Several recent events made me think of this topic. One was my daughter's recent visit to the dentist with her four children. I was raised in the '50s and my mum was someone who took my sister and I to the dentist on a regular four-month basis throughout our childhood. I cannot say that I relished the experience but the habit was ingrained.
As my children grew up in the '70s, they were also taken to the dentist on a regular basis and, subsequently, my daughter is doing the same thing. Habits such as these become second nature through a parent's example.
Another thing that made me think of example was the writing of thank-you notes after Christmas. Again, both my mum and my grandma were sticklers for this. You never received anything without writing a letter of thanks. Unfortunately, I think this is a dying art, but one that makes the donor know that the gift was received and appreciated. It is also a good time for children to practice writing skills.
Manners are undoubtedly learned through the example of the adults in children's lives. Most of us women still enjoy the male who opens a door for us or helps us carry something heavy. I guarantee that these men had role models in their lives that modeled these behaviors and again they become second nature.
“Please” and “thank you” and “excuse me” are important parts of manners and again are learned in the childhood years. I constantly remind my grandchildren to say “please” when they ask for something. To me it sounds rude if you leave it out.
I have been reading the letters about customer service in the Yuma Sun and I agree with some of the sentiments expressed. Manners do not cost anything but they go a long way when treating the public. I am one who will go to a store because someone knows me, says hello and smiles. It just makes me feel good. Sam Walton knew about that and hence the friendly Walmart greeter at the door and ultimately a hugely successful business.
Besides manners and good habits, children learn other valuable lessons from the adults around them. Of course, they can also learn the wrong things equally well. Prejudice, is something learned very young. You may not realize that even very young children pick up on derogatory remarks about others. I can assure you that no child is born with prejudice, it is a learned behavior.
All of us make mistakes, but try and do unto others, as you would have them do to you. This is a good rule to live by and will give strong messages to your children.
Bad language is also learned from someone, and children seem to pick up faster on these words than on the ones we want them to learn. However, being careful about what we say at home will ultimately win, as your children become adults. Children do learn bad habits from other children at school, but in the long run it is the behaviors learned at home that win out and become ingrained forever.
Roughhousing is something that a lot of dads enjoy doing with their youngsters. Just be aware that this should not get too rough and out of hand. Small children don't always know the difference between being rough with dad and then going to the child care center and seeing it as normal to rough-house with their friends.
Aggressiveness can also be learned. One of the worst examples of this has been seen in recent years at children's games such as soccer. Parents have been seen fighting over a referee's call or over a child's action on a field. There was even the case in ice hockey where one father actually killed another over their children's game. What message does this give to our youngsters? How will some of those children grow up?
We cannot change the whole world, but we can think of our own family unit and work to make sure we are setting the best example that we can. I promise you that in the long run, your children will benefit and grow up to be valuable citizens. It will also be gratifying to be grandparents and see your hard work rewarded and passed on to future generations.
Judith Watkinson is a professor of early childhood education at Arizona Western College. She can be reached at Judy.Watkinson@azwestern.edu.