Manners: Do Children Really Need Them?

Zhi Han Chew By Zhi Han Chew, 7th Jul 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Kids

Just somebody’s opinion about the children’s manners.

A doctor is being interviewed.

Dr. Sheida Asgari is a pediatrician, writer, and mother of two. In this conversation, she shares her thoughts about raising children in the twenty-first century.

Q: Recently there has been a lot of discussion of parenting. The assumption seems to be that we don’t really know how to raise children anymore. Do we?

Dr. Asgari: Of course we do. But bringing up children is more complicated now. It isn’t that children have changed that much; they are still emotional, impulsive, and curious little creatures who have always needed training to become productive members of society. What has changed is that parents are facing new challenges in raising them.

Q: Like being busy and feeling guilty about not spending more time with them and being worried about their future all at the same time?

Dr. Asgari: Does that describe you as a parent?

Q: Yes, it does.

Dr. Asgari: That’s me as well. I’m a working mother, which helps me to understand parents. We have extremely busy lives, and we want to enjoy our limited time with our kids, but we also have responsibilities. Our duty as parents is to help our kids to be successful, which sometimes means we have to teach them appropriate social behavior.

Q: So it sounds like you are talking about manners.

Dr. Asgari: Yes, children who have good manners can interact with adults, a basic life skill for now and the future. In my practice, I have young patients who smile, look me in the eye, and shake my hand, which shows me that they already have one of the most important skills of being human: basic consideration for others. On the other hand, I also have patients who never say help, scream at the top of their lungs, and slam doors… Clearly, they have not been taught one of the most important skills for a successful future, which is appropriate social behavior.

Q: So if manners are the issue, what mistakes are parents making, and, perhaps more important, how can they start teaching their children good manners?

Dr. Asgari: As parents most of us are not strict enough when our children behave badly. Lots of parents give a warning and then do not do anything, which is a huge mistake. If we say we are going to punish a child for bad behavior, we need to actually do it or our words will have no meaning. We also have to stop praising children for every little thing and, instead, be specific about recognizing good behavior when it is earned. It’s the difference between saying “You are wonderful” and “I noticed you thanked grandma today when she gave you a cookie”.

Q: Some people say that it is impossible to spoil a child. What would you tell them?

Dr. Asgari: I would agree if we were discussing babies since you can’t spoil a baby. Infants are completely helpless. Consequently, they do whatever they can to get what they need to survive. They wail loudly to call for food when they are hungry, and they writhe and kick when they are in pain. However, the infant stage is short, and if those behaviors continue to work well for them as they grow older, there is no reason for them to change. If they do not change, it will be impossible for them to have healthy relationships as adults.

We can expect more from toddlers because they communicate quite well when it comes to dealing with things like hunger and pain. At the age of two or three, they also develop skills for manipulating adults. For example, they may figure out if they scream at the top of their lungs in a restaurant, Mom will get embarrassed and give them whatever they want to shut them up. So what do they do? The minute they sit down at the table, they proceed to scream. Giving children what they want in exchange for misbehavior only makes things worse. It just reinforces the bad behavior.

Q: But isn’t it natural for kids to act out their feelings?

Dr. Asgari: I’m so glad you asked that. I think children need to express feelings like grief, anger, fear, and hurt just as much as happiness. Those emotions are all part of life, and they’ll have them in the future anyway. What I can do as a parent is show my girls that it is normal to have those feelings but also teach them strategies for dealing with them in a way that will help them throughout their lives.

Q: But how can a child be angry and behave well at the same time?

Dr. Asgari: Well that’s the great thing about manners. You’re allowed to be angry with someone, but you can’t hit her. You do not have to like your teacher, but you should treat him with respect. I realize that separating feelings and behavior is difficult, but it is one of the skills that children are quite capable learning at an early age.

Here’s an example of how children do it by themselves. When my daughter plays hospital with her friends, she follows the rules of the hospital, as she understands them. These are rules she will need for many types of future interactions, including the rules for asking people questions, listening carefully to their answers, and responding politely.

Q: Is she going to be a doctor, too, do you think?

Dr. Asgari: If you ask her, she already is one.


Children, Manners, Need

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author avatar Denise O
7th Jul 2012 (#)

Cute and informative. I feel children should be taught manners. Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar Zhi Han Chew
8th Jul 2012 (#)

When babies step into their childhood, they have to be taught manners. If not, they will be babies forever. Thanks for commenting.

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