I am the mother of three boys, ages three, five and eight. They are constantly pushing each other around and fighting to be first at whatever they do. I feel like I’m a general in the army that has to go around shouting orders all the time. Any ideas to help me get some peace of mind?
Are your sons gentlemen? It’s a word that we don’t use too often these days. The way we raise our boys today will determine the types of men that we have in our society in a decade or so. With more equality for woman and girls, we are now asking less of our young men and boys. Each day I see boys, and girls too for that matter, that are not held accountable for their actions. The older I get the more it scares me. All parents need to teach courtesy, manners and respect for others as a life skill.
Some might argue that, "ladies first," is a phrase from the past. Maybe so, but as a parent and teacher, nothing pleases me more than seeing a boy with manners. Proper courtesy to others is a reflection of a family’s values. Teaching manners instills both a respect for others (including siblings), and respect for oneself, which in turn will help alleviate the impetuous behavior you describe. Do your sons practice the behaviors listed below? If not, perhaps it’s time to teach them these:
1. Open the door for others, especially women, mothers with strollers and older people;
2. Shake hands and look people in the eye when greeting them;
3. Assist seniors (grandparents, etc.) with getting in or out of the car and carrying groceries;
4. Take off hats during the National Anthem (any country’s) and Pledge of Allegiance;
5. Know not to interrupt adults or peers when they are talking and instead listen and have respect for what others have to say, even if they have a different point of view;
6. Accept responsibility for actions, good and bad, and;
7. Use "please," "thank you," and "excuse me" as appropriate.
Good manners should be an unconditional parental expectation. The best way to teach manners is to model them daily yourself. Although children often learn best by emulating what they see, it’s also important to make clear what your expectations are. Don’t wait for misbehavior to tell your boys what you expect, tell them when things are calm, tell them when they are alone, and tell them as a group. Without "nagging," tell them often, and praise them when they exhibit good manners. Children want attention and will strive to get it. As you notice and praise one