I am often startled by the way family members talk to one another. On one hand it makes sense. Our family members are those we generally feel most comfortable around, and worry about impressing least. They are pretty much stuck with us whether we treat them well or not, we reason. Since we feel guaranteed of their love and loyalty, we fail to put much effort into convincing them of our lovableness. Children make rude demands of parents. “Do this for me,” a child says grumpily to her father. Without hesitation, the father complies. Adult partners often mirror these types of casually inconsiderate forms of communication with one another, and let’s not even go down the path of sibling communication.
The tendency to be least loving toward those we love most is a rather sad phenomenon being played out in American homes. More sad, is the reality that many families don’t stop to consider it to be a problem. It is instead taken for granted as a “normal” way in which family members communicate. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, I am going to argue that it doesn’t serve us well, especially those smallest among us.
The way you allow your children to speak to you, teaches them how to speak to others. If your child makes demands of you, he likely does the same with peers, and even other adults. So, unless it is your intention to foster an entitled, dictator prepared to boss around the next generation, I encourage you to address this behavior. If your child fails to use words like, “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” “may I,” etc., at home-trust me, they’re likely not using them outside the home either. When I was growing up these phrases were part of the systematic teaching of something known as manners. If you were “well mannered,” you could participate confidently in polite society, navigate social situations with grace and ease, and generally incur the good opinion of those you interacted with, whether teachers, friends, bosses, or the cop that pulled you over for speeding. In modern America, the teaching of manners is often set aside and considered antiquated, an impingement on the rights of children to express themselves fully and freely. Even many adults have ditched manners almost entirely, especially when interacting digitally. However, having witnessed the results of this social experiment in the classroom, I can tell you that compared with those rare children still taught manners and etiquette, children raised without manners are far worse off. They are generally behind in all aspects of life- emotionally, socially, academically, you name it. So, the next time your child demands something from you with no manners applied, don’t let it go. Make a big deal out of manners. Teach them. Enforce them. And for heavens sake, model them.
Think about the way you want to be spoken to. You deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. We all do. Think about the non-spoken rules of communication we live by, and speak them to your children. Not only will this make your life at home happier by creating a more positive climate among family members, but it will prepare your child for a world who will very much appreciate their ability to communicate in a kind and respectful way. Don’t let your children be mean to you. You deserve better, and so do they. And so does the rest of the world.