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Dinnertime And Manners

In what my husband would call “typical boy fashion”, we have moments at the table of which I am not proud.  Moments of bodily noises, discussions that tend to curb many an appetite and, in general, not the greatest manners on the block.  So, to encourage my boys to be better behaved at dinner at home, I tried a few ideas.  My thought is, if we practice good manners at home, we’ll have an easier time remembering them when we’re out or at a friend’s house.

While none of these are the end-all, beat-all solution to teaching your children manners, they are some great ideas to encourage that kind of behavior.  Of course, the best solution is consistency and modeling.  If you want good manners, then SHOW good manners, and ENCOURAGE good manners.  These ideas lend themselves well to that theory.

  1. Make it a tangible award.  We recycled an old trophy of my husband’s to be our “Manner Trophy”.  Each evening (you could also stretch it out over the course of a week with older kids), we present one child with the Manner Trophy for outstandingly good manners at the table (or the most improved for those that aren’t quite there but are trying really hard!).  That child gets to temporarily keep the trophy until the next award ceremony.  Old medals and ribbons also work well for this.
  2. Make it a game.  We made a list of rules we wanted our boys to follow while eating a meal, such as “elbows off the table” and “thank the person who prepared the food.”  At the beginning of the meal, each person at the table is given 10 of an object, such as 10 toothpicks or 10 pennies.  During the course of the meal, if someone spots a violation of a rule, he (or she) may politely ask the offender for a toothpick or penny.  The winner of the game is the person with the most objects when the meal is over.  We try to make the “prize” something simple, like a sticker or another little treat, but as a family we try to make it an all-around tie so everyone wins!
  3. Give out simple rewards.  This works well with younger children because the reward can be almost immediate.  Write out on slips of paper some simple rewards, such as reading an extra book at night or playing a board game or getting an extra fifteen minutes before heading to bed.  The rewards can be specific to each child.  Place each child’s reward slips in a special jar or container (we use recycled spaghetti jars labeled with the boys’ names).  When mealtime goes well and the kids use their good manners, each gets to choose a reward slip from his jar.

How To Address Adults – An Opinion

I’m a Southern-gal.  Born and raised by my parents, both Southern folk.  My mom, in fact, is a fourth-generation Texan.  And, while my parents are quite progressive, there are some things that just stick with us, like unsweet iced tea, coordinating purses (especially at Easter), sitting with your ankles crossed, and addressing those that are senior to your age in a certain way.

I was raised to address my friends’ parents as Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so (without the actual So-and-so part).  And, my friends did the same.  Mrs. Berger would call my mom to see if I could spend the night with Michelle.  Mr. Palumbo down the street drove a school bus and we were all a little bit afraid of him.  And, Mrs. O’Keefe worked for the Mars candy company.  She was EVERYONE’S favorite “mom” on Halloween! 

Teachers were addressed much the same way, or at least with a “ma’am” or “sir” thrown in for extra measure.  It was the way to address someone with respect at the time.  And, it has become a dying form of communication.

I teach preschool now.  My last name is quite a mouthful – a German surname with the harsh consonant rattles typical of the language.  While it isn’t the most difficult name to pronounce (it does have vowels, unlike my teaching counter-part who has just two vowels in her 10-letter last name, and one is at the end), it can be a task for a four year-old to learn to say.

Many teachers at our school go by the “Ms. (insert name here)” rule.  As long as the kids use the “Ms.” in front, they are welcome to use the first or last name.  And, for a while, this was my rule, too.  Most of my older son’s friends grew up calling me Ms. Judy.  It bothered me a little, though.  This isn’t how I was taught to address adults, and I wasn’t sure this is how I wanted my son to address adults.  I had friends who asked that kids simply call them by their first names, but my son was taught otherwise.  In fact, we did end up teaching our son to follow the “old fashioned” way – title + surname.  Yes, it sounds more formal but, to me, it also sounds more respectful. 

My kids in my class now address me by my last name (or by simply calling me “teacher” since a few of them can’t seem to be able to remember my last name yet).  My parents of my kids in my class also address me by my last name.  My hope is that my children realize that this method of addressing someone is a sign of respect.  It goes hand-in-hand with ma’am and sir.  For me, it is simply a matter of how we address those that are older than ourselves.

What are your thoughts?  How do young people address you?  How do you wish to be addressed?  And, what is your reasoning?

Playing – It Isn’t Just For Fun!

I spend three days a week with a class of twelve children, ages four and five years old.  As one of my boys was leaving the class to go home with his mom last week, I overheard her ask her son, “How was your day today?”  Her son replied, “Great!  All we did was play today!”

Playing is one of the most beneficial gifts we can give our children.  While we may look at play as simply the “surface value” of what we see, play is much more than that.  Playing carries with it an amazing number of benefits and learning development strategies which children need later on to help them on their journey of learning.

First of all, playing builds coordination.  Children are more apt to take greater risks when playing, simply because they are taking on the persona of someone or something else when they play (most of the time).  While a child might be too timid to run and leap on their own, they might become the most agile gorrilla when playing in their make-believe jungle.  Playing allows children to try new skills out without feeling pressured or threatened.  There are no expectations when playing, only the imagination and the child dictate what will happen. 

Speaking of the imagination, playing is a huge tool in building imaginations.  Children who can imagine and create will more easily be able to hone in on higher order thinking skills and problem solving skills as they grow.  Children can learn to solve problems in a non-threatening environment.  While playing, children can create their own situations and devise solutions to their problems.

Playing also fosters good social skills among children.  By playing in a positive way with peers, children learn how to appropriately treat others and how they like to be treated as well.  Children realize in a positive environment that good manners and nice words will carry them far in life, moreso than bossy, critical behavior.  Playtime is an excellent opportunity for children to learn social skills that will stay with them forever.

The mom of the child mentioned in the beginning winked at me as she walked out the door to her car.  She knows the power of play and the important skills playtime addresses for children.  Play isn’t just for fun; it is a powerful tool in learning life’s lessons.

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