Making manners stick

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  May 25, 2011 06:00 AM

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Question Hi Barbara,

Since you've lost a bunch of questions, I'll bite with an issue that I've been thinking about a lot lately....kids and manners. Friends of mine were recently posting an article on Facebook about manners kids should know by age nine.

I think it is a great list.

However, I have been thinking more about my preschooler. She's about to be four. I wouldn't exactly call her shy - sometimes she is downright chatty with a grocery store clerk or other strange adult. She's articulate and very, very social when she wants to be. But she selectively behaves rudely in public - by not answering people who say hello to her, refusing to say goodbye to people, or refusing to say thank you when, say, an ice cream cone is handed to her.

Last week I had to say to her "If you can't thank the lady for the ice cream, then you can't have it." She refused to say thank you. I had to hand back the ice cream (I still paid for it, of course) and we marched out of the shop. Needless to say, she was hysterical after that.

I know I'm opening myself up to huge criticism here - sometimes your readers are HARSH! But if there is one thing I stand by in my parenting at all costs, it is following through on my "threats." If I say there will be a consequence to an infraction, I make sure there is a consequence.

Am I expecting too much of her? My son (who is nearly eight) was never like this. He needed to be prompted occasionally, but he never downright refused to utter the general words of polite banter. Is it sufficient for me to thank, greet, or bid goodbye to people in her stead?

From: RH, Canton, MA


Dear RH,

No, you are not expecting too much of a 4 yo. Manners are the backbone of a civil society (which we mostly are) and the building blocks of empathy. A few years ago, I did a story a about the Tobin School in Natick where they were teaching etiquette in pre-K class. I checked back in with the school yesterday. That program has been so successful, it's now used throughout the school.

Good for them. I'm not sure why parents are less comfortable teaching manners than in previous generations, but I applaud you for doing so and for following through on your consequences; when we don't follow through, we're our own worse enemies. Instead of insisting she the ice cream back, though, I would have just plopped myself down on a chair and said, "Well, we can't leave until you say thank you." OK, OK. I know that we don't always have the luxury of time, but when we do, this is a really effective strategy, including at home. Stop the world -- nothing else can happen until she exercises her manners -- but be sure you are calm and matter-of-fact, and yes, willing to tolerate her melt-down: "You know what, we can't leave the store until you say thank you/ we'll just wait for a snack until you say please..." Speaking of exercising manners, one of my all-time favorite books for kids is, "Mary Louise Loses Her Manners," by Diane Cuneo, illustrated by Jack E. Davis. It's very funny but makes its point and the illustrations are fabulous.

Your daughter is possibly using this behavior as a way to exercise some control or to get negative attention. Is it possible she thinks her brother gets more attention than she does? That old "Mom & Me" time with each kid, literally just five-minutes-a-day (and I know, there I go again involving time....It's what we need the most as parents, isn't it?) of doing something together, just the two of you, where your child knows she can have your undivided attention, can do wonders. And if she's about to go into kindergarten, it could have something to do with a 4-year-old's magical thinking & sense of power: "Wow! I'm a big kid, now; manners are for babies."

As for making manners stick, one reason young children sometimes get hung up with manners is because we are too vague about them. We say things like, "Be nice," or, "Use your manners," without defining what we mean. So be sure to be specific. Also be sure to tell her why manners are important -- they make other people feel special and that can make you feel good, too.

Also make it about your family: "In our family, we're proud of being polite. That means we always say please and thank you." Make it about family rules that you all follow -- and make sure you do. Obviously, praise her when her manners are good, and reinforce why manners count: "Thank you for saying thank you! That makes me feel so good."

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22 comments so far...
  1. I don't think it was too harsh. If you did that all the time, over every little infraction, then you might be being too harsh. Your daughter not only refused to thank the person for the ice cream, she also bluntly disobeyed your public request to say thank you. Good for you. Next time you go for a treat you can remind her gently ahead of time that you'll all be using your best manners and be specific about what that behavior will be and what the consequences will be if there is uncooperative or rude behavior. Part of the reason she was hysterical is that she didn't expect you to put the hammer down on her, especially in public. Saying we can't leave the store until you say thank you might work for another treat, but not for an ice cream, which has to be eaten immediately. Whatever you try to do, be predictable and stick to your guns. It's horrible to be out in public and see a child act entitled, manipulative and rude until the parent backs down. It's a disservice to the child. My parents used the "our family has good manners and are honest in our dealings" approach, similar to what Barbara is suggesting, and it worked very well.

