The legendary coach, Vince Lombardi, once said, “Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority,” and most from the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations would agree. However, in the past few decades we have witnessed a growing American mindset that often embodies the spirit of disregard for authority and disrespect for elder society members. Before anyone dismisses what I’m saying and chalks this up to another rambling opinion from an “older and out-of-touch” Gen Xer, hold on. I am fully aware that in many regards, this country that offers us the freedom to share our opinions was in some ways very much founded on rebelling against authority.
Authority, as history records, that had little regard for the common man and sought ultimate power. At the same time, authority, in and of itself, cannot only be a good thing, but in its purest form . . . a necessary thing. In conjunction with demonstrating and teaching our children about authority, we have the opportunity to also model respect and honor for our elders. But, as with anything in parenting, or our current world in general, balance plays a critical role.
How can we lovingly and effectively display the proper use of authority and the values of respecting elder members within our family and community? Perhaps it is in our understanding and communication of the meaning of these things. I recall my wife retelling of the time she was pulled over for a speeding infraction, with all three of our then young sons in the car. Not only was she embarrassed, she was both mad at herself and upset about the impending consequences, such as fines and increased insurance rates. Tears ensued as she meekly took the ticket from the officer’s hand.
Initially, our sons sat in stunned silence, but eventually one piped up, “Mom, are you mad at the police officer who gave you that ticket? Is he bad? He made you cry!”
My wife replied, “No, I’m only mad at myself. The police officer was simply doing his job. I broke the law, when I wasn’t watching how fast I was going. The police officer was enforcing rules that are put in place to protect us, not hurt us . . . they serve to do just the opposite.”
This little anecdote serves to paint the bigger picture of what real authority should look like: the people and guardrails put in our lives to guide and protect us. With this understanding of “authority,” it becomes easier for us to model and teach our children to adhere to it. Are there abuses of authority? Of course. As parents, along with the good aspects of anything, we have to navigate our young to identifying the bad.
When broaching the subject of authority, often we think of our “elders.” Traditionally, in almost every culture, the elders of a community have been held in high regard. Again, in these modern times we do not always see this. There are instances of elder abuse, and complete disregard for someone deemed as no longer “contributing” to society. But what rich experiences we can give our children in the way of connecting them with those older than themselves. Remind children the “old people” or “grandpas” they see in the store have a life story. Was he a teacher? Was she a scientist? Did he climb Mt. Everest?
Also remind your young they will one day be old. It is important to live each day well and to honor those who have gone before them. Create opportunities to have your children hear the exploits of your great uncle who served in Korea, or your mom’s cousin who was the first girl at her school to make the golf team. My wife once had a student whose aging grandmother ran in the Olympics. No teacher had ever asked the grandmother to come share in a class setting, so imagine the awe and wonder of the students at being able to hear from a real, live Olympian! Not only that, it made her a person, not just a grandma or “old lady” to the young children.
Look at your family, your neighborhood. Find those treasures in your life that have so much to share with your children. For it is perhaps as the journalist Andy Rooney once said, “The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.”
Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I grew up with a brother who was less than two years younger than me. We were raised by our hard working, single mother, along with equally hard working grandparents. I never really remember being taught “manners.” We kinda just learned as we went along. My brother and I were the worst when it came to table manners while at home. We spent the majority of the time trying to entertain each other with constant toots, belches and jokes. We spoke with our mouths full of food and our elbows on the table.
As we grew older, our mom remarried and our baby sister came along. We began to eat out more. This is when we began to learn how to act more appropriately while around others. Still, I don’t remember being given any speech about manners, just being threatened after we did something inappropriate in public.
Now, here I am, an adult father of three . . . and in charge of teaching my kids about manners. My oldest daughter, now 15, does a great job at home and in public. I couldn’t be more proud of the young lady we have raised. I really don’t think I can take much of the credit; she just gets it.
My boys, on the other hand, are a work in progress. My fourteen-year-old makes conversation at the table as if he is trying to speak to a room of 200. I’m constantly trying to get him to bring his voice down. Rather than cut a steak or chicken breast with a fork and knife, he prefers to pick up the slab of meat with his fork and gnaw on it like a caveman. When he does attempt to cut something, he ends up sawing at it while other items on the plate go flying everywhere.
