Friday, October 19, 2012

Miss Manners

Most of the mornings when Abby has friends over to play, I am proud of how she greets them, plays with the, resolves tense toy-stealing situations and is generally a great little hostess-- except when it's over. She usually crosses her arms in front of her chest, pouts, stomps a foot and refuses to say goodbye as her friends slide on coats and velcro-up shoes. I remind her once or twice to use her manners, to help her friends feel special by offering them a polite farewell. Then she sits on the stairs in time-out while I apologize for her poor manners and offer a proper goodbye.
It is usually an embarrassing situation to find myself in. It would be easier to just say, "Oh well," and make excuses to our guests like, "she's going through a phase," or, "she did so well until now!" I am trying to be consistent in teaching her etiquette, so we end up taking the repetitive hard road.
I try not to be too hard on Abby- I get that she is a growing little person who is working very hard to understand the world around her. I am trying not to let my expectations slide too low, either. I constantly remind myself of the kind of girl I want her to grow into: one with respect for adults, who is kind to her friends, who is a leader, an independent thinker, a steward of the earth, and who has empathy for others. I don't think it is unreasonable to expect that she can start retaining rules of social conduct and etiquette alongside her memorizing the alphabet, numbers and on what shelf of the pantry I keep the chocolate.
For the last year or so, I've tried to model manners and prompt her to use the basics: thank yous, pleases, hellos, goodbyes. I see her learning in leaps and bounds right now, and figure we can up the ante on the etiquette.
She is a sensitive girl and always has been, especially in busy and new situations. She has expressed shyness before, and while I can usually read this and mother her accordingly, I no longer think it's cute when she hides behind me and refuses to acknowledge someone who is speaking to her.
We've been practicing at home how to greet adults, like her preschool teacher, and discuss how it makes people feel happy when she shares a smile. I am encouraging her to look at my eyes when I talk, and to do the same with her friends (this seems to be tough for her). Now, it seems, the issue to focus on is saying a proper goodbye and not having a little tantrum about play dates being over.
I might be outdated in my approach (not that I asked what you thought), but I see people of all ages respond really positively to children who are polite, who can carry a conversation, and self-confidently produce a hand to be shaken. Abby, Hailey and Robin all show me sparks of the magnificent people they will become, and I want the world to see that too, so I am trying to teach them to make the best impressions they can.

1 comment:

  1. My mom was big on properly "socializing" us with adults -- and my sister and I became sort of a novelty at family gatherings and in public because we were courteous but also didn't shy to engage with adults. I'm certain this was helpful in my later job search, interviews and scholarship panels.


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