Tag Archives: table manners

House rules

As you may have noticed, the Ezzo books are full of high-level parenting principles, but we parents must fill in the blanks ourselves when it comes to specific, day-to-day rules and values. I’m sure this is intentional on the part of the Ezzos. We should decide how to apply the principles for our own family to suit our own parenting styles and our own kids. Nevertheless, it does help to be exposed to specific house rules that other people hold in their own homes.

For example, we were just visiting a friend and she had a “no running in the house” rule. It struck me as sheer brilliance! It is very basic, but I always had some caveat about when and where they could run in the house. Now we have a “no running in the house at all” rule. Love it!

So here is my basic list of house rules. Most of these apply only to William (4.5) but we keep them in mind for Lucas (18 months) as well. I would love to hear more ideas, so please reply with your comments.

Obedience and respect

  • Obey Mommy and Daddy above all else, even when what we say contradicts the usual rule.
  • Respect all adults.
  • Answer when spoken to.
  • Ask only once when you have a question. Don’t repeat yourself until you get an answer. Wait patiently.
  • Use the interrupt rule.
  • Treat all living beings (parents, brother, friends, cat) with kindness and respect.
  • Offer to help Mommy and Daddy when you see the need. Always help when asked.
  • Consider how your actions affect others.
  • Respect all of our things (in the house and car).
  • Earn privileges. Don’t expect them to be handed to you.
  • Speak with polite words and a polite voice. Disrespect (talking back) is not tolerated.

Mealtime

  • Wash your hands before every meal.
  • Eat and drink only at the table. If there is food in your mouth or a utensil in your hand, your booty belongs completely on the chair.
  • Use proper manners at the table. Fork goes on the plate while chewing. Clean your hands with a napkin. No toys on the table. No loud noises.
  • Eat what you are served. No complaining about the food, and no other food will be offered until the next meal.
  • Ask to be excused when you are finished.
  • Take your dishes into the kitchen when you’re done.

Playtime

  • Ask for permission to go upstairs to your room. There is no other room upstairs where you can have unsupervised access. And you simply do not belong in the office ever.
  • Ask for permission to play in the backyard.
  • Ask for permission to watch TV. No touching the TV/stereo equipment unless you are told to do so.
  • Ask for permission to paint. All painting and other messy crafts must be done at the kitchen table.
  • Clean up after roomtime and before bath/bed.

Self care

  • Dress yourself in the morning. You may pick out your clothes. If what you choose doesn’t match or is inappropriate for the weather, you must change into what I give you.
  • Take off your shoes and coat when we get home. Shoes go in the shoe basket. Coat goes in the coat closet.
  • Wash and dry your hands after using the bathroom.
  • Sit still and patiently while we brush your teeth.
  • Buckle yourself into your car seat.

Miscellaneous

  • Use an inside voice when we are inside. (My recent logical consequence for outside voices is having William stand outside for a minute or two. Outside voice? Go outside! He gets the point very quickly.)
  • No whining. You will be ignored or asked to change your voice when you whine.
  • No running in the house. This goes for restaurants and other public places, too.
  • Do not answer the door when someone rings the bell. Wait for Mommy or Daddy.
  • Be quiet when we are on the phone.
  • No roughhousing at bedtime or first thing in the morning. You may rest in our bed first thing in the morning, but it is not a wrestling place. Absolutely no jumping on the bed.
  • Always ask for food. Never help yourself to food in the house, although you may help yourself to a glass of water.
  • Never lock any door in the house.

I’m sure there are several rules that I have forgotten, but this gives you a pretty good idea of the rules I enforce on a daily basis. Many of them William knows well and will follow without issue. Others, we may have to remind him or issue consequences. And I hope this will serve as a starting point for you to develop your own list of house rules. Every home with a child should have one! And again, please send a comment with some house rules of your own. The more we share, the better our lists will be.

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Filed under first-time obedience, moral training

Holiness vs. happiness in action

Last weekend, we had two scenarios with my kids that illustrate the holiness vs. happiness principle. My mom came to visit to help me out since my husband was working. I appreciate her help and grant the idea that grandparents have an innate, perhaps undeniable impulse to spoil their grandchildren. So I allow my mom to do this with my kids to an extent (especially when she is visiting to help me). However, the following scenarios will show you what happens when you think only of the child’s immediate happiness.

