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Multitasking with Manners

Teach manners with a game – not a lecture. A fun way to instill manners – that your children will actually respond to.

by Stacey Susinno, ESSK Director

Multitasking. It’s what we as parents do. We have all heard of mom-guilt, but I’m positive dads have it too. We are expected to keep the house in order and raise perfectly behaved honor students all while working one or two jobs. Play with my child, you say?  Sure. Here’s how it goes for most parents: Get the kids up, dressed, backpacks packed, breakfast served, driven to school or catch the bus, get to work, answer 45 texts from your child about why their hw/uniform/lacrosse stick isn’t in their possession, get home in the evening, get the kids from sports, drive the kids to other sports, get dinner ready, homework, baths and bed. Weekends used to be down time, but most sporting events are on the weekend, and this is the time most kids catch up with school projects. We have little time to play with our children, and less time to teach them. We expect them to be coachable, respectful and most of all to have excellent manners. Have I mentioned that I am a middle school teacher?

Manners. Well, in middle school, not so much. I know. Not your kid. You know who’s kid it is. Me too. Except every day I threaten to walk around with a GoPro on my head to show parents, who would be appalled. Trust me parents. I’m right there with you. My own daughter  (a self-described social rights activist senior in highschool who is forced to conform to an outdated system) sassed her English teacher. When the teacher said she didn’t like my daughter’s choice of (half) shirt my daughter replied, “Then don’t look”. To her English teacher! My mother is rolling in her grave. And what does the English teacher do? She giggles, because, really, what else can she do? Sidenote: Mrs. R, I support you when you give her detention. The problem is, however, most parents do not support teachers when they consequence their children for what comes down to bad manners. Children are impulsive. Children are social creatures and they love the attention they get when they get a reaction out of someone. Clearly my own included, so know that I am not being judgmental here. My Mama taught me not to complain, but to act. Do something to fix the problem.

I just so happen to be in a position to do that. I mold young minds every day. Eighth graders are the most authentic people in the world. You can spot one ten miles away. They are young enough to be exactly who they are, and still be idealists. They believe with complete absolution that they will change the world, and they can. However, what they don’t realize is that people just aren’t taken seriously if they don’t have good manners. Think of the irate customer in front of you at the grocery store. Once that person loses their cool, they have lost all credibility, whether they are right or wrong. We need to set aside time for our kids to practice manners-for fun. I know. It sounds too simple and who the heck has time for that, and my kid always has good manners… etc. However, I promise you, as a community, we need to let our kids know that using good manners is not conforming, showing weakness or letting other people win, but are the most basic form of kindness we can show others.  As my Mama said, “You catch more bees with honey” anyway.

When my kids were little we used to play tea-party in which we would practice using fancy manners and usually faked a British accent. Evidently, my daughter missed a few lessons. The point is their dad and I explicitly taught them manners without lecture and with a game. I remember their dad teaching them how to properly shake someone’s hand and to look a person in the eye when you greet them. It was fun to watch them practice this with each other at home. When my students’ beloved math teacher had a visit from her dad, one student got up and shook his hand. His gesture did not go unnoticed. Teachers talked about it and students talked about it. Can you guess which group spoke about it favorably? Why do kids think it is uncool to have good manners? When you practice manners games at home, it becomes part of kids’ culture. Then when they see another child practicing manners in the real world, they don’t call him a teacher’s pet or whatever colorful names kids call each other these days.  They thank the lunch ladies, and the custodians and don’t treat them like they sign their paychecks. I can tell you the names of 5 students who say thank you to me every single day when they leave my classroom. I teach 85.

Here’s where I get back to multitasking. Yesterday, I made an herb garden on my back deck. I missed my children who are now grown, and either live far away or were working real jobs, one at a coffee shop and the other at a drugstore. They both can attest to the lack of manners in some adults as well, but are forced to remain mannerly to their clientele regardless of how they’re treated. I remembered planting with them when they were little. We would all share tools, and practice our fancy manners. If they started to argue, I would remind them that we were using our manners and they quickly figured out how to ask nicely or move on to another task. While attending to an overlooked garden recently, I found a toy and one of my kitchen spoons near a spot where my daughter had planted a flower 9 years ago. She had bought it for me from a fair at school and surprised me by planting it herself. They don’t stay little forever, but the memories do. The lessons they learn are synchronous with fun and loving family time.

I remember when our flowers bloomed, my children and I would have fancy garden-party picnics in the yard. My daughter would wear her angel wings and her best princess dress and crown. My sons would seat their action figures around in a circle and we would use our best manners while we ate lunch outside. As Mom, I knew I had to teach my children, feed them lunch and get them into the sunshine and away from the video games for a little while. Viola- multitasking. Most often, they took our little manners game into the world with them. Sometimes, they forget. Now, I borrow my little nieces and nephews and it becomes a game with them. I think maybe my daughter needs a refresher and should join us for our next fancy garden picnic.

Join us for the Extreme STEAM Science Kids Summer program where our students learn manners as they collaborate in the engineering, design and execution of  hydroponic and vertical gardens. Our students learn a broader scope of citizenship as we broach the topics of farming in urban areas, irrigating areas of drought and growing food in places that receive less sunlight. In Extreme STEAM, our students learn manners that will give them the initiative to solve world problems. Perhaps we’ll have a garden party with fancy dress and fancy manners too.

Park Shore News


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