The 1945 song “Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief“ by Carmichael and Webster, aired way before my time. Yet somehow, the title popped up periodically throughout my childhood, and I’ve never forgotten it.
One line of the song states, “No one loves you like I do.” Of course, it’s referring to romantic love, but lovers hardly have a monopoly on that phrase. From the second my children were born, I’ve thought it and said it. What mother hasn’t? And what mother will not go to lengths to protect her child?
Sometimes, however, our maternal (and paternal) protection can warp into indulgence toward our children. We can excuse behaviors that should never be tolerated. Backtalk. Insolence. I remember one mother who brought her 4 year old to my house. When I said a happy hello to the kid, she spit at me and sneered. “Oh, kids will be kids,” the mother said, with hardly an apology for her daughter’s rudeness.
Well, if that’s our reasoning, we may as well admit what we really mean: “Kids will be devils.” Think about it. By nature, they don’t need much prodding to cheat, steal or lie.
Humans are not born with manners, but they can be taught.
When I get asked parenting questions, I often say, “Think ahead. Five, ten, twenty years. How do you want others to perceive your child’s character?”
How seriously should we take the concept of good manners? How many manners should a child learn? Which ones are most important? Shaking hands? Looking a person in the eye when talking? Waiting for the hostess to sit first? Remembering their pleases and thank yous? Opening doors for others?
A decent link for Good Manners
How are your manners? As an adult, I see more clearly that honorable citizens stand out like lights in the darkest of nights. Our children are constant works in progress. Whether I admit it or not, I control their development. What I teach them—and what I do not teach them—affects their future. Training starts the moment they can talk and walk.
During the few years my family relied on food stamps, I never thought about entertaining kings or dignitaries. But I did teach my young children good etiquette, as if they were in the company of nobles. What if someday down the road my child were to stand in front of the Queen of England? How should he act?
A child’s future is yet unwritten, and we have some serious beginning chapters to write.
I HAD NO IDEA: When my son was born that, at age 16, his volunteer job would lead him to interview Chiefs: Business executives, Chief Information Officers, Chief Executive Officers, Chief Operations Officers, etc. Ya think manners–good or bad–weren’t recognized?
HOW COULD I HAVE KNOWN? While my eldest attended film school in California, the owner of the San Diego Padres would invite him to stay at his house and shoot a documentary on a life-threatening illness . . . at age 21. My son was socially equipped to treat all people with equal respect and honor.
And my daughter? No way on earth did I know that my strong-willed three year old would one day fly 10,000 miles to Tanzania, Africa. At age seventeen, in a remote Maasai village, she sat across from twelve Maasai elders carrying staffs and machetes, and discussed the opening of a medical clinic. My teenager confidently shook the hands of twelve solemn, revered chiefs and later made friends with a Maasai warrior. How cool!
How unexpected. Unforeseen.
Instill good manners while your children are young because your little one might someday dine with doctors, lawyers, and chiefs.