    Posted by Favorite Auntie May 25, 11 07:40 AM
  1. I'd love to know how things have been since the ice cream incident. It sounds as though you are being very reasonable. Some kids just have an easier time than others w/ this stuff. Barbara's right...be specific about what you expect, rehearse/remind ahead of time, give feedback.
    When my stepdaughter was that age she really did fine w/ household manners & w/ public manners like the ice cream. Saying hello & goodbye to random people (strangers) was not so consistent & I just didn't worry about it. It was too hard to plan for & rehearse, there were no natural consequences, & sometimes the public acted in a strange way, at least from the point of view of a 4 year old. I just said hello or whatever & didn't provide any attention to the issue at all (and hoped that Weird Granny wouldn't carry on too much).

    Posted by roo May 25, 11 08:04 AM
  1. Good advice. My only codicil (and I'm not being harsh!) is to make sure that you don't over-involve strangers in your teaching moments. The poor ice cream store clerk probably bore the brunt of your daughter's meltdown. I can see how this approach could easily make the unknowing third party really uncomfortable, since using manners usually involves a third party. The next time a stranger, or an acquaintance, says something nice to your daughter, if your daughter doesn't respond to your standards, don't make them both stand there until she reacts properly. Use YOUR manners to minimize everyone's discomfort.

    And yes, it is a stage IMO. One that I thought my oldest granddaughter would never grow out of! But she finally did and she's a charming 9 YO.

    Posted by JBar May 25, 11 08:08 AM
  1. Good for you, RH. No harsh words from me.

    Posted by geocool May 25, 11 01:30 PM
  1. Not over-reacting at all, LW. I think you did great! In fact, I wish more parents would take that lead. We've been teaching our daughter (3 y/o) manners since she could talk. I don't expect an 18 month old to say thank you every time, but a 4 y/o should know by now.

    And I do like BM's caveat about explaining why manners are important. That was my lesson from this column. :)

    Posted by phe May 25, 11 01:57 PM
  1. I agree with Barbara and the other commenters. This also seems to be somewhat of a temperment/personality issue since she has done this in several settings and your older child never did. Maybe she is somewhat slow-to-warm-up and maybe has a bit of a stubborn streak? Seems like the best way to handle these episodes is to ignore the ones that might be anxiety-related or too vague for her to understand and to enforce some simple rules, calmly, like you did with the ice cream. The key is to be calm, encouraging, and consistent.

    Posted by koala May 25, 11 02:13 PM
  1. I don't agree that sitting and waiting for the thank you is a good response -- not because a parent might not have that kind of time, but because it involves the other adult too much in the lesson. I can imagine that a lot of people would feel rather put on the spot (I am assuming here we are talking about non-family members; if this is grandma and grandpa, it should be fine). So, while I might have the time to sit at the ice cream parlor forever, it might make the person behind the counter feel rather awkward. And it might lead to undermining ("Oh, that's okay! You go ahead and enjoy your ice cream, sweetie!).

    Since you can't prevent that kind of response from the other, non-family-member adult, and manners lessons shouldn't make others feel awkward, I think a matter-of-fact response of giving back the item is the best one.

    Posted by jjlen May 25, 11 02:41 PM
  1. I think it's great that you followed through on the "threat". But at the same time, some kids have anxiety about talking to others in certain situations, so maybe there is some middle ground that you could achieve as a compromise, depending on your child? Saying it to you, signing it, etc. could be options. Just a thought.

    Posted by PJ May 25, 11 03:43 PM
  1. Always follow through with a threat. It bothers me immensely when parents, including my husband, threaten something like leaving a child in a store. Something that will never happen.

    Anyways, I'm not sure how I feel about the sit and wait approach either. That could seriously back fire. A control hungry child might just see this as a chance to exercise their control.

