Raising a Polite Child; Not a Pushover

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.

About bizemom

I am a busy working mom (get it... "Biz e-Mom"?) of three kids under the age of four. I have a white-collar day job, I have a night job as a mom, and an "in between" job as a freelance writer and blogger. What can I say, I am a glutton for punishment and I don't go to bed until 1 a.m. No matter how much I complain, I like being busy. That must be the Sagitarius in me--we get bored easily. Now on to the next adventure (I mean... venture!)
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13 Responses to Raising a Polite Child; Not a Pushover

  1. kloppenmum says:

    We’re also big on manners, and I understand what you are saying. In part I think the answer is in raising children who are self-assured enough to:
    1. Be able to identify and stay away from Johnny,
    2. Be able to ask for help from the adult in charge and know any issues will be sorted properly…choice of institution,
    3. Be able to stand their ground and say things like, “Stop it, I don’t like it.”
    4. I also don’t expect our children to apologise when they have stood their ground – (except if they have been violent or down right mean), this is a very grey area, I know, but life is grey…rarely black and white.

    • richelle says:

      Good advice. We have basically gone with a 3 step rule:

      First time: tell Johnny “don’t knock my tower down”
      Second time: tell the teacher
      Third time: go play somewhere Johnny isn’t

      Not sure this is working that well so this outside feedback helps.

  2. Jill says:

    wow, gosh….I’m not quite sure what I would say.

  3. I have no idea how to handle this situation and was hoping there’d be some advice here for me!

  4. Chantelle says:

    I agree with kloppenmum! Those are all great ideas.
    My husband was listening to our friend tell a story about her 5 year old boy being pushed or hit by a three year old.
    The mum kept saying ‘tell the teacher’ and he would, but it kept happening, so my husband said to the boy “You’re five, he’s three! Hit him back!” His mum and I said “oh no! Don’t do that! tell the teacher”
    Guess what happened? He slugged that little boy and he didn’t ever get hit again!
    Not exactly the best parenting story, but it solved the problem! lol

  5. To kloppenmum’s good list I would add a teaching about the difference between action and reaction — that action is what we do when we pause to think before acting and reaction is what we do when we act without thinking. Mind you, adults are seriously guilty of the latter as well but IMHO, children can’t learn the value of thought before speaking or acting early enough. Of course every child’s thinking mileage will vary. 🙂

    On a parallel topic re: manners, I just had to share this story from my local PC Reigns climate in the Pacific Northwest. True story. As I recall, it’s a kindergarten at a private school. A boy student says he wants X (i.e., another student’s toy). The teacher, in an attempt to teach him manners, teaches him “please,” — i.e., can I borrow your truck, please.”

    The boy’s parents find out that he’s been instructed in “please.” Raise a stink with the principal. They don’t use “please” at home. Because it’s manipulative of others.

    The school sides with the parents. The teacher is reprimanded and banned from teaching “please” and other social manners.


    • richelle says:

      That is incredible. My jaw just hit the floor!

      • I told the person who relayed this that had I been that reprimanded teacher, I’d have taken the whole story to the local media. I think a whoooole lotta parents would’ve been upset that the school for which they’re paying big bucks stood behind such PC parents and against teaching manners. Personally, what can I say except I cannot move from this region soon enough!

  6. kloppenmum says:

    allycatadventures…I’m really hoping that what you said was a joke – surely not!
    Great idea about the pause…

  7. kloppenmum says:

    …well words fail me then…and that doesn’t happen often.

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