Kevin, who lives in the south, has that amazing southern charm. I will be honest; it caught me off guard the first time I heard it. There is a sense of genuine respect for others, the “ma’am” and “sir” that has been lost in the northwestern culture. It is fun talking to him. It is also rather surprising because it seems that those who live in the northwest (where I live) have forgotten what it is like to be polite.
When we met up for classes one term, Kevin exclaimed his amazement for how polite drivers are here in Oregon. Apparently, when he needed to merge, one driver gave him space to do so. This conflicts with some of my own experiences.
On the way to work just this morning, a guy in the car behind me and I merged onto the highway. He went strait into the left lane, while I sat in the right for a moment. Recognizing that traffic in the right was moving slowly, I decided to move into the left, as well. Once past the slower traffic, the guy behind me quickly shifted into the right lane, went around me, and as he did, flipped me off.
I have been thinking about how to raise my son. I meet so many parents who cater to their children’s needs, yelling at them when they are acting out and giving them stuff when they behave well. There’s something missing nearly every time I listen to the children around me, and reflecting on Kevin, it finally dawned on me:
Some children have no respect for their parents.
Parents these days have become people who give to their children. A child screams and a parent gives them their toy to shut them up. Guess what happened when I threw temper tantrums? My mom picked me up, put me in my room, and told me I could come out to play when I was ready to be calm. Guess what I did. Calmed myself down!
What’s more, I hear kids demanding from their parents. “Give me!” “I want!” “WAAA!” It makes me crazy, not just because these kids are so impolite to their parents, but because parents actually put up with it. We are teaching our children to become demanding, believing that their needs are more important than the needs of others.
Therefore, I have been intentionally trying to teach my son to use the words “please” and “thank you.” At this stage in his life, two words together are just out of his ability. He is only twenty-one months old, so it is developmentally appropriate. His arsenal of words is extensive, so it is just a matter of time before my wife and I are saying, “Ya, buddy, that’s great!” to his string of stories we simply cannot keep track of.
You see, politeness, like most things we do, is a habit. I have never said “please” because it just randomly popped into my head to do so. My parents taught me from my son’s age to say “please” when I want something and “thank you” when I receive it. When I order food at a restaurant, I say, “May I please have…” When the waitress fills my water, I say “thank you.”
I am passing these lessons on to my son. When my son realizes that all he has to do is say please, his demeanor changes. He calms down, says, “peeze” (please), and he gets his sippy cup full of milk. When he says “dah doo” (thank you), we are happy and he gets a positive reaction, reinforcing the habit. When my son says these words to his grandparents, people in restaurants, even the random stranger who picks up his dropped toy, they light up with joy.
What happened to showing basic courtesies to each other, let alone teaching our children to behave politely? Actions such as flipping off drivers show how little we care about our fellow human beings. The worst part is our children reflect these behaviors and attitudes. If you are demanding, your children will be. If you are rude, your children will be.
However, if you say “please,” “thank you,” and are genuinely polite, you will be raising a generation that cares for others. My parents passed this gift on to me, and I will be passing it on to my son.