    Posted by lala May 26, 11 07:55 AM
  1. Good for you. I am so sick of dealing with rude indivduals. They are on the road, in the workplace, almost everywhere you look. Maybe if some of these "grown ups" had had their ice cream cones taken away at a tender age, they might not have grown into the mannerless vulgarians that they have become.

    Posted by mary carroll May 26, 11 07:59 AM
  1. Thank you for sticking with the manners, it's very important in our family and seeing other parents set the bar up high makes my job easier. You were perfectly reasonable and you daughters life will be a much smoother ride if she's given the gift of good behavior & grace.

    Posted by julie May 26, 11 08:08 AM
  1. I'm going to agree with the poster who cautioned about involving 3rd parties too much. As a waitress for years, there was NOTHING more awkward than when parents would ask their kids to thank me for something and it turned into a showdown. I never knew when it was appropriate to walk away. I would always just laugh and say, "oh it's ok", but then the parents seemed pissed that I gave their kids a pass. In the end, the kid got upset, the parents got embarrassed, and I got flustered. Teaching manners is great and important, but don't force other people into your child rearing if it's going to create an uncomfortable situation. I'm sure that ice cream clerk really did feel awful watching a 4 year old have their ice cream thrown away. Perhaps taking the ice cream and then throwing it away outside (out of her sight) would have been better. (Or the previous suggestion to sit and wait until a thank you was said, although that could get weird too)

    Posted by Linsi May 26, 11 08:45 AM
  1. I agree 100% with the letter writer. Well done!

    When in a position where I have to discipline my two kids in public, I have found that other adults have often tried to thwart my efforts. I'm not the most strict parent around, but I just won't sit by while my kids are disruptive or rude in a public place. I'm not sure if certain adults are just uncomfortable being nearby when this happens and are trying to reassure me that they weren't inconvenienced (?). But it creates a situation where they make me feel uncomfortable for, well, doing my job as a parent.

    As an example, I was out to a casual restaurant with my children and a family friend. The family friend doesn't have kids and routinely got my 2 year-old somewhat amped up (whether it was purposeful, I'm not sure). Every time I tried to sort of quiet my daughter down because she was clearly loud enough to be annoying to other diners, the family friend played it like I was a buzzkill. Other diners were looking our way, so I know I wasn't the only one disturbed.

    Also, in an example like the one above, I find that the person who is the equivalent of the ice cream clerk tries to reassure me that it's totally fine that my kid didn't say "thank you." It just isn't helpful when you're trying to convey a lesson to the child. I'm sure it's just out of discomfort, though.

    Posted by JKR May 26, 11 09:24 AM
  1. Well done letter writer!

    Posted by Dan Cleo May 26, 11 11:22 AM
  1. Fully agreed - it is entirely reasonable to ask her to thank for her cone as a condition of getting it (it's a want, not a need), and if she refuses there should be immediate consequences.

    While the child will be frustrated a few times, they will soon understand that certain things are not negotiable and everybody will; be much happier as a result.

    A long term gain is worth some short term pain...

    Posted by H-B-X May 26, 11 11:43 AM
  1. You did the right thing. Anyone who would call that harsh probably doesn't have kids or isn't so good about following thru with a consequence. I agree with the others that it's best not to get the other adult involved. It's between you and your child. And I have to say that once she knows you will follow thru every single time, you really won't be in a position like this too often anymore.

    Set her up for success every time. Before you go in for that ice cream, tell her, "You can have the ice cream only after you say thank you. No thank you, no ice cream." Then, as she is handed the cone, gently remind her, "Remember to say thanks."

    You may have to nudge her again, but if compliance isn't immediate, just pay for that cone and leave it at the store. Don't make the server sit there while you encourage and cajole your child to use her manners. You know she has the verbal skills to do it because you say she has demonstrated them in other social settings, so it's not unreasonable to expect prompt compliance.

    And of course you do know that it's not only about manners, but about her pitting her will against yours. But you are in charge, and the tools you're using to teach her manners are also going to work as you teach her that you're the adult.

