Few things annoy me as much as a child's bad manners. However, the parents' allowing those bad manners annoys me even more. I understand a young child not wanting or knowing how to wait his/her turn or answer an adult politely. Nevertheless, the parents' reactions to that behavior teach the child whether or not to act the same way the next time. My wife and I work hard to teach our son to use good manners.
"Excuse me" not given
People do not always watch where they go -- me included -- but we should apologize for running into someone. In mid-July, my sister-in-law stood in the grocery checkout line when two boys came running from around the corner and knocked into the magazine rack. They did not hurt her, but the disrespect from the boys and their father upset her.
The boys said nothing and joined their father in line. My sister-in-law simply asked the boys for a "Sorry" or "Excuse me." Their father snapped back at her to get over it. No further instance followed, but the boys may have learned not to acknowledge others, even if potentially hurting someone.
My son bumps into people, but we have taught him to say, "Excuse me," and show courtesy to the other person. If he does not, then we say it for him and make him repeat it. He has learned to walk more cautiously in crowded places and show that courtesy if he does bump into someone.
Cutting in line
On a recent visit to our favorite game room, we waited for a couple to finish playing the game we wanted to play. Previously, our son would complain and ask us to let him play, but we have taught him about patience. He played another game while we waited. The couple soon moved on. Just as we started to insert our money, a young child jumped in front of my wife and called his father over.
We thought the father would tell him that we were there first and he needed to wait. Instead, Dad put money in the game, looked at us, and told his son to play. We did not mind waiting a little longer, but the fact that the father taught his son to cut in front others upset us. Our son has asked us why we make him wait but other kids cut in line so often. We want him to use good manners. Young kids may not know better, but parents should.
"Please" and "Thank you" politely said
The day ended very nicely as we entered the prize shop. I got in line at the prize counter right behind a little girl who was very proud of her take. She asked her mother, "Please?" when she picked out her prizes and answered, "Thank you," when Mom confirmed. She said, "Excuse me," when she very lightly bumped into me. She fell just short of the points she needed to buy her prizes, so she started to return a pack of candy. I appreciated her manners so much that I bought the candy for her with my points - and Mom's permission. The little girl gave me the nicest smile, and Mom made sure that she thanked me. My son saw the interaction and noticed what good manners mean to us and how they can earn simple rewards.
Each example taught our son a lesson. The bad manners could have led to confrontations. Fortunately, nothing came of them, but the potential existed with each one. The little girl who showed good manners received what she wanted, including her mother's praise, and we enjoyed making her smile. On our way to the car when leaving the game room, two young boys came running from around the corner and cut directly in front of us. They barely missed us and kept running without any acknowledgement. Our son said it best: "Their parents need to teach them some manners." We rejoice in knowing that he has learned something.
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