My soon to be eight-year-old is a complete mess at home, but somehow pulls it together when in public. At home, he spills a beverage at least once a week. When he puts something in his mouth he doesn’t like the taste or texture of, it almost immediately comes right back out onto his plate. Both of my boys love to burp and fart, and I get it. My brother and I acted the same when we were young. I constantly point out to them, if they were to do these things in public, it would be inappropriate and they would get in trouble.
For the most part, I allow them to be comfortable and free to be themselves at home, with the understanding they are to be respectful in public, or in other homes. Our only rules at dinner time at home are no TV or device use.
Fortunately, so far, there have been no complaints, and I’ve actually had people compliment me on how well behaved they are. My children have seen other kids act out in a public setting, and understood how wrong and ridiculous those kids looked. I think I’ve just been blessed with kiddos that get it, and I’m very thankful for that.
Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at email@example.com . You can check out Herb's own blog at, www.thecodylife.weebly.com
When I told my husband, Tobi, that I’d be writing a blog about courtesy and good manners he immediately said, “I’m not reading that, I hear you talk about it every day”, and he’s right. I’m a stickler about manners; table manners, physical manners, manners with communication showing respect for your elders, neighbors and friends and being a courteous person. All three of our children know this all too well.
When I was younger, my mother was adamant about table manners. If we chewed with our mouths open during dinner then we would sit on our hands for the remainder of the meal and observe the manners of others. We were allowed to eat after everyone else finished, but she wouldn’t force people at the table to be subjected to our bad manners if we were unable to behave after being warned. At the time I thought it was cruel and unusual punishment but as an adult, attending dinners for business, I have been grateful. But please . . . don’t tell my mother I said so.
I’m not quite as strict about table manners, but I regularly say, “Is your nose stopped up?” when I see or hear open-mouth chewing. In our house, it is only acceptable to chew with your mouth open when you cannot breathe out of your nose and you may be unable to breathe otherwise. This basic question has become such a regular occurrence that I no longer have to tell them why I’m asking. I get an immediate apologetic look, and the “see food” at the table ends. It’s a parenting win!
When Libby was young, we began manners simply by calling others by a respectable name, Ms., Mrs. or Mr. (insert first name here). As she got older, we added more expectations when it was age appropriate. We put our napkin in our lap. We say "excuse me" after accidental “gas leaks." We hold the door open for others. We respect our elders. We use utensils, without scraping our plate or our teeth, instead of fingers. We use good manners in stores and at restaurants: no screaming, no whining, no tantrums and we are kind to our waiter/waitress. We talk about making good choices and the consequences of rude behavior.
We expected Libby to say please and thank you with her requests and to answer with "ma’am" or "sir" after her yes or no responses. She caught on quickly to the difference between respectful and rude behavior and garnered attention from nearby ears when we were in public. Libby was delighted in the positive feedback she received from being so polite and she continued on her own. I was always surprised by how many people were listening to our conversations and how freely they offered their feedback of how I parented and how she behaved.
When our family became blended, and we added two wonderful little boys, the expectations continued, and they gladly complied as they loved the attention received for a job well done. Children who have good manners get to make their own choices in every day tasks and they love “being big” and deciding things on their own! Our children (Libby, Brady and Colin), have become so familiar with the expectations that when they ask for something and forget their manners we just wait until they realize what they forgot and they try again without being asked. “I want milk” is ignored and within seconds it is followed up by, “May I please have milk?" We are attempting to raise productive, caring and respectful adults and our most important job is to teach them the results of their actions so they will know how to make their own good choices.
Another area where we have been consistent since the children were young was with manners in public. If we are in a store and the children ask us to buy them something, they will be told "no." If they ask for nothing and maintain good behavior throughout the entire trip, we may talk about getting something special at the checkout. It is a rare occurrence, but getting something not on the list at the store is understood to be a special occasion.
Teaching the children good manners isn’t an easy task. Some days are better than others, and everyone has the occasional bad day, but the most important thing is to be consistent. Our hope in enforcing, teaching and expecting courteous behavior and good manners is that our kids will know what to do even when we aren’t there to provide guidance. We believe that all children are good and can do their personal best if they just know why they should put forth the effort.
Crystal reynolds roberts
Crystal Reynolds Roberts is a mother to one daughter and a bonus mom to two boys, a partner in Pinnacle Consulting, CPAs, and a member of multiple boards, including Good Dads.