Scenario #1: William (4.5 years)
Saturday night, we went to the mall for some shopping and dinner. We were out late and got home about an hour past William’s bedtime. I put him to bed and expected him to go right to sleep since it was late. He struggled because Grandma was here and she was going to be sleeping in his room. He wanted her to come to bed right then. She agreed because she wanted to please him, but it was maybe 15 minutes before she was ready. Next thing I know, another 15-20 minutes had passed, and they came downstairs for a snack. It was almost 11:00pm by this point, way too late for a 4-year-old to be awake. My mom thought he might be hungry. (He NEVER eats after dinner.) I didn’t want to fight it. They got their snack, and it was probably close to 11:30 before he fell asleep. He probably had a little smile on his face as he dozed off.

You can predict what happened the next day. He still woke up at his normal time, which meant he got 8.5-9 hours of sleep instead of his usual 11-12. He was whiny and argumentative the entire day. And he had a MAJOR meltdown at the grocery store. Only once or twice in his life have I seen him act the way he did in the store. I didn’t know what to do with him it was that bad. It happened in the late afternoon, and the lack of sleep had just caught up to him.

So you can see that by feeding his happiness (quite literally) rather than his holiness (the fundamental need for a good night’s sleep), he was far worse off. If he had just gone to sleep when I put him down, the day would have been much more pleasant for all of us and he would have been much happier in the long run.

Scenario #2: Lucas (16 months)
The same Saturday night, we had dinner at a fairly nice restaurant. Our reservation was for 6:45, and Lucas’ internal dinner bell chimes at 6:30, so I gave him a small snack before we were seated. Apparently, the small snack wasn’t enough, and he started to fuss. My goal was to ask our server for a small bowl of rice that she could bring immediately so we could get some food in his belly.

My mom, the grandparent that she is, thought he might like to be held while we waited. My first issue is that being held wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted to eat and it wouldn’t make a difference if he were held. My second issue is that we eat out regularly and I did not want to start the habit of getting him out of the highchair at a restaurant. I teach him that the only place he can be while we are eating out is in the highchair.

Well, my mom’s attempts to hold him made things worse. It taught him that all he had to do was fuss and he could get out of the highchair. He did this the entire meal and his fussing escalated. I was embarrassed and finally had to take him away from the table to calm him down. (I hated that I even had to do this.) Once he was calm, I told him we were going to go back to the table, which made him fuss again. I immediately said “unh unh” to indicate that the fussing wasn’t acceptable. We did this two or three times, and then he initiated a game of peek-a-boo with me. It was a huge shift in his attitude. He clearly wanted someone to tell him that his fussing wasn’t okay.

The meal was a little touch and go after that (more getting out of the highchair), so we just had to finish and go home. I never really got a chance to enjoy my meal. It was a little cold by the time I sat down, and I was holding him for a good portion of it.

So again, by catering to his happiness (taking him out of the highchair) rather than his holiness (teaching him that he must stay in his highchair at a restaurant), Lucas was much more unhappy than if we had just left him there to begin with.

I still struggle with finding a balance between tending to my kids’ needs while allowing my mom to spoil her grandchildren. I want her to enjoy her grandchildren in the way that she wants to, but it’s difficult when I know that what she wants to do will lead to disaster.

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Filed under moral training, parenting philosophy

Non-conflict training

Have you ever disciplined your child for the same offense over and over? You ask yourself, “Why is this child not getting it?” He has been disciplined for the same issue so many times he should understand by now, right? Well, if you rely on discipline as your only method of teaching, then no.

“Moral truth is best communicated in periods of non-conflict. That doesn’t mean we will not teach at times of correction, but it does mean a healthy dose of moral enlightenment should take place throughout the day and in moments of non-conflict, when the child is not in a position to have to defend his or her actions.” (p. 22, Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th edition)

As this quote says, our children learn best in times of non-conflict. If you only teach your child in the process of correcting him, he is less likely to learn the lesson. When he knows he has done something wrong, he wants to receive the correction and move on as quickly as possible. By contrast, when you sit down with your child at a time of non-conflict, he welcomes the conversation and is much more likely to receive and remember your lesson.

As parents, it is very easy to fall into the trap of expecting our children to understand the rules of life even if we’ve never taught them. But if we have never taken the time to teach our children what we expect of them, how can we expect them to comply? For example, we may simply expect that our children know what good table manners look like. We eat together at the table three times a day every day. We model good manners for them. But have we ever sat down and explained what “good manners” really means? Have we taught them the mechanics of where your fork goes when you’re not using it, to use a napkin rather than your shirt, to not blow bubbles in your milk, etc.? Then when they display poor manners, we discipline and expect them to get the message through the discipline alone. This is no way for a child to learn.

Teach the good, not just the bad
Certainly, correcting the child’s bad behaviors is important, but when we do this in the absence of teaching them what good behaviors look like, we leave a giant gap in their learning process. Too often, we focus on what our children should not do rather than what they should do. We phrase our teachings in the negative (“don’t do this”) rather than in the positive (“do this”).

