Antidote Courtesy Politeness Respect

"Why shouldn't I belch and fart at Grandma's? She can't hear me anyway!"

Dear Dr. Borba,

Our friends spent the weekend, and my wife and I are mortified. Our once-polite ten year old forgot every manner created. His bad manners bordered at times on just plain vulgar. While all we adults stood with our mouths open, he seemed to think his attitude was "cute."We have three months to shape this kid up before our big family reunion. Is there any hope, or should we move overseas?

—Kevin B., father of three from Kansas City, Missouri

Bad Attitude Act Out

"It's their fault if their feet got under my shoes. Why should I say 'excuse me' to them?"

"So what if I talked during the sermon? I couldn't turn off my cell phone, or I'd have missed that call." "Don't worry about it, Dad. Nobody heard me burp."

Kick off an intensive program in mandatory manners training in your home 24/7. Have your child sign an agreement to abide by strict ground rules for civility and courtesy. Don't assume your child knows how to be courteous: check the list on page 63 of eighty-five important manners kids should learn, roll up your sleeves, and teach, model, and reinforce them one at a time until your kid is cured of a bad-mannered attitude. For example, with a younger child who never says "please" or "thank you," look for opportunities to use the words yourself when talking to your child or others, point out when he could use them, encourage him to use the words at appropriate moments, and congratulate him whenever he remembers to do so.With an older kid who answers the phone in a flippant tone and never takes a message, spell out expectations to her clearly and unequivocally.Write out a script if necessary containing the language you would like her to use, the information you need to receive in any message, and the tone of voice that would be most appropriate. Then practice with her until she can show you she knows what to do and how to do it.

Incivility and rude behaviors are clearly on the rise. A recent survey conducted by U.S. News and World Report found that nine out of ten Americans felt the breakdown of common courtesy has become a serious problem in this country.And courtesy does count! Scores of studies find that well-mannered children are more popular and do better in school. Notice how often they're invited to others' homes. Listen to their teachers speak about them using such positive accolades.

But it isn't that these kids are just nice to be around. Polite kids have an edge on the foundation of good character. Since they are more considerate of others' thoughts and feelings, they are a more respectful and less selfish breed. The foundation for civility is courtesy. So tune up your social graces and make courtesy, politeness, and respect a priority in your home.And squelch any impolite, discourteous attitude any time, any place your kid tries them.

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