Friday, September 19, 2008

On Manners . . .

I always said when I had kids, they would learn as early as possible what it means to have good manners.

That we would always say please and thank you, excuse me and you're welcome.

I like to think that considering the MH's age along with a lot of hard work on the part of myself and DH (and my parents as well, with whom she spends quite a bit of time with), she's doing a great job.

Not only does she almost always remember to say please, but if she forgets and I ask her if she forgot to use a certain word, she will actually rephrase her entire question (As in Mommy, can I have some Dora snacks becomes Mommy, may I please have some Dora snacks?).

Don't get me wrong, she's most definitely not perfect. Sometimes she needs a gentle reminder to her to use her manners, but don't us grown-ups sometimes need a reminder?

MH takes preschool very seriously.

Since starting just 4 weeks ago, she comes home with new proclamations and ideas every day.

This month, they've been hard at work using remembering to use (and I'm sure for some of them, just learning!) their manners and learning about feelings.

Imagine my surprise just after her first week when she closed a baby gate on my Dad. I asked her what she should say to Poppy (expecting an "I'm sorry") and here's what we got:

Poppy, I'm so sorry I hurt your feelings. It was an accident. Will you forgive me?

We all stopped in our tracks. It was one of the cutest things I've ever seen, given the expression on her face and the little lilt in her sweet little voice.

When I pick her up from school, we always talk about her day. She'll often tell me random bits and pieces, and lately I hear a lot about how so and so bumped into her in the playground, and she said "You hurt me", and so and so said "I'm sorry, it was an accident", and she said "That's okay, I forgive you.".

I am loving this preschool thing.

Just this morning, she told me she was hungry for breakfast.

MH: Mommy, can I have something from the refrigerator?
Me: Sure, but would you like some pancakes instead?
MH: No thanks you, Mommy. But thanks you for asking me.

Again, I was floored because not only was she using manners, but she went above and beyond.

MH is a lovebug. She even has a shirt proclaiming it. Since she was a baby, she has always had a need for physical contact. Even if we're watching TV together, she likes to hold my hand, or even just have a foot touching me. While it can get annoying at times (say, I'm trying to do something important, like write a blog post about her!), it is extremely endearing.

Last night, when she got out of the tub, she was pretty riled up and exciteable. She was jumping all over the place while I tried to dry her off, and scrambling to get to Daddy. When I asked her to stop, she didn't, and I told her that her behavior was making me sad.

MH (in the tiny empathetic voice that always comes along with this sort of thing): Mommy, I'm so sorry I hurt your feelings.
Me: It's ok, I'd just like you to listen to me and let me dry you off.
MH: OK, can you please dry me off?
I proceed to dry her off while she offers me a hug.
MH: Mommy, can I touch you? (At this point, I think Daddy might laugh. And me too, becaue I'm not sure where this is going). Or do you need your space? I love you so much and I don't want to hurt your feelings again.

Put a fork in my heart, I was done.

Lest you think I some crazy drill-sargeant mom with zero tolerance, let me assure you that my choice of parenting just happens to revolve quite a bit around love and logic. Rather than say no or get angry and yell, I'd rather explain the reasons for things (believe me, I do get angry. Sometimes, quite often.) so she can understand. Isn't this how they learn?

I have always explained to MH that while she loves to give hugs to her friends and be super close to them, sometimes they don't always feel the same way and they need their space.

When we've encountered friends who get a little too aggressive (read: push her around, literally), my choice was to teach her to use her words and say "Please keep your hands on your own body".

She has taken me very literally many times.

She is taken with the phrase "I need my space" even when she doesn't realize she's not quite using it correctly (read: she is lying on top of me and says "Mommy, I need my space.").

Sometimes I'll be tickling her and instead of asking me to stop she give me a firm "keep your hands on your own body!"

But the point for me is that she is using her words. Sometimes I explain to her that she can have all the space she wants but she needs to create it rather than lay on top of me. Sometimes I just smile and hold back my giggles. Other times, she uses the words a little too inappropriately for my liking, and I explain that while those are words we do use sometimes, she is not using them very nicely.

All in all, though, I'd like to think we're doing something pretty darned right.

Besides being a typical (and slightly highly spirited) three and a half year old, she is a great kid. And I say that not just as her mom, but because of so much of what I see around her.

She is clearly getting it, and although she often needs a little reminder, every day I see how grown up she is becoming, and am reminded yet again how proud of her I am.

Remember how I said sometimes us grown-ups need a reminder to use our manners once in a while too? This morning, I apparently didn't hear her say "I love you, Mommy".

MH: Mommy, I said I love you! You know, you're supposed to say it back!

Thanks for the reminder, MH. We definitely still have lots to teach each other.

And P.S. - I will truly cry the day you drop the "s" from thanks you.

14 Fabulous Replies:

Candy said...


thank you for this post.

Manners are SOO HARD to teach to my boys because I feel as though they just don't care.

Keep up the good work:-)

Carol said...

I love that Mad Hatter!

poppy said...

great post Rach, and think of how sweetheart and I felt when "wakava" turned into water :)

Julie said...

Sounds like you are doing a great job :) Was this post at all inspired by the events of last weekend ;)


Simply Shannon said...

Thanks for posting this! I needed the reminder that I too have a pretty great little girl. With all of the 3 year old tantrums that I've been seeing lately, it is sometimes easy to forget all of the good things.
MH really is such a sweetie! You're a great Mom Rach.

Erika said...

I think I should enroll Alice in this preschool right now!

Carrie said...

Thanks yours will be going out Monday too! I am so excited!

Carrie said...

Hey Rach could you email me your address again I have missed placed it! Thanks

Heather @ A Boy, A Girl, A Pug said...

What a smart cookie! Kyler is pretty good about his manners too, and I love it.

Krystyn said...

What a sweet heart. You are definitely doing a great job.

Elaine A. said...

What a polite little sweety. I love the fact that she adds that "s"! So cute!

Lipstick said...

Oh Rach this is a beautiful post!!!

Wendi said...

Thanks you for sharing!
Loved this.
When can my kids come for a visit?
They could use a refresher course on manners!

Kate said...

Your daughter seems so polite! My kids would never listen to me about manners or how to act. I ended up trying out this board game that taught them manners for me :-) It's great! I encourage all mom's to give it a look www.