As soon as W began to properly form words I began the introduction of manners. I didn’t care how well he was able to say the word but I wanted to emphasize the intention. If he wanted an object I wanted him to say “please”. Upon receiving the object I wanted him to say “thank you”. If he hurt someone, intentionally or not, I wanted him to say that he was “sorry”.
Please. Thank you. Sorry. Those are the basic and elementary manners that I am working with right now, the foundation for which I hope to build a true and sincere form of etiquette.
In the beginning things were obviously rote and every action took sometimes three times as long because until the “please” happened nothing else did. Please was the first word in his manners tool box that he truly owned. It was a really awesome moment when he used it correctly on his own. Every time he does he is rewarded with much positive appreciation. Oh how Mama LOVES to hear the word please!
Then he owned the words “thank you”. This was a most wonderful day in our house. He understands the power of these words. He gets that it is an exchange and a connection between people – it’s a gift. I thank people all the time and I hope that W grows up knowing the beauty of thanking others. Yes it is a simple sort of thank you now as he thanks me for his morning sippy of milk, but when he says it I feel so pleased that he gets it.
The hardest word for him is “sorry”. I actually don’t know if this is a concept he is capable of fully getting right now. I can sense when he is sorry for making a giant mess (but only because I sense that he is sorry that I am upset, not so much that he is sorry for the mess making). We use the time-out discipline technique where a “sorry” is asked of the child at the end of the time-out. I can’t stand that. I know he doesn’t comprehend it yet, but like “please” and “thank you” I continue with it because I know that some day the coin will drop and he will understand.
The truth is I don’t want W to be an asshole. I have known and dated some real jerks and along the way I have noticed what never goes out of style is manners, etiquette.
See how I just made it about his maleness and not about his person-ness? I am very aware of that. And this is where we start to talk about chivalry and male children. Don’t get me wrong, if W was a girl I would totally be teaching the her version manners as well (just as I was). But as a girl I was never taught how to hold the door open for another person or to stand when a woman walks into a room. And yet, as a girl, I have always appreciated these things. I know that some (many?) women do not. But I would rather W encounter these women and be kindly asked to not stand up.
Chivalrous men are said to be courteous, loyal, considerate, gracious, honorable. Those are ALL qualities that I would hope that W will embody. And these are all qualities that are taught. Yes I know that there is a bent to think that chivalry is kindness to women – and women don’t NEED any extra kindness, thank you very much. Wait. Who thinks that way?
And here is where my inner feminist does battle with my inner woman. Oddly I always have felt that my femaleness, my woman-ness, was a separate entity from my feminist leanings. I absolutely think that women can do whatever they aspire to do and that women and men are equal and should be treated accordingly.
Did you catch that? I said “treated accordingly”. So here is where a feminist might have a problem with a man holding the door open for her. Has opening the door for a women become an act that puts her at a disadvantage? I overcome this inner battle by being a woman that opens doors for everyone. I think opening doors for people, all people, is kind and I intend on teaching W that it is something that we do for others – not just women.
I am chivalrous and I plan on raising W to be as benevolent as possible. I won’t have an asshole son. Not if I can help it!