Manners and charm

My kids have a “what’s in it for me attitude” as regards just about everything.  Right now, I’m trying to drill some manners into them.  They were unimpressed with the, “If you have manners, you can dine with kings” — which was a shtick that worked with my sister and me.

I’ve had to chart a new course, which is tied in to the horrible and excessive focus on popularity in their school.  I’ve explained to them that good manners boil down to making other people feel comfortable, while charm is essentially making other people feel special and valuable.  If my children can master both skills, they will always be popular, I say.  Periodically, my children appear to be believe me.

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  • Gringo

    When my cousin’s kids started complaining about the meals she cooked for them, not enough pizza etc., she stopped cooking for a few days. That stopped the complaints. When the alternative is kid-prepared cold cereal or a bologna sandwich, mom’s cooking doesn’t look so bad. ( My cousin is a good cook. It was brattiness that was the issue.)

    Though in California, not preparing kids’ meals might be grounds for Child Protective Services to step in.

  • Danny Lemieux

    I’m with Gringo. When our kids were impolite, they just got things taken away from them. We did the same thing…if they complained about the food, they had to cook it themselves (and they became good cooks). They complained about clean clothes, they learned how to do the laundry themselves. They complained about needing rides to school, they learned to call up friends or ride their bikes.

    Although they still remained more or less bratty when they were around us, we were always amazed at how polite they would be with strangers (What?…Are those our kids? Are you sure?). That old Southern saw of “it’s easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar” seemed to have really taken.

    Now that they are in college…they are exceedingly polite with us, especially when they need something.

    Book…keep at them and they will grow out of it. Guaranteed.

  • kali

    Have patience :)

    Number One Son pulled the same attitude, in particular, over table manners–why, it doesn’t make any sense, who cares, why should I worry what they think . . .

    Until he spent six weeks in Basic, six weeks sharing institutional cooking with herds of starving young men and women. Then I heard the words that make any mother’s heart melt:

    “Mom, thank you for teaching me table manners.”

  • Charles Martel

    Miss Manners once said that raising a courteous and polite child was pretty simple: You just repeating lines like “Take your feet off the coffee table” or “Do not reach for the butter, ask somebody nicely to pass it to you,” approximately 2,000 times each over the course of 18 years.


  • suek

    >>“Mom, thank you for teaching me table manners.”>>


    “Mom, thank you for teaching me (ANYTHING).” will melt any mother’s heart!

    I decided long ago that the reason God made teenagers so obnoxious is so that it would be easier to push them out of the nest. It’s wonderful when they actually become adult enough to appreciate what you’ve done or tried to do for them! Makes it all worthwhile!

  • expat

    Tell them they are ambassadors for America. A German friend of mine spent some time in the midwest a few years ago and was very impressed by the politeness of the kids she saw. She told me one boy had been so helpful and nice when she asked for directions.

    On the food thing: I attended a Catholic school that was on a tight budget, as were many of the students. Every couple of weeks, we got a plate of canned spinach for Friday lunch. I begged Mom to let me pack lunch like some of my friends, but she said that if I ate the school lunch, I would appreciate what I got at home. It worked. You can always threaten them with canned spinach.

    And no, I didn’t have to walk five miles in the snow to get to school. I’m not that old.

  • suek

    Canned spinach…ick. I _like_ spinach – but either fresh or frozen. Canned is like a completely different (and nastier) vegetable… It’s really no wonder that they had to try to get kids to like spinach by making Popeye the hero who ate canned spinach! I’m old enough to remember when frozen vegetables became commonplace, and at that time, we had a family doctor who prescribed that my mother feed us one meal a week that included liver and spinach in order to be sure we got all the iron we needed. We had frozen spinach once a week, and I always liked it. At our school, we had the canned spinach as you did – and it was just _nasty_!!!

    By the way…in our family, the story is “five miles in the snow, barefoot, and uphill – both ways”! Always fun to see kids catch on to it…

  • Charles Martel

    suek, I remember canned spinach and how sickening the taste was. I was an earnest little boy and I would try as hard as I could to eat spinach when it was served to me, but I always wound up gagging on it and hiding spinach wads in my napkins.

    It wasn’t until I was an adult that I ran into fresh spinach. Whatta revelation!

    I like liver, providing the cook knows how to keep it tender. Some carmelized onions on the side and I’m good to go.

    Anyway, remembering my early childhood run-ins with spinach, I never forced my son to eat something he didn’t like. On the other hand, I never volunteered to replace it with something he did. It was always his choice to eat or not eat what was served him; always my choice to decide what to serve–take it or leave it.

  • suek

    Liver is my ultimate test of a restaurant I haven’t been to before. Many of them serve a liver that has been tenderized or something – it gets mushy. Some of them turn it into shoe leather. I always tell them I want it “rare” – knowing that it’s virtually impossible to get it rare since it’s always sliced so thin. You could only do rare if you only cooked it on one side. But “rare” – if they try – means just done.

    If you ever go to Germany – or to a genuine German restaurant – order “Leber nach Berliner Art”… you should get a mound of mashed potatoes with nicely done liver on the sides of the mound and topped with carmelized onions. Really good – if it’s done right! Of course…”done right” is the whole issue in the first place!

  • Bookworm

    My rule of thumb with my kids has always been “You don’t have to eat it, but you do have to try it.” As a result, my kids will try anything, because they know they won’t be forced to eat it if they don’t like it. This means we can take them out eating anywhere, because they view new foods as an opportunity, not a threat.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Unfortunately, liver is one of those delectables, along with canned tuna, that is forbidden in my home by She-who-must-be-obeyed. Fortunately, I am allowed pate, which fills a deep ethnic need for me.