A good mannered person is always loved, respected and welcomed everywhere by everybody. Good manners are acquired more by observation than by formal teaching. Right from childhood a toddler will imitate his/her parents.
It is therefore necessary that parents are alert, because the children, like monkeys imitate what their parents do. These days most of the parents have one or two children and they tend to be too indulgent with them. My view is that the parents must themselves be an example of good behaviour for their children.
I will relate a few instances of how children react when proper discipline is not enforced in the house. There is a call for the Father from his boss. The child comes and says, “Papa, there is a call from uncle—–.” The Father without blinking his eyes, “Tell him I am not at home”. The Child takes the phone and says, “Uncle, Papa says he is not at home.” Now the Father scolds the child or even gives him a tight slap. The child is right in this situation. We teach the children not to tell lies and we ourselves direct them to tell a lie for our convenience. Another instance which I can never forget happened when we were small.
A door to door sales girl came to our neighbour’s house. A lady bought many articles from her. She went inside to take cash for payment and whispered in her daughter’s ears,”Keep an eye on her. Such women are thieves.” The child stared at the sales girl for a few minutes and very innocently asked her, “Aunty, are you a thief?” The sales girl replied,”No dear”. The lady came and paid her the bill. The sales girl told the lady, “See what your daughter is saying. She asked me if I was a thief.” Our neighbour was embarrassed and told her daughter that she should not utter such words. Promptly the girl said, “Mama you told me that”. The lady bowed her head.
It is therefore imperative that parents are very cautious. Children are very smart and observant. Whatever the parents do or talk, they mimic their parents. You must have noticed that children generally speak in the same tone and manner in which their parents speak. Good manners are not taught through formal teaching. They are acquired more by observation.
The parent should not give too many instructions to the children. Allow the child to learn from your manners rather than lecturing them. I quote another instance. A friend once came to our house with her three-year old child.I served them apples. I offered the boy to take a piece, he politely refused. I noticed that he was nudged his mother and went on repeating, “Mom Lets go home”. I asked him, “Why do you want to go home baby?”
The boy now started throwing tantrums. “I want to go home.” Now my friend told the child to take a piece of apple. He took it and politely said, “Thank you, Auntie”. I was impressed by the child’s polite manners. At the same time I kept wondering why he was insisting on going home. Next day I asked my friend on phone the reason about the child’s peculiar action. She laughed and said “we have told the child that when we go out he should not be greedy by eating whatever has been served by the host. He was only whispering in my ears that he wanted to eat apple after going home”. Too many instructions which confuse the child should not be given.
Some of the guidelines which the parents must keep in mind are:
1. Good behaviour: A child’s behaviour is the basis of all good manners. He/she should be polite and respectful to the elders. He/she should learn to say the words ‘thanks’, ‘sorry’,’ welcome’ and ‘beg your pardon’.
2. A child must learn to be truthful. The parents must take care that they do not even tell harmless ‘lies’ which will ultimately confuse the child.
3. The children must acquire good etiquettes. They should have good table manners. They should know how to hold the spoon and fork. To inculcate good table manners the parents may take the children occasionally out for dinner/lunch. They should learn that they must not leave anything in the plate. While eating or drinking they should not make gurgling sounds and keep their lips closed as much as possible.
4. Children learn a lot while on the playground. The qualities of give and take, sportsmanship, friendship and concern for others are acquired during sports.
5. The children must be benevolent and kind not only towards their elders but also towards those who are younger in age.
6. If the mother is expecting a baby, ensure that the elder child must be prepared to share the mother’s love with the sibling. For this the parents have to be cautious because the elder child becomes jealous of the younger brother/sister which continues till later life.
7. The parents must respect the feelings and individuality of their children. They should never belittle their child in front of his friends or outsiders.
8. The child must learn not to throw tantrums. It should be made clear to them that their obstinacy will not be tolerated.
9. Never bribe the child by telling him/her, “If you behave well I will get you a…”
These are only a few suggestions. Every child cannot be taught by enforcing strict discipline or too much leniency. The parent knows his child best. Deal with your child with compassion, sincerity and kind behaviour. Beating the child or using aggressive actions will never help. It will only make the child more disobedient. Spare the rod and spoil the child is an old saying which is no way applicable to the children now a days.
Usha Menon, a 77-years-old retired educationist, who has four sweet, adorable grandchildren. Last year she wrote a book,”Reverse Gear.” This book is a sort of analogy between her professional and personal life, depicting the travails, ups and downs faced by an average working woman. As a retired person, She is leading a contented life with a loving husband, devoted son, daughter-in-law and two grand daughters. Her doting daughter, son-in-law, and two grand sons, who are very affectionate, look after her and her husband. She is grateful to God that He has, in His grace, given her an opportunity to live a life of peaceful contentment.