Teaching manners begin with unconditional love and others-centered living. Love is about building up your child, not your child somehow building you up. It has been very evident over the last ten to twenty years that many parents look to their child’s performance in sports, school, the arts, etc., to make them feel good, to fill their voids. So if their child fails, they feel failure, and then withdraw their acceptance of the child (if you don’t believe this just go to some athletic event and watch parents if their child is on the losing end of and event).
We do not have children to fill some hole in our lives. Our children are not responsible for helping us feel good, healing a marriage, or feeding our self-esteem. Children do not exist to nurture us; we exist to nurture our children.
It comes back to unconditional love (acceptance). But unconditional love also involves limits which is another area many parents today do not seem to see as important in nurturing their children. To know you are loved and secure, a child needs boundaries and discipline. Often parents loosen the limits out of fear of being called mean and unloving. The minute you loosen the limits or set aside discipline when your child shows displeasure you begin to lose the battle of nurturing.
Children, have and always will, complain when we require chores, completed homework, etc. They will accuse you of being mean and not loving them. I love this essay I found by an unknown author:
"Was your mom mean? I know mine was. We had the meanest mother in the whole world! While other kids ate candy for breakfast, we had to have cereal, eggs, and toast. When others had a Pepsi and a Twinkie for lunch, we had to eat sandwiches. And you can guess our mother fixed us a dinner that was different from what other kids had, too. Mother insisted on knowing where we were at all times. You’d think we were convicts in a prison. She had to know who our friends were and what we were doing with them. She insisted that if we said we would be gone for an hour, we would be gone for an hour or less. We were ashamed to admit it, but she had the nerve to break the child labor laws by making us work. We had to wash the dishes, make the beds, learn to cook, vacuum the floor, do laundry, empty the trash and all sorts of cruel jobs. I think she would lie awake at night thinking of more things for us to do. She always insisted on us telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. By the time we were teenagers, she could read our minds. Then life was really tough! Mother wouldn’t let our friends just honk the horn when they drove up. They had to come up to the door so she could meet them. While everyone else could date when they were twelve or thirteen, we had to wait until we were sixteen. Because of our mother, we missed out on lots of things other kids experienced. None of us has ever been caught shoplifting or vandalizing others’ property or been arrested for any crime. It was all her fault. Now that we have left home, we are all educated, honest adults. We are doing our best to be mean parents just like Mom was. I think that is what’s wrong with the world today. It just doesn’t have enough mean moms!"
If this essay teaches us anything, it teaches us that loving parents set limits because they care. When my children questioned the limits set on them I would always say, “Name a time your mother or I have done anything that was done because we did not love you.” It is a much better answer than, “Because I said so."
It is hard in our culture today for our children to learn manners. It often seems they refuse to learn them. They see manners as a list of rules. What is usually missing is the heart to heart connection between the parent and child. This is why the child sees manners as just a list of rules. Josh McDowell has one of my favorite quotes on this issue. “Rules without relationships leads to rebellion.” Building heart to heart relationships with our children is key if we are going to teach manners. That is where it begins with all this “manners” stuff.
May we live Christ Deliberately,