“Negative moral training leaves a void that may cause serious moral compromise in the future. When a greater emphasis is placed on teaching children what not to do, and too little on what to do, the path to virtuous deeds is left highly undefined for the child. As a result, children understand what is not the right thing to do, but they never completely grasp what is the right thing to do.” (p. 22, Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th edition)

With this in mind and going back to our example of table manners, they may know not to wave their fork around in the air while they chew, but do they really know where they should put it? Does it go on the plate, on the placemat, or stay in their hand? Why? We have told them not to eat with their hands, but there are some times when we actually allow it. Do they really know which foods are finger foods and which are not? We can eat sandwiches and pizza with our hands but we must eat meat and pasta with a fork? If we haven’t taught them, they genuinely may not know.

Teach them often–all day every day
Teaching in times of non-conflict requires the parent to be on active alert for times to teach the child. As I see it, there are three times to teach: before, during and after the behavior occurs. Consider our previous example. The first and best time to teach is well before you sit down to eat. Find a time when your child is playing and pull out some dishes. Set them on the table as if you were going to eat. Then go through the motions of eating a meal, teaching your child through each and every step. Get creative with it. Pretend to put your hands in your “spaghetti”. Pretend to blow bubbles in your “milk”. Pretend to fling food around by waving your fork in the air. Pretend to fall off your chair. Make it funny. Your child will get a kick out of it and remember it for sure. Then go through the mechanics of proper manners. Fork goes on the plate while chewing. Napkin goes on the lap. Sit completely on the chair. Break it down for him step by step.

The second teaching time takes place when the opportunity for bad behavior might present itself. In our example, this would be when you sit down for a meal, but before the bad manners actually happen. Remind him of your practice time earlier in the day.

The third teaching time is after the child has exhibited the bad behavior. This is when you would correct the child.  While teaching in times of non-conflict is best, you will still want to teach him after you have corrected him. Be sure to phrase your words in the positive, not the negative. You will want to say, “wipe your hands on your napkin,” rather than “don’t wipe your hands on your shirt”.

Real-world scenarios
I’ll give you two real-world scenarios of teaching in times of non-conflict, both good and bad. First the bad. Not long ago, my husband and I took both boys out shopping for new winter coats. We made an evening of it, first eating dinner at the food court. A band was playing live music and there were kids dancing everywhere. The energy level was high. Then after dinner, we headed over to the store. I’m not sure that at any point we actually told them what we were planning to do. This was a big mistake, especially since we needed their cooperation to try on the coats. The entire process was a disaster. They resisted trying the coats on. It was hot inside the store and it was late. We lost William once or twice among the clothes. There were soccer balls flying everywhere. (Can anyone tell me why they sell soccer balls inside a clothing store?! And why are they always near the kids’ section and the cash registers?) We were correcting, threatening and pleading the entire time. And we were there much longer than we should have been. All four of us were completely exhausted by the time we left. But had we actually taken the time to tell the boys what we were planning to do (in a time of non-conflict before we got to the store or before we even left the house) and that we needed them to cooperate by trying on the coats, the process would have been much less painful.

Contrast that with a time when I sat down with William to teach him how to behave when we go to Starbucks. We go there regularly and it had gotten to the point where he was so comfortable there, his behaviors were getting out of hand. He was three at the time, and his biggest offense was not sitting still (on his bum) in the chair. So before we even left the house, I sat down with him at the table and showed him how I expected him to sit. Then I explained why we sit nicely (in consideration of others) and that if he couldn’t sit properly we would leave immediately. He was very excited to be having the conversation with me, gave me full eye contact, and seemed very receptive to my teaching. And it worked. He sat really well. Simple as that.

Now that I have practiced non-conflict training for a while, I do so several times a day. Even if William hasn’t exhibited poor behaviors in a particular situation in the past, I will still tell him what I expect. It usually just takes a minute or two and I make sure to call his name (requiring a “yes, mommy”) and get eye contact before I start talking. Some of the things I regularly teach are that his hand goes on the stroller when we cross the street, we share toys with our friends on a playdate, we pick up after ourselves when visiting friends, he must stay in the playground area at the park, he must stay on the sidewalk and not far from me when riding his bike, he must be on his best behavior at school, and more.

So take a few minutes to think through your child’s most troublesome behaviors. Be honest with yourself about whether you have really taken the time to teach him what you expect. Get in the habit of talking to him regularly. Stop and talk to him before you go anywhere in public. You might even want to write reminder notes throughout the house. Then be on the lookout for opportunities to teach him and teach him often. Teach through positive words, get creative and make it fun!

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Filed under moral training, prevention