because of little Johnny.
If little Susie was your child, what would you do?
I realize that in life there will always be a “little Johnny.” He may be in school, at the pool, on the playground or even in your workplace. As humans we need to learn the coping skills necessary to deal and adapt to those around us. Even though the old adage “do unto others…” sounds nice; it isn’t reality.
So how do you strike the balance between raising a polite, well-behaved child with one who also knows when and how to stand up for themself?
Advice and war stories welcome.
- Ruth Marcus: Should we be pushy, or pushovers? (commercialappeal.com)
- Willis is a pushover for daughters (hollywood.com)