7 Suggestions For Training Considerate Children
Has basic politeness fallen on hard times?
This question was prompted by a recent conversation with a couple who described the contrast between two friends of their teenage children.
Every time one friend came over, he consistently greeted the adults and chatted with them. When his visit was over, he made a special effort to thank the parents for hosting him.
Another teen would show up and then disappear into another room to hang out. When the evening was over, he would slip out just as quickly. No greeting or “thank you.”
This couple, who moved from the North to the South, was surprised at the lack of manners. Wasn’t the South supposed to be known for its respect of adults?
Some would say that these issues are not important. After all, what do greeting and thanking have to do with the gospel?
But Scripture tells us Love is not rude (1 Corinthians 13:4). Stated positively, love expresses itself in consideration of others. Godliness and manners are close friends.
While certainly not the most foundational way we train our children, teaching them to consider others is not unimportant.
Seven Practical Suggestions
Maybe I will stir up a hornet’s nest, but here are some suggestions for training children that were a blessing to our family and others in our church community.
1. Teach your children to greet adults. Did you know that Christians are commanded to greet one another? It is one of the simplest forms of love. Teach your children to greet adults especially when they are spoken to. Do not excuse them by saying they are shy. It is a joy to watch children and adults interact in this simple way.
2. Teach your children to thank adults for hosting them. Thankfulness is also a training issue. When visiting at a friend’s house, let’s make sure we encourage them to interact with the host of the event. Again, even small children can be expected to say a simple “Thank you” to adults.
3. Teach your children to use words like “Please” and “Thank you.” Do we really need to say this? Children should be trained to use these words in the home and with us. Then they will much more naturally use them outside the home.
4. Teach your children to speak respectfully to you and other adults. The Bible is clear that we are to show respect for age. I grew up in the South, where there is the cultural habit of saying, “Yes, Sir” and “Yes, Ma’am.” Although we did not feel like we could expect this for our children growing up in the Northeast, they were required to say, “Yes, Dad” or “Yes, Mom.” “Yep” and “Nope” were not allowed.
In addition, though some may disagree, I think another way to communicate that respectful honor is by using last names. It communicates a proper distance and respect in the relationship.
5. Practice appropriate table manners. I am not arguing for some dainty, Victorian, milquetoast manners. But basic table manners are a way to be considerate for everyone around.
6. Teach your children how to interrupt you. At some point, all children will need to get their parent’s attention while they are talking with another adult. Will they rudely tug on your arm or march right up and start the conversation? One suggestion that we and our friends implemented was to train our children to put their hand on our shoulder (if sitting) or on our hip (if standing). This let us know they wanted to talk with them. And it allowed us to wait until a break in the conversation to address them.
7. Practice these yourself. Children will imitate what they see modeled. We cannot expect our children to speak kindly if we are not doing the same. Is there some basic habit of politeness that I need to grow in as I speak to my spouse and children?
Politeness is simply a matter of thinking highly of others. Your children can be taught these things!
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