Kids’ Manners: This Battle Not Worth Picking

It’s important to me that my children practice good manners, but it’s always a struggle. I was walking my friend, Sara, to the door the other day after a play date when she told her kids,” Say goodbye to Mrs. Lefferts…” Miraculously, they did.  Sara’s three polite children are 4, 6 and 8 years old. Mine are heathens.

I started thinking of how nice it was to see kids showing respect for adults, even if they were prodded. I thought– for a brief moment –that if my kids’ manners are a priority, maybe I should be telling them to use “Mr. and Mrs.” with all adults until they are asked to use a first name. But then I came to my senses and realized my animals are 12, 8 and 6 and the horse is out of the barn on that one.

It would be odd to give my kids that etiquette lesson at this point and now require them to start using titles with my friends. It’s probably not worth the rebellion and eye rolling that would ensue.

When I was growing up, we always called everyone Mr. and Mrs., even when they gave permission to be informal. But that was also when children should be seen and not heard all the time.  I distinctly remember my mother trotting my brother and me out in our “fancy” pajamas to go around and greet all their tipsy friends at their cocktail parties. We flashed a practiced grin and said a quick hello to Mr. and Mrs. SoandSo before disappearing back into the bedroom to our TV dinners and “Love Boat” episodes.

I have few friends whose children are as polite as Sara’s. Is it because we are progressive thinkers, or just too lazy to fight that fight? I’d like to think we’re more evolved parents now who don’t need such formalities. Actually, I rather like my friends’ kids calling me Brooke– it makes us feel like one big family.

So I’ll leave the notion of being Mrs. Lefferts aside, and focus on basic kid manners, like getting them to say please and thank you, and chewing with their mouths closed.

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