There is nothing more impressive to me than good manners. From day one, we have tried to establish a pattern of saying “please,” “thank you” and “you’re welcome” to our children. In turn, we expect them to say it back to us and to others. Just like anything with kids, we have to constantly remind them of our expectation.
When our children receive a gift, we expect them to write a handwritten thank you note. This probably seems incredibly old fashioned. Writing a note and sending it via snail mail. However, studies show, children who grow up writing thank you notes are more likely to be dependable at following-through on a task in future occupations. I don’t know if this note-writing research is valid. According to my former food sales company boss from many years ago, it’s the gospel.
We are raising four perfectly imperfect children on our farm. We probably have higher expectations than some people and that’s OK with us. Several friends have gasped when they see our entourage come through the front door. The kids are expected to unpack their lunch boxes and hand over papers and folders requiring a parent signature. Everyone does homework on their own after they get home from school. They then fan out to unload the dishwasher, bring rugs downstairs to the laundry room and feed their own animals. It’s a beautiful orchestra of small people learning big responsibility.
Some days go smoothly. Some days are filled with whining, fighting and the occasional brush with disrespect. There are consequences. The ground rules for our expectations for kids – especially at school and with other adults were laid out a long time ago.
Our hearts sank recently when the principal of the elementary school called to tell us of some trouble one of our children had gotten into. We were terribly disappointed. The behavior displayed in one moment on the playground was the very opposite of what we thought we’d been teaching all of our kids. We thanked the principal for her input and told her the behavior would be dealt with at home as well.
When our perfectly imperfect children arrived home that day we were there, waiting to talk to the culprit of schoolyard bullying. We gave our child an opportunity to share about the day’s event but the hint of trouble never came up. Our child was shocked to learn we already knew what had taken place at school that day. A stern and disappointed talk followed from both of us. A punishment to fit the crime followed the discussion. After a paddling and picking up sticks for campfire kindling, I really think the severity set in and we hope there isn’t a repeat offense.
Boundaries are made to be broken, I truly believe as awful as it feels at the time, this is how our kids learn. When I pray for my children, I always pray they’ll get caught when they mess up so we can help them correct their wrongdoing. So far that seems to be going well.
Seriously, in a world lacking in boundaries, I’m always shocked when people are upset by their consequences. Families have a tough battle to fight out there. I keep repeating the same phrases and my favorite is this, “It costs nothing to be on time, have good manners and a positive attitude.” Thank you for reading, neighbor.