Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Teaching Manners is a Win/Win

It takes time and patience to teach your children manners.  They are not born with them, and they don't naturally acquire them.  So why should a parent take the time and make the effort to teach simple manners?

Let me tell you why...because teaching manners to your children will make their interactions with other adults more successful.  And when your children experience positive reactions when meeting and interacting with others, it helps build their self esteem, and reflects positively on you.  That is why teaching manners is a win/win proposition.
So how does one go about teaching manners?  What polite behavior is most important for your children to learn?  Here are three tips to help you get started:

  1. Start with the basics:  Have your children say "please" and "thank-you" when they ask things from you.  Remind them to use these simple words during your daily interactions.  Make sure they understand when they are given a gift, you expect them to say thank you to the gift giver.  This holds true for everything from treats at soccer practice to birthday gifts. 
  2. Teach eye contact:  Children are used to looking at screens.  Let them know that looking into people's eyes while talking to them is very important.  Ask your children to look into your eyes when you are speaking.  You will be laying the ground work for this skill.  I have heard job recruiters say that they have not hired extremely well qualified job candidates because the person was unable to make eye contact.  The formation of this skill begins early.  Start working on it right away.
  3. Talk about and model respect:  Children need to learn to respect a variety of people and possessions; from teachers and coaches to toys and electronics.  Respecting people and property needs to be taught.  Our culture fights this concept on every level, so parents must be vigilant about teaching respect.  Teach your children the concept of respecting someone's opinion even if it differs from your own.  Teach them to respect themselves enough to care about what messages they share about themselves on the internet.  Teach them to treat everyone with respect, from the fast food worker who takes their order to the teachers and administrators at their school. 
These three concepts when taught over time will allow your children to experience the satisfaction of making a good impression with adults.  These positive interactions will shape them and their future.  Being a kind and polite person never goes out of style.  So remember to take the time to teach the importance of simple manners.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Encourage Your Children to See The World!

This past weekend my college age son brought a friend home to visit.  I always look forward to seeing any of my children, and meeting their friends.  This young man was no exception.  He was fun and polite and fit right into the goings on in our home.  We were chatting over one of our meals and I asked him if he planned to study abroad while in college.  He gave the standard answer that he didn't want to miss any time on campus and he didn't think he could afford the added cost.  I have heard similar answers before when I ask this question to college kids.

My children have had many opportunities to travel.  Our family moved to London in 2006 for a year and during that time we saved our money by cutting out non essentials like a second car or multiple cell phones in order to afford to travel.  We rented out our house back in the U.S. to give us added income in order to travel.  We planned our family travel with a budget in mind, driving when we could, flying discount airlines when we had to and staying in rental flats that were on average cheaper than any decent hotel stay for a family of six.

Since our living abroad experience, my college age children have opted to study abroad.  One studied for a semester in Venice, and the other a summer in Paris.  My son is now trying to decide how he can fit it into his busy campus schedule.  But he knows that we want him to take advantage of study abroad opportunities while he is on campus.  It is an experience that is too valuable to miss.  Anyone I have ever talked to about studying abroad says that it was the best decision and they will never forget the amazing experiences.

One of our daughter's is currently teaching English Literature and Science in a boarding school in Taiwan.  Although I miss her being so far away, I am so proud of her willingness to seize this opportunity and live her life according to her vision.  I am sure that she has experienced things in Taiwan that she will take with her through out her teaching career.  I am sure that she will be profoundly changed by this experience.  And I am sure that the seed was planted when our family seized the opportunity to move overseas.  We all grew so much that year and were inspired by the beauty and history we were able to absorb.

My mother-in-law recently celebrated a milestone birthday by planning a trip for her and her seven children to return to Ireland (the home of her parents).  This travel experience was a wonderful gift to all of them as they got to spend time together and see the towns where their relatives came from (and visit with others who still live in the area).  I am sure that each of them felt enriched by this experience.

Travel is not cheap.  It is expensive and time consuming to plan.  But anything is possible with planning.  Don't let life pass you by without planning travel with your family.  Start when your children are young.  Share the joy of seeing new places and experiencing new things with them.  And when they grow up and head off to college, encourage them to take advantage of study abroad opportunities.  Don't let them miss out on these wonderfully enriching opportunities.  Colleges and Universities do an amazing job of offering a variety of locations and programs to take advantage of, and usually the cost is not much more that a normal semester on campus.  The other benefit is that your college student will know of other students who are studying abroad during the same semester and your student will be able to plan travel to other destinations and just bunk in with friends.  The ease of this will never happen again in their lives.  So urge them to take advantage of the offerings and broaden their horizons.  They will never regret it!

"Travel is the only thing that you buy that makes you richer!" -Anonymous


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How to Teach Your Child the Joy of Giving!

To children around the world the holiday season is one of great anticipation for getting gifts.  But little ones will experience great joy when given the chance to give to others.  Sometimes, we parents get so wrapped up in fulfilling each of our child's dreams, we forget to give them the same pleasure--the pleasure that comes with planning a surprise for someone else, or making a secret gift that will be shared on a special day.

Here are some ideas that emphasize the giving side of the holiday season that will help nurture the kind and loving spirit that each and every child possesses.  Pick one or two and give them a go.  You and your child will be so happy that you did!

Help your child pick a simple art or craft activity to work on this season as a special gift to someone.  My kids have done all of these over the years:
  • Baking cookies or a special treat
  • Making a special ornament
  • Painting a birdhouse or garden sign
  • Sewing a simple message with ribbon onto a welcome mat
  • Writing a book or poem
  • Creating a video of pictures 
  • Drawing a special picture and then frame it.   
Do an act of service as a family.  Choose a local charity and go help serve a meal or donate toys and games to a shelter.  Or better yet, think of someone in your community that could use a helping hand and anonymously perform an act of kindness.  Have your children help to buy groceries or bake for them and then do the secret delivery together.

Add bows to your Christmas tree as you perform kind acts for each other as part of a secret Santa tradition.  Read more about that here:  splashparenting.com/2012/12/best-christmas-tradition-ever.html

Emphasize the season is about giving and sharing.  Allow your children to put some coins into the Salvation army bell ringer's bucket.  Let them witness you buying a coffee for a friend, or help you buy gifts for a family you sponsor through your church or synagogue.

Above all else, talk about the joy that comes from giving and sharing, and try to deemphasize the "getting" side of the holidays.  I already have children in my preschool class telling me what they are going to get for Christmas.  Practically all of the adults that they speak with this season ask what they want...it is a vicious cycle.  But don't forget the importance of emphasizing the other side--the great  and wonderful joy that comes from giving to someone else.