“It is not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.”—Warren Buffet
Beware the pervasive weak parenting culture where everyone’s tip-toeing around the tulips, afraid of crushing little Johnny and Sally. Adults driven by this misguided philosophy seem unwilling to gently and clearly teach some simple, but important social etiquette skills that are sorely lacking in many kids I meet.
These are four examples I bump into regularly that many parents seem to be:
1. blind to
2. prefer to avoid tackling or
3. simply feel powerless to resolve.
Shy is a lie. I understand that some children are wired to walk in a room mouth first, and others’ inherent nature is to be quiet as a mouse, but the common expression of ‘shy’ in public situations really bugs me.
Many young children I meet will not look me in the eye. Their parents stand there pleading with them to greet me, and they refuse. They drop their faces and contort their bodies. They’ll even turn and kick a sibling or fight over a toy as I’m standing there waiting, but they won’t respond to me. I am amazed.
“She’s shy,” Dad says with a nervous laugh. But she’s not shy when dessert is served or she’s handed a gift. First impressions are hard to erase. There is no excuse for such behavior.
Yes, the human race contains many personalities, but each of them, whether quiet and subdued or charismatic and demonstrative, should be bold in humility, chin up. Children shouldn’t be allowed to express shyness and timidity at whim, and greetings should not be optional. Let me add: they ought to be warm and cheerful, with eye contact and an outdoor speaking voice.
Responding to adults is a necessary skill, even for the two-year-old among us. Teach your children to shake hands firmly while they look the new acquaintance in the eye. Putting their best foot forward is imperative if our children want to thrive in any vocation as adults. That’s what leaders do.
If you’ve trained your children to acknowledge adults in some particular manner, their refusal to do so is rebellion to your authority. Don’t ignore it. One day I took the time to line up three of my sons, talk with them calmly and clearly and dole out discipline for their infraction: not shaking hands with a gentleman I had introduced them to earlier in the day, which they knew was expected. Their improper response showed a lack of respect and honor toward the man. “Shyness” takes on many forms. We’ve got to be discerning in these matters in order to parent effectively.
Public Performance. My youngest son was in a performance and his group of four and five-year olds were preparing to sing. I had observed a pattern in his life I knew I had to adjust, so I gave my son a firm, but loving, exhortation. I told him he was not to look down at the ground during his performance. This expression of pretending to be shy would not be allowed because he isn’t shy. Even if he tended to be on the timid side of personalities, I wouldn’t indulge him in the habit of ‘hiding’ as such because it’s fear-based and an unhelpful practice.
I said to him, “You are strong and courageous and bold, and you’re a leader, so get up there and keep your chin up.” After the program, I noted with enthusiasm that he had kept his chin up and participated well. He said, “Mommy, my face wanted to be shy but I said ‘no.’” Victory! This little life laboratory lesson served him well, and now that he’s a Sony-signed artist performing on stages across the continent, he gets to practice this skill regularly. #momknowsbest
Rude Interruptions. Picture this: Two adults are engaged in conversation when suddenly a little tyke runs up, exploding with questions, demands, and other “urgent” matters, and completely disrupts the discussion between the adults. Who gave this three-foot-high little guy the power to derail the progressive communication between these two 150-pound adults, three times his size? Why does this child suddenly become the main attraction, taking center stage when no blood is running, a fire isn’t threatening, and a terrorist has not entered the building? Easy. His mother and father haven’t trained him to handle himself with restraint.
Instead, they’ve trained him that at the drop of a hat, he may have his way, rudely barging in where his nose doesn’t belong. My advice is to put a stop to this self-centered behavior. Train him or her to walk up quietly and gently place his or her hand on your arm or side, never saying a word or making a peep; the child then waits for you to decide when it is appropriate for him to speak, not the other way around.
Potlucks and Parties. Buffets OMG. I dread them when kids are involved. We shouldn’t allow raucous little children the right to race their way to the head of food lines, in front of adults who are present at potlucks or parties. How rude of them to grub everything their heart’s desire, even touching things they decide not to take with no thought for those behind them in the queue.
What are we thinking by teaching them they can rifle through all the desserts with their mucky little fingers, slobbering, hoarding, coughing and picking through the healthy stuff to pile on the starches and carbs while their impotent parents sit idly by, watching but unmoved?
Wise adults don’t leave the children to run amuck. Caring adults get involved. Kindly impose regulations when necessary. There are occasions when a citizen’s arrest is absolutely appropriate, and if it happens to your kid, don’t get your nose out of joint.
Written Communication. Thank-you notes should not be optional. Mom was right! Teach your children to weave a tapestry of beautiful words that bless and build up others. ‘Thank-you’s’ can help our children build the muscles of gratefulness and thoughtfulness. By writing notes regularly, my boys worked out their vocabulary, spelling, sentence structure, punctuation, artistry, and penmanship or typing skills, all-in-one!
For little ones just starting out, I recommend the fill-in-the-blank type of thank-yous. It’s easy to create these with fun paper on any home computer, or you can purchase them ready-made. Special note cards or personalized stationery can be a great motivator for your older children.
Gifts aren’t the only reason for writing. Teach your kids to appreciate grandparents, neighbors, war veterans, and others who would love to find real mail in their box!
As in other life disciplines, don’t settle for ordinary when your child is capable of so much more! Hand-written, personal notes are rare in our day, but always well-received! Sloppily written text filled with redundant wording, equals laziness. Add horizontal lines with a ruler to help your kids succeed in the neatness category. Rough drafts are often a good exercise and give Mom or Dad an opportunity to review and offer creative input. Have a thesaurus and dictionary handy as tools for successful expression.
Although some would consider these matters trivial, big doors swing on small hinges. These simple real-life exercises will serve your child hugely in the days ahead in more ways than you can imagine. When we take our place as the wise, mature adults that we are, engaging with our children at the points where change needs to happen in their lives, we can expect greatness to emerge in the lives of our boys and girls.
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