“Thanks, Mom,” are words we tend to remember when we hear them. I was surprised one day at my daughter’s reply when I responded, “You’re welcome. What has made you grateful?”
Our family had been invited to a social gathering which involved a very formal meal. We were all dressed in our finest, waiters placed napkins in our laps, the table was lavishly set with various items of flatware at each place, and the meal was served in several courses. Our five children, ranging in age from thirteen to twenty-four, were directed to sit at a different table from ours, a table where other young people, close to their ages, were seated. The tables were large, each with seating for twelve or more people.
My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening, and from where I was sitting, it appeared that my young adult children were having a good time as well.
Determined to Train
Several years before, I had determined that educating and training my children would include social training, i.e., how to behave at social gatherings, how to meet people, proper table manners in formal situations, and how to engage someone in conversation. There were complaints, but good manners were required at our table, and we taught the children at a young age how to behave during a meal. I even remember discovering that one daughter was left-handed during a meal. I was instructing the children to place their napkins in their laps, leaving their left hand on the napkin and picking up their fork with their right hand. My very young daughter said, “But Mommy, it’s hard to hold a fork with my right hand.” Poor child. I quickly corrected myself.
Some evenings we required more formal manners, and other evenings Dad declared, “I have an announcement to make. This is a picnic.” This statement was a lighthearted way to indicate that everyone at the table could use their fingers to eat their chicken leg or other finger-type foods, but regular table manners were still taught and expected. Most meals were fun, as we recounted experiences of the day and the children answered questions about lessons they had studied that day. Some meals were more challenging. That’s the way it is with family life, isn’t it?
Practice Paid Off
After the formal dining experience above, my daughter replied, “I was nervous before the meal. I knew what would be expected of me, but this wasn’t home, and the foods were not really familiar. I was excited when I realized I was comfortable. Sitting near my siblings helped because we all knew what to do. I was thankful for all the times you insisted on correct manners and behavior at the table. Some of the others at our table didn’t know what to do. They were obviously uncomfortable, and some even acted in ways that embarrassed the rest of us at the table. Anyway, thanks, Mom.”
I wish I could say my children were equally prepared for every new situation they encountered as they grew. The challenge to think about life experiences and prepare our children for them can be overwhelming.
Children are Childish
Why are we often surprised when our children behave like children, when they act childish or misbehave?
We adults too easily forget what it was like to be a child. We become frustrated or unhappy about our child’s behavior without really understanding the why behind their actions and attitudes. Some quick evaluation to find the source of your child’s actions can temper and refine your response to their misbehavior and bad attitudes.
Children will be childish. That fact doesn’t mean we excuse bad behavior, but it does influence how we deal with it. Poor behavior can be the result of a lack of training. When you are in a situation with your child where you realize the need for training, guide or assist your child in the proper behavior during the present circumstance, and plan a time for training later at home. This is one example of understanding misbehavior. Lack of training is one of several factors which can influence your child’s behavior..
Consider the Cause
There will be times when we don’t understand why our children are misbehaving. When we encounter poor behavior, we need to consider the cause. Could it be a lack of training on our part? It is easy to assume our children know more than they do. Intentionally training, step by step, day by day, will eventually reap benefits for you and for your children.