    Posted by Ashley May 26, 11 11:57 AM
  1. I heard this quote recently and I am sorry I cannot credit the author as I don't remember who it was, but I LOVED it. I have 6 y.o. triplets and spend my days and nights prompting them over and over to use their manners. I feel strongly that it contributes to their own sense of self-worth and esteem by showing respect for others. Anyway - here is the quote -

    "Please’’ and “thank you’’ are more than magic words. The former acknowledges not everything in the world belongs to you; the latter affirms that what you have is a consequence of a connection to others.

    Posted by TripletMomma May 26, 11 12:05 PM
  1. I think your daughter was testing you. She was testing her boundaries, and whether you would follow through on your threat. If you had done anything else, you would have failed her test, and eventually suffered for it.

    Posted by Bob May 26, 11 11:42 PM
  1. Sounds to me like the mother is overpraising her daughter. Don't tell your daughter that she's pretty every 10 minutes. It ruins them completely. It gives them a superiority complex and makes them rude. Compliment her instead, not for how she looks, but what she does and how she behaves. She thinks she's great just for how she looks. That's a bad way to raise someone. You wouldn't do that to your boy, right? Don't do it your daughter. It sounds to me like you are raising a brat. Many parents in America overpraise their daughters. I think it has something to do with the oversexualization of women today. Stop it.

    Posted by gss99 May 27, 11 02:15 AM
  1. Barbara wrote: "make it about your family: 'In our family, we're proud of being polite.' "

    I have to disagree. Is the daughter a part of your family? Then you're telling her what her opinion is. If she doesn't care about politeness, then you're telling her that her opinions don't matter, and that the reason for politeness is arbitrary. It's like saying, "In this family, we like vanilla, not chocolate, so you have to like vanilla too".

    Even more important is what jjlen and Linsi said, though, about not involving 3rd parties in your parenting drama. The whole point of manners is to make other people feel comfortable, and the mother in this case put the ice cream server into a very awkward position.

    Posted by AshleyZ May 27, 11 02:36 AM
  1. LW here. Hi there, folks.

    AshleyZ, I think you are misunderstanding the "In our family" thing. I have to say things like that all the time. Case in point: in the summer, other neighborhood kids playing outside at 9PM? Not allowed for my kids. I have to say "In our family, this is how we do it. I know it's hard sometimes when you see other kids doing X, Y or Z, but these are our rules, and you're part of our family." Some kids are allowed to be rude - after all, aren't there loads of rude adults out there?

    @gss99....my daughter is SO not a brat. She's a lovely little person, sweet and kind, most of the time. The issue I am bringing up with Barbara is not really about the ice cream situation...it's about polite banter with strangers. Although she is not shy and sometimes will chew a stranger's ear off, she really struggles with being "prompted" to talk to strangers, even just to say Hello, Goodbye, or Thank You.

    We work on politeness all the time. She is starting to learn to keep her words to herself unless they are 100% kind. (She recently told her grandmother that her breath was stinky - I was mortified - but she WAS speaking the truth. I had to tell her it was not a nice thing to say.)

    When she says at home "I'm hungry," I say "Hi there, hungry. Pleased to meet you. I'm Mom." She laughs and then says "Ooops! Could I please have a snack?" I just wonder how much of an issue to make of this with her, at this age.

    Barbara, thanks so much for your response, and to all the posters. I think the best advice I have garnered here is to try to practice at home and gently remind her before we get ourselves into a "situation," although that's not always possible. She should know by now not to test me, because this is just how I am and how I've always been with both kids. She's just having a harder time "getting it" than her brother did at this age. She's a little more stubborn, I guess.

    Posted by RH May 27, 11 12:21 PM
  1. Good for you, R. H. You were a responsible parent! Too often there are parents who allow their kids to run the show. You are doing a good job, and your children should grow up to appreciate your efforts.

