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Kristen

Teaching Your Child to be Gracious

Posted by Kristen on February 22, 2010 at 6:26 AM in Manners
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gra·cious Pronunciation: \ˈgrā-shəs\ Function: adjective Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French gracieus, from Latin gratiosus enjoying favor, agreeable, from gratia Date: 14th century

a : marked by kindness and courtesy b : graceful c : marked by tact and delicacy : urbane d : characterized by charm, good taste, generosity of spirit, and the tasteful leisure of wealth and good breeding (Merriam Webster Online)

I am pretty sure it gets on the grandparent's last nerve. I am the manners police. Every action demands a "please," "thank you so much" or "excuse me." If I don't hear it, all conversation stops until I hear it. As much as I am trying to make it an action without a thought in my children, it has become an action without thought to me. I catch myself doing it to other people's children, which is as horrifying as it sounds. Believe me when I say I could not care less about your child's manners or lack thereof. It's just that I am so used to saying it that it comes out before I think.

It is clear that being gracious is a value that is important to me. I find myself frustrated with the trend of entitlement that our generation seems to be moving toward. If you think that everything is owed to you, you tend to be less likely to feel thankful for the good things you have.

The thing is, I think there is a big difference between being gracious and having gratitude. Gratitude is defined by WordNetWeb as "a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation." I cannot force my children to feel thankful or appreciative. But I do believe that by practicing the act of being gracious can be training for gratitude. If you say "thank you," odds are better that you will actually feel thankful than if you don't say anything at all.

I have noticed that the manners policing is finally kicking in with my kids. Rumor on the street is that they pull out the manners when they are elsewhere. I'm also seeing that they seem to actually mean it sometimes when they say "thank you." I think that is all that you can ask for as a parent. What do you think?

14 Comments

Amber writes...

I think most kids are more polite for others, for a variety of reasons. I'm probably more polite around others than I am around my family, too. So I do my best to teach my kids what they should say and do, and then I have leave it to them to do it. Thankfully, they generally step up to the plate when there are strangers involved.

Dana writes...

I only MODEL graciousness and gratitude. I don't see how you stopping all conversation until YOU get to hear what YOU want to hear creates any sort of graciousness. You are modelling selfishness and that's what your kids will learn from it. Hardly the lesson I want my kids to learn from me.

thank for share article

Holli writes...

I disagree. It IS necessary to stop & wait for the proper response. I have been knocked down, 8mo pregnant, by kids (between 6 & 11) running around a store like little banshees, with their mother at the end of the isle, totally oblivious. They didn't stop, they didn't even pause, the Mother didn't stop or even turn my way. Children today are so completely rude. Everywhere we go, we get complimented on how polite our children are. Thankfully, my children are not the norm. My son even holds doors, not just for women, but for anyone walking through a door, because it is the proper thing to do. I absolutely think that adults should be more conscientious about their childrens' behaviour. Modeling alone does not teach them anything. I can model cleaning my house all week long, but unless they are taught how to clean properly and where to put things, they just don't know. Modeling is fine for adults, they 'should' know better, but children are children and need to be taught.

Sam writes...

I think stopping all conversation to wait for your desired response is rude and humiliating to the child. How do you know if your kid is being gracious because he is feeling gracious or because he fears being publicly humiliated by his mother?

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Melissa writes...

I agree with you and try to teach this in our house too.

We go beyond (and I am sure you do today) and routinely explain WHY we say thank you, why we say grace before dinner, why we are so lucky and blessed. We also model this behavior.

It does make a difference and it does get through. My son willingly gave up birthday presents at age 4 to collect items for an animal shelter because "he had enough toys".

I disagree with Dana, when children are toddlers the WHY cannot be understood. Waiting and teaching them the words and actions of gratitude is not selfish at all. It's starting the stepping stones to bigger lessons.

Dana writes...

Melissa, I just remember being a child and how I felt when subjected to public humiliation for forgetting to say please and thank you. I certainly tried harder to remember to say those things, but it was because of my fear of being humiliated. I had to OVERCOME that to become a person who said these things because of an authentic feeling of graciousness. In our house, this (modelling and talking about it) has worked wonderfully. your mileage may vary :)

PS: Modelling also works for cleaning at our house :)

Jess writes...

I don't agree with the "children these days" statements. This complaint has been uttered by every generation within my memory and I'm certain it was voiced thousands of years ago, as well. While social mores / cultural norms change over time, I haven't noticed that people as a whole are any less kind and grateful than they have been in the past.

Please keep in mind that what looks gracious to one person might not look gracious to another. Short of figuring out how to read minds so that we can all live up to each other's previously uncommunicated expectations, we are always going to meet people who seem rude by our standards, and each of us has probably seemed rude to others at some point. A little benefit of the doubt goes a long way. :o)

My own understanding of children's development causes me to aim more for modeling please/thank you and other social niceties, and to encourage their expression, but not to force it. I foster graciousness with graciousness. The kids pick up on it and use it. I'm sure that my treating them like people who are gracious deep down rather than like ungrateful brats who must be sternly corrected is helpful. I love seeing their compassion, charm, and consideration for others bloom.

Kristen writes...

Dana and Jess,

What is the line between modeling and training? I modeled potty training by not shutting my kids out of the bathroom and yet they did not automatically potty train themselves. :-)

My son just turned 3. He doesn't even know what he's doing let alone what I'm doing.

In The Minds of Boys, Michael Gurian talks about the chemical makeup of boys and how it differs from girls. He suggests that you can repeat something to a boy 4 times while maintaining eye contact before a reaction will appear on a brain scan of the boy. That's science. I'm pretty sure he was talking about my children.

Selfish that I don't want my children to be rude? Perhaps. Humiliating? Never.

:-)

Kristen writes...

Also, after a good 4 hours of sleep in a row, I finally realized that you thought my argument was with this generation of kids, Jess. My argument is MY generation. Of course, my parents generation was a stickler for manners (and practiced them too) and we still turned out this way. I think I just defeated my own argument. :-)

Jess writes...

Kristen, hilarious! (and 4 hours, ugh) I'm still not convinced that our generation is any less gracious than other generations. Or perhaps I could agree that we express it differently, but are no more or less kind on the inside. We're more detached in some ways but more connected in others.

As for modeling, training, etc, I do let my kids know when they're behaving in a way I find unacceptable. One phrase that gets used here often is "let's try that again" - which the kids know is a prompt to back up and rephrase their original demand as a polite request. Also FWIW I'm less flexible with a 7 y/o than I am with a 2 y/o. From what I can see it's working well here!

Karen writes...

Kristen, thank you for sharing that tidbit about boys and brain scans. It explains a lot!

While I agree that a parent assertively expecting behavior can cross the line into embarrassing or criticizing sometimes, kids are not born with a conscience. They develop one by learning, in part, what to feel bad about. Positive modeling and cultivating genuine feelings of pleasure and gratitude for their blessings are key as well, but an appropriate level of guilt is a necessary part of a functioning conscience. While I never want to shame my kids, once they know what's right, they should of course feel a twinge of guilt about forgetting their manners.

Tommie23Buckley writes...

Some time before, I needed to buy a building for my organization but I did not have enough cash and couldn't purchase something. Thank God my dude proposed to try to take the home loans at reliable bank. Thus, I did so and used to be happy with my college loan.

Ginger writes...

Ha, my first thought too was, "I bet Dana has girls." :) Boys seem to be less verbally oriented and less adept at picking up on social niceties. Probably personality also plays into it... my energetic, highly-distractible oldest son (6) still needs to be reminded quite a bit; my more mellow youngest (2) is picking up manners quite nicely on his own.

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