Teaching or Training Manners: What Should Parents Be Doing?

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Teach. To impart knowledge or skill to. To provide knowledge of; instruct in. To condition to a certain action or frame of mind. To cause to learn by example or experience. To advocate or preach. To carry on instruction on a regular basis in.

Train. To coach in or accustom to a mode of behavior or performance. To make proficient with specialized instruction and practice. To prepare physically, as with a regimen: train athletes for track-and-field competition.

Where is the line divided between teaching and training when it comes to our children?

Wonder Boy is not yet two. Every time he is given something, every time he decides something I prompt him to say “please” or “Thank you.”

Increasingly, Wonder Boy is starting to use his signs or words more often without my asking if he could say them.

Thank youAn excited wiggle with hands rubbed across the chest or a small “Peeeeas!” shows his passion for the Cars toy or Mr. Wonder’s Arizona green tea, fingers on the list and a ‘mwah’ sound shows gratitude for the beloved fruit pouch to the enamored Starbucks barista.

Then, I think my prompting is paying off.

I make sure with asking, that I am the example and tell the other child that was nice to give my son the toy car so they can play together.

But am I teaching my son to be polite or training my son to be? Is one more preferable than the other? Does my example of saying “please” when the waiter offers a refill of my drink, or the person holding the door while I drag a distracted Wonder Boy through while carrying papers, sippy cup and clutching my large diaper bag help to teach my son?

Was my own politeness taught to me or did it become a habit over years of prompting and example?

I really do feel appreciative when someone does something for me. Will my repeating the ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ prompts over and over instill gratitude in him, or will it just become a conditioned response?

I want him to say it. I want him to mean it.

At his age, he gets saying ‘please’ a lot easier. If he signs for it, he often gets it. Which is testament not only to the pushover parents we can be, but to also show him that his action will reap rewards. We are more likely to hand over the cookie when he says ‘please.’

But, since he is so young, even with prompting, he does not always say anything and runs off with the prize or throws himself in a tantrum.

Does he get punished for not being polite? No. That would be ridiculous. I want him to show gratitude, but I also want him to feel it, and I understand he will not always get it, holding the prize in his hands, his attention diverted to that small world in ten fingers.

I hate hearing the word ‘training’ when it comes to teaching children to do something. I think of the Pearls, who wrote a book about chastisement, To Train Up a Child , and whose teachings have led to parents ‘training’ children as young as a few months and children who have been beaten so often or so much they end up with permanent injury, organ failure or have died.

But isn’t what I am doing: training? The repeating over and over, watching as he sometimes gets it, or does he even?

Or is my leading by example helping to teach him to show manners?

What is the difference? Is it when he feels the gratitude and shows it, or knows to ask politely because that is how he would like to be asked as well? When he gets that a little sweetness goes far whether or not he actually feels grateful?

When do our efforts to raise well-mannered children (or even just mannered) children go from teaching to training?

Is this how we do it? Based on how old they are? What we are trying to instill?

 

Originally posted at Sunshine Wonderland.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee- Muhammed Ali

Photo Credit: The Shopping Sherpa.

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