    Posted by patches2 January 10, 12 06:36 PM
 
22 comments so far...
  1. I don't think it was too harsh. If you did that all the time, over every little infraction, then you might be being too harsh. Your daughter not only refused to thank the person for the ice cream, she also bluntly disobeyed your public request to say thank you. Good for you. Next time you go for a treat you can remind her gently ahead of time that you'll all be using your best manners and be specific about what that behavior will be and what the consequences will be if there is uncooperative or rude behavior. Part of the reason she was hysterical is that she didn't expect you to put the hammer down on her, especially in public. Saying we can't leave the store until you say thank you might work for another treat, but not for an ice cream, which has to be eaten immediately. Whatever you try to do, be predictable and stick to your guns. It's horrible to be out in public and see a child act entitled, manipulative and rude until the parent backs down. It's a disservice to the child. My parents used the "our family has good manners and are honest in our dealings" approach, similar to what Barbara is suggesting, and it worked very well.

    Posted by Favorite Auntie May 25, 11 07:40 AM
  1. I'd love to know how things have been since the ice cream incident. It sounds as though you are being very reasonable. Some kids just have an easier time than others w/ this stuff. Barbara's right...be specific about what you expect, rehearse/remind ahead of time, give feedback.
    When my stepdaughter was that age she really did fine w/ household manners & w/ public manners like the ice cream. Saying hello & goodbye to random people (strangers) was not so consistent & I just didn't worry about it. It was too hard to plan for & rehearse, there were no natural consequences, & sometimes the public acted in a strange way, at least from the point of view of a 4 year old. I just said hello or whatever & didn't provide any attention to the issue at all (and hoped that Weird Granny wouldn't carry on too much).

    Posted by roo May 25, 11 08:04 AM
  1. Good advice. My only codicil (and I'm not being harsh!) is to make sure that you don't over-involve strangers in your teaching moments. The poor ice cream store clerk probably bore the brunt of your daughter's meltdown. I can see how this approach could easily make the unknowing third party really uncomfortable, since using manners usually involves a third party. The next time a stranger, or an acquaintance, says something nice to your daughter, if your daughter doesn't respond to your standards, don't make them both stand there until she reacts properly. Use YOUR manners to minimize everyone's discomfort.

    And yes, it is a stage IMO. One that I thought my oldest granddaughter would never grow out of! But she finally did and she's a charming 9 YO.

    Posted by JBar May 25, 11 08:08 AM
  1. Good for you, RH. No harsh words from me.

    Posted by geocool May 25, 11 01:30 PM
  1. Not over-reacting at all, LW. I think you did great! In fact, I wish more parents would take that lead. We've been teaching our daughter (3 y/o) manners since she could talk. I don't expect an 18 month old to say thank you every time, but a 4 y/o should know by now.

    And I do like BM's caveat about explaining why manners are important. That was my lesson from this column. :)

    Posted by phe May 25, 11 01:57 PM
  1. I agree with Barbara and the other commenters. This also seems to be somewhat of a temperment/personality issue since she has done this in several settings and your older child never did. Maybe she is somewhat slow-to-warm-up and maybe has a bit of a stubborn streak? Seems like the best way to handle these episodes is to ignore the ones that might be anxiety-related or too vague for her to understand and to enforce some simple rules, calmly, like you did with the ice cream. The key is to be calm, encouraging, and consistent.

    Posted by koala May 25, 11 02:13 PM
  1. I don't agree that sitting and waiting for the thank you is a good response -- not because a parent might not have that kind of time, but because it involves the other adult too much in the lesson. I can imagine that a lot of people would feel rather put on the spot (I am assuming here we are talking about non-family members; if this is grandma and grandpa, it should be fine). So, while I might have the time to sit at the ice cream parlor forever, it might make the person behind the counter feel rather awkward. And it might lead to undermining ("Oh, that's okay! You go ahead and enjoy your ice cream, sweetie!).

    Since you can't prevent that kind of response from the other, non-family-member adult, and manners lessons shouldn't make others feel awkward, I think a matter-of-fact response of giving back the item is the best one.

    Posted by jjlen May 25, 11 02:41 PM
  1. I think it's great that you followed through on the "threat". But at the same time, some kids have anxiety about talking to others in certain situations, so maybe there is some middle ground that you could achieve as a compromise, depending on your child? Saying it to you, signing it, etc. could be options. Just a thought.

    Posted by PJ May 25, 11 03:43 PM
  1. Always follow through with a threat. It bothers me immensely when parents, including my husband, threaten something like leaving a child in a store. Something that will never happen.

    Anyways, I'm not sure how I feel about the sit and wait approach either. That could seriously back fire. A control hungry child might just see this as a chance to exercise their control.

    Posted by lala May 26, 11 07:55 AM
  1. Good for you. I am so sick of dealing with rude indivduals. They are on the road, in the workplace, almost everywhere you look. Maybe if some of these "grown ups" had had their ice cream cones taken away at a tender age, they might not have grown into the mannerless vulgarians that they have become.

    Posted by mary carroll May 26, 11 07:59 AM
  1. Thank you for sticking with the manners, it's very important in our family and seeing other parents set the bar up high makes my job easier. You were perfectly reasonable and you daughters life will be a much smoother ride if she's given the gift of good behavior & grace.

    Posted by julie May 26, 11 08:08 AM
  1. I'm going to agree with the poster who cautioned about involving 3rd parties too much. As a waitress for years, there was NOTHING more awkward than when parents would ask their kids to thank me for something and it turned into a showdown. I never knew when it was appropriate to walk away. I would always just laugh and say, "oh it's ok", but then the parents seemed pissed that I gave their kids a pass. In the end, the kid got upset, the parents got embarrassed, and I got flustered. Teaching manners is great and important, but don't force other people into your child rearing if it's going to create an uncomfortable situation. I'm sure that ice cream clerk really did feel awful watching a 4 year old have their ice cream thrown away. Perhaps taking the ice cream and then throwing it away outside (out of her sight) would have been better. (Or the previous suggestion to sit and wait until a thank you was said, although that could get weird too)

    Posted by Linsi May 26, 11 08:45 AM
  1. I agree 100% with the letter writer. Well done!

    When in a position where I have to discipline my two kids in public, I have found that other adults have often tried to thwart my efforts. I'm not the most strict parent around, but I just won't sit by while my kids are disruptive or rude in a public place. I'm not sure if certain adults are just uncomfortable being nearby when this happens and are trying to reassure me that they weren't inconvenienced (?). But it creates a situation where they make me feel uncomfortable for, well, doing my job as a parent.

    As an example, I was out to a casual restaurant with my children and a family friend. The family friend doesn't have kids and routinely got my 2 year-old somewhat amped up (whether it was purposeful, I'm not sure). Every time I tried to sort of quiet my daughter down because she was clearly loud enough to be annoying to other diners, the family friend played it like I was a buzzkill. Other diners were looking our way, so I know I wasn't the only one disturbed.

    Also, in an example like the one above, I find that the person who is the equivalent of the ice cream clerk tries to reassure me that it's totally fine that my kid didn't say "thank you." It just isn't helpful when you're trying to convey a lesson to the child. I'm sure it's just out of discomfort, though.

    Posted by JKR May 26, 11 09:24 AM
  1. Well done letter writer!

    Posted by Dan Cleo May 26, 11 11:22 AM
  1. Fully agreed - it is entirely reasonable to ask her to thank for her cone as a condition of getting it (it's a want, not a need), and if she refuses there should be immediate consequences.

    While the child will be frustrated a few times, they will soon understand that certain things are not negotiable and everybody will; be much happier as a result.

    A long term gain is worth some short term pain...

    Posted by H-B-X May 26, 11 11:43 AM
  1. You did the right thing. Anyone who would call that harsh probably doesn't have kids or isn't so good about following thru with a consequence. I agree with the others that it's best not to get the other adult involved. It's between you and your child. And I have to say that once she knows you will follow thru every single time, you really won't be in a position like this too often anymore.

    Set her up for success every time. Before you go in for that ice cream, tell her, "You can have the ice cream only after you say thank you. No thank you, no ice cream." Then, as she is handed the cone, gently remind her, "Remember to say thanks."

    You may have to nudge her again, but if compliance isn't immediate, just pay for that cone and leave it at the store. Don't make the server sit there while you encourage and cajole your child to use her manners. You know she has the verbal skills to do it because you say she has demonstrated them in other social settings, so it's not unreasonable to expect prompt compliance.

    And of course you do know that it's not only about manners, but about her pitting her will against yours. But you are in charge, and the tools you're using to teach her manners are also going to work as you teach her that you're the adult.

    Posted by Ashley May 26, 11 11:57 AM
  1. I heard this quote recently and I am sorry I cannot credit the author as I don't remember who it was, but I LOVED it. I have 6 y.o. triplets and spend my days and nights prompting them over and over to use their manners. I feel strongly that it contributes to their own sense of self-worth and esteem by showing respect for others. Anyway - here is the quote -

    "Please’’ and “thank you’’ are more than magic words. The former acknowledges not everything in the world belongs to you; the latter affirms that what you have is a consequence of a connection to others.

    Posted by TripletMomma May 26, 11 12:05 PM
  1. I think your daughter was testing you. She was testing her boundaries, and whether you would follow through on your threat. If you had done anything else, you would have failed her test, and eventually suffered for it.

    Posted by Bob May 26, 11 11:42 PM
  1. Sounds to me like the mother is overpraising her daughter. Don't tell your daughter that she's pretty every 10 minutes. It ruins them completely. It gives them a superiority complex and makes them rude. Compliment her instead, not for how she looks, but what she does and how she behaves. She thinks she's great just for how she looks. That's a bad way to raise someone. You wouldn't do that to your boy, right? Don't do it your daughter. It sounds to me like you are raising a brat. Many parents in America overpraise their daughters. I think it has something to do with the oversexualization of women today. Stop it.

    Posted by gss99 May 27, 11 02:15 AM
  1. Barbara wrote: "make it about your family: 'In our family, we're proud of being polite.' "

    I have to disagree. Is the daughter a part of your family? Then you're telling her what her opinion is. If she doesn't care about politeness, then you're telling her that her opinions don't matter, and that the reason for politeness is arbitrary. It's like saying, "In this family, we like vanilla, not chocolate, so you have to like vanilla too".

    Even more important is what jjlen and Linsi said, though, about not involving 3rd parties in your parenting drama. The whole point of manners is to make other people feel comfortable, and the mother in this case put the ice cream server into a very awkward position.

    Posted by AshleyZ May 27, 11 02:36 AM
  1. LW here. Hi there, folks.

    AshleyZ, I think you are misunderstanding the "In our family" thing. I have to say things like that all the time. Case in point: in the summer, other neighborhood kids playing outside at 9PM? Not allowed for my kids. I have to say "In our family, this is how we do it. I know it's hard sometimes when you see other kids doing X, Y or Z, but these are our rules, and you're part of our family." Some kids are allowed to be rude - after all, aren't there loads of rude adults out there?

    @gss99....my daughter is SO not a brat. She's a lovely little person, sweet and kind, most of the time. The issue I am bringing up with Barbara is not really about the ice cream situation...it's about polite banter with strangers. Although she is not shy and sometimes will chew a stranger's ear off, she really struggles with being "prompted" to talk to strangers, even just to say Hello, Goodbye, or Thank You.

    We work on politeness all the time. She is starting to learn to keep her words to herself unless they are 100% kind. (She recently told her grandmother that her breath was stinky - I was mortified - but she WAS speaking the truth. I had to tell her it was not a nice thing to say.)

    When she says at home "I'm hungry," I say "Hi there, hungry. Pleased to meet you. I'm Mom." She laughs and then says "Ooops! Could I please have a snack?" I just wonder how much of an issue to make of this with her, at this age.

    Barbara, thanks so much for your response, and to all the posters. I think the best advice I have garnered here is to try to practice at home and gently remind her before we get ourselves into a "situation," although that's not always possible. She should know by now not to test me, because this is just how I am and how I've always been with both kids. She's just having a harder time "getting it" than her brother did at this age. She's a little more stubborn, I guess.

    Posted by RH May 27, 11 12:21 PM
  1. Good for you, R. H. You were a responsible parent! Too often there are parents who allow their kids to run the show. You are doing a good job, and your children should grow up to appreciate your efforts.

    Posted by patches2 January 10, 12 06:36 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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