HOW TO CREATE A SILK PURSE

"Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person."
                                                                          Mark Twain
Jonathan was precocious for a three year-old. He amazed adults with his conversation and acquired skills. He also frequently said whatever was on his mind; and that day at the shoe store was no exception. After measuring his foot, the salesman brought out a style and size shoe his mother favored. Unfortunately for everyone, the shoes were red. Jon warned, "I don't like red shoes!" The salesman, believing he could finesse this little child replied, "It's okay, I'm just checking the fit." At this point, what Jon's mother would have preferred was, "I beg your pardon, but I do not prefer red shoes as all my little friends will think I am a 'sissy' and tease me mercilessly and I will have no choice but to punch their lights out." However Jon, having overheard his father during arguments, preferred, "Go (be fruitful and multiply)! I hate red shoes!"
Children are born as "sow's ears." Their behavior reflects unbridled innocence, free of the censorship we call "breeding." As time passes, they must survive the rites de passage that hone and polish their behavior until they become "silk purses." Many children make it. Others don't. Children learn what they live. And the behavior training they receive during "boot camp" can only be as good as that of the drill instructors...their parents. In any civilized society, politeness is an essential part of child-rearing. In essence, it represents showing respect for another human being; a reflection of concern for "other" (as opposed to merely "self"). This respect may occur as listening and responding to the beliefs and values of those with whom we interact and behaving in sensitive ways. A fundamental aspect of breeding is the perception of a child that such behavior is important to his (her) parents. If parents send the wrong message a child may perceive rude behavior as fun or cute. In short, good manners will not become a high priority later in life.
Teaching good manners is an on-going process. It requires time and patience and, most of all, it is worth treating as a priority. Some suggestions for teaching politeness include:
 1) Model courteous behavior. Imitation is the most prominent form of learning-- especially in early childhood. Thus, the importance of teaching politeness politely cannot be overemphasized. If we rudely correct rudeness, we undermine our message. At times, children-- especially those five years-old and younger-- may seem rude, even when they do not intend it. They have not experienced enough of life to be able to examine the impact of their behavior on others and the feelings that result. Yet, parents, feeling embarrassed at the comment or action of a child, will force that child to apologize. In doing so, the parent, while showing indifference to the child's feelings, is demanding that he care about those of another person. A better choice might be to immediately model courteous behavior in front of that child.
2) Teach discrimination. In a world in which everything is blue, "blue" doesn't have to exist! A concept is best learned to the extent it can be applied and distinguished from others. Teach children to decide what behaviors constitute examples of "politeness" and what behaviors do not. Television, movies, and news media are replete with examples of politeness and rudeness. Sharing these experiences with your children, you can help them distinguish respect from disrespect.
3) Reward only polite behavior. Frequently, we unintentionally reward rudeness by following it with either laughter or shock and indignation. Either of these two reactions may unwittingly strengthen the unwanted behavior. A better choice might be to catch children being polite and notice it instead. In general, water the behavior you wish to grow. It's more difficult to cultivate a civil tongue if your foot is in your mouth...