Mr. Rude is making me Mr. Miserable.

24Apr2013
Image source: Mr. Men Online

The CRUNCH:
Mr. Rude is making me Mr. Miserable.

CRUNCH deets:
You’re always polite. Well, maybe not to annoying dinner-time-telemarketers, but the rest of the time. So it’s embarrassing when your little munchkin forgets his manners in public. And it’s insulting when he acts like Hilly Holbrook treating you like you’re The Help. But you know you have to pick your battles, so… is this really worth the fight?

The Fix:
Gimme gimme never gets.

Fix deets:
One of the most inspiring books we’ve ever read is The Last Lecture. And one of the takeaways? Always say thank you! On our honeymoon eleven years ago (yikes!) we found ourselves at the gate holding boarding passes with seats far, far away (from each other). One of us politely spoke with a ticket agent, expressed our desire to fly hand-in-hand, and returned to the waiting area without a fuss after an inconclusive “We’ll see what we can do, but the plane is very full.” So we boarded, separated, and moments later, guess who got bumped to first class? Not too shabby for a cross-Atlantic flight! Now, it might not have been because we said pretty please, but would they have chosen us if we’d started hurling insults and throwing a wicked tantrum?

Manners are important and the later you start teaching them to your younglings, the harder it’ll be for them to learn. We were amazed when our boys (then aged five and two) began saying please and thank you after picking it up at daycare. They’d spent so long taking everything we did for granted! But when they started saying those few simple words, our moods picked up, so they felt proud, and we felt proud, and no one was ever Mr. Grumpy again. Not quite. But it definitely helped.

So how exactly do you go about teaching yet another life lesson? First of all, as with all your teachables, model it. Sure, you remember to say please and thanks, but are you really ALWAYS polite? Do your tone and facial expression ever send a mixed message to someone who could read body language long before he understood English? Proper etiquette isn’t just about remembering those key words in those key moments, it’s a twenty-four-seven act… sort of like your most frustrating/rewarding gig. Having said that, it’s impossible to play nice twenty-four-seven! You are not Mother Theresa, and there’s no shame in that. Try to pay attention and just do your best, that’s all anyone can ask.

Equally important to you thanking it out: communicate your expectations. Discuss what you consider an appropriate reaction BEFORE he’s opening birthday presents with reckless abandon, barely stopping to breathe before lunging for the next Lightning-McQueen-papered box. And what better way to communicate than to role-play? Pretend you’re him unwrapping gifts/being given his sippy-cup/demanding a snack, and channel your inner Witherspoon to ham it up. Along with role-playing, read a relevant book or two and make sure to discuss.

And try to remember that just because you think he’s being rude doesn’t mean he actually is. Sometimes your little Mr. Rude is really just Mr. Forgetful. Add these phrases to your reply auto-pilot: “Sure, when you ask nicely,”, “Excuse me?”, “Try again,” and “What’s the magic word?” (an oldie but a goodie). He’ll get the hint and after enough repetition, it’ll start to come naturally. Nope, not all the time, but it’ll melt your heart when you hear “Thank you for this yummy dinner,” when you’re least expecting it.

Remember this:
Some people are merely forgetful, while others think saying thank you is a sign of weakness. But there’s a huge difference between manners and power, and teaching him to politely express appreciation and respect sets him up with a door-opening-skill for life. Smart fly-catchers everywhere know that.

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