Monday, January 12, 2009

Parenting: Teaching Manners

An interesting article by Perri Klass, a pediatrician, in today's NY Times. He adds Miss Manners to the list of parenting experts:

But the age-old parental job remains.

And that job is to start with a being who has no thought for the feelings of others, no code of behavior beyond its own needs and comforts — and, guided by love and duty, to do your best to transform that being into what your grandmother (or Socrates) might call a mensch. To use a term that has fallen out of favor, your assignment is to “civilize” the object of your affections.

My favorite child-rearing book is “Miss Manners’ Guide to Rearing Perfect Children,” by Judith Martin, who takes the view that manners are at the heart of the whole parental enterprise. I called her to ask why.

“Every infant is born adorable but selfish and the center of the universe,” she replied. It’s a parent’s job to teach that “there are other people, and other people have feelings.”

Not an easy job under the best of circumstances. For those who are not gifted with teaching skills or a teacher's disposition, it's easily twice the challenge to do well by child and parent when bringing a child into civilization's embrace.

When the job is done well, the fabric of our society grows stronger.

Not to mention that parent-child conflicts are reduced.

One more tools that parents can use - if they think about it...

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