I think I can speak for all parents when I say we want our kids to become amazing citizens and community members. Wanting that and instilling that in our kids the right way can be two different experiences, though. As a mother of two boys, I never want to hear of them being disrespectful towards any other child or adult. So, I’ve worked to raise well-mannered kids by attaching respectful behavior to their budding desire for independence. Here’s how I incorporate my “more manners, more freedom” mantra into my child-rearing.
The Quest for (Kid) Freedom
Traveling with my children has always been something I never shied away from. This year we were fortunate to be able to spend a month in Ibiza, Spain, as a family. We had an AMAZING time! Along with having a great vacation, I wanted to use our time away to continue instilling life lessons in them. After all, they don’t stop growing just because it’s vacation! Last summer I worked on building confidence in them because I noticed some issues with my oldest being afraid of swimming off of boats. He would cry while the boat was moving and hold on to me for dear life. By the end of that summer, he was jumping off the boat with a foam pool noodle with ease. Measurable objective accomplished!
This year has been all about independence. Both of my boys want to do more on their own, even at ages 7 and 9. But being in Los Angeles, it is pretty difficult to give them physical freedom amid the crowded streets. I never let them out of my sight. It was much easier to give them more space in a place like Ibiza. With an uncrowded area, keeping them in my line of view was a cinch. I could see them halfway up the road, so walking a bit ahead of me to play in the tree was more feasible—and comforting to me as a mom. So I took the opportunity overseas to focus on giving them a little more freedom.
But I always knew it would come at a price…for them.
That price, in my opinion, is simple: be nice. That’s it. The nicer you act, the more willing I will be to let you do things on your own. I think that’s pretty simple…and more than fair. Say “please” and “thank you”, and then ask to play Roblox. Ask others if you can assist them, and then you can go play ball. Otherwise, if you choose to misbehave, I’ll let you be bored beside me and watch a documentary. Being nice, well-mannered kids pretty much always wins out.
For me, “more manners, more freedom” is about giving my sons a positive incentive to be respectful, sweet humans. And, they get to decide on the reward for their responses, positive or negative. There have been times when my youngest chose to act inappropriately. The result? He sat beside me instead of playing. Both of my kids have learned rather quickly if they don’t behave well, I’ll keep a tighter reign on them. If they’re thoughtful toward each other and everyone around them, the boys can have the freedom to look at lizards or do whatever it is their hearts desire.
The Parental Payoff
Has this “more manners, more freedom” mantra paid off? Absolutely! My boys have become “suck-ups” in the most perfect way! LOL! When I first started implementing this, they sought out opportunities to be especially gracious to me, their Aunt Sandy, their grandparents, you name it. Of course, I knew it was a “give to get” mentality. But over time, it became habitual and innate for them. What’s been interesting is to see other adults respond to young boys being well-mannered kids. You should see the smiles on the receptionists’ faces when the boys walk to the front desk and ask for fresh towels. Adults are more willing to oblige kids if they act like little ladies and gentlemen. Having my kids witness that allowed me to show them manners often opens up doors and positive attitudes.
Now that we are back home from our vacation, I’ve noticed that the lesson has continued to stick with my children. They offer to get my bags, pour beverages, help with setting things at the dinner table, and so much more. They even compete with each other to do things around the house. They say if you do something for 30 days it becomes a habit. I’ve found that to be true in this instance.
A Life Lesson For All
While this positive reinforcement lesson was intentionally set to make my sons well-mannered kids and gain control of my kids’ actions without being negative, I wholeheartedly believe it’s a life principle for everyone. We all have to earn the freedoms we desire. Taking advantage of the little responsibility we have with integrity will ultimately allow us to reap the reward of more freedom to do what we want. If we all made a point to consider that sincerely, perhaps there would be more well-mannered kids and amicable adults in our communities.