I often wonder if I am parenting right. Essentially, I worry about it daily. Will my kids turn out ok? Will they be in therapy blaming me for everything wrong in their lives? Generally speaking I think I am doing a good job though it’s certainly something you learn as you go.
One thing I go back and forth on is am I over-expecting or under-expecting of my children. Each of my 4 daughters has moments where they show me they are capable of great things and frequently seemingly ahead of their ages. However, I then assume them to be quite brilliant and advanced and expect them to act twice their age. As you can imagine this doesn’t end well. There are often tears. I won’t say from who.
Then I have moments (sometimes in the same day) where I completely underestimate my children. Like when I kept insisting Poppy, my 2-year-old, wasn’t capable of putting on her own coat. She did it AND almost managed to zip it.
One area of child-rearing I feel many parents under-estimate their kids is manners. I am constantly amazed at the lack of manners in kids from 3 years to even 7 years old. If they’re thirsty they just shout, “water!”. If they want to color they demand, “Give me paper.”
Today I received an age specific email about the development of my youngest who is 3 months away from 3 years. This email said it is now time to start teaching manners. Start? NOW? Now that the child is nearly 3 and well set in her ways, habits and routines? I think that parents and society are grossly low-balling kids. We began teaching our children manners from the beginning. We model for them the interactions we want them to have (this is helped by not dumbing down speech for babies and beyond). We use please, thank you, may I, will you, etc with each other in front of the kids, with the kids and even when talking to babies who can’t respond.
I have had several people pleasantly surprised by the fact that my 2-year-old asks, “May I please be excused?” before leaving the table at meals and snacks. We taught her this beginning when she was about 1-year-old.
Yes, I said 1 year.
Did we make her sit there until she was able to say it perfect at 1 year? No. But we would tell her what to say and she would say what she could and then we would excuse her. It didn’t take long before she was able to repeat each word after us. And now, of course, she says it on her own, without prompting. And in any given moment, if she (or any of the other girls) forget their manners I simply say, “You want to try that again?” and they correct the slip up.
Ok, I am NOT bragging about my über polite kids, I swear. I run daycare in my home and not one of them came to my house with good manners. And being that they go back and forth between my house (where we expect manners of toddlers and up) and their own homes (where there seems to be a lack of expectation for manners) it is an ongoing battle. But every one of them does ask to be excused before leaving the table.
The point of all of this is not to say my kids have manners and yours don’t or that I am awesome at teaching kids manners. The point is that kids are able to learn SO much from us at such a young age. There is no reason for us to sell our children short in life by thinking they are too young to learn how to properly interact in this world.