I can’t tell you how many kids come through our snack line and say, “I’ll take some fruit snacks” or “Give me an apple juice.” At the beginning of the year, we start training them to start every request (not ORDER--request—‘cause that’s how we roll) with “May I please”. They usually look at us like we have two heads the first few times we stop them and make them start over.
We spend a lot of time every day coaching kids on how to interact with adults and peers nicely. “Get out of my way” should be, “Excuse me, please” and “I want a pencil” should be, “May I please have a pencil?” We also make them wait to speak when we are talking and avoid interrupting unless it is an emergency. Is this nitpicky? Maybe. But I can tell you that when we stumble upon a child with good manners, they stand out in the crowd. I imagine that it will serve them well throughout their lives when they go to a job interview or call a customer service help line.
This issue screeched into the forefront of my mind this morning when a third grader saw a bus pass by while we were waiting on the buses to pick up the kids for school. His knee jerk remark was, “Hey Dummy! You were supposed to stop here!” Yes. A third grader. Talking about an adult bus driver. Do you think maybe he’s heard a parent making remarks about other drivers in the car? Kids are ALWAYS listening, folks.
It also never ceases to amaze me how much kids are paying attention to boring things like politics. They hear us—and adopt our attitudes. We have become so partisan and vitriolic that it can’t help spreading to our kids. Most of the time they don’t even understand why they hate one politician or another, but they know what the “right” side is. I know we all have strong opinions about the direction our country should be going. I know that we all want our own way and we think that our way is the only way. But do you think we might learn something by hearing the perspective of another side? Maybe there’s some common ground in the middle of all the divisiveness but we can’t even concede to that because we are so wrapped up in finger pointing and name calling. Even if we can’t find any common ground, can’t we be polite to other humans?
Maybe this should be a wake-up call for all of us. When our ugly words seep into the brains of our Kindergarteners, we need to take a look at how we talk to one another. Don’t we want our kids to talk politely to others? If that’s the case, shouldn’t we be the BEST example in front of them? And I’ll guarantee you that there is nowhere that you can privately say those ugly words that your child isn’t listening. They may be playing in another room, but I promise that they can hear you.
Whether you are running this country or running your household, the example you set before your kids is the most powerful force on the planet. You know the best way to change the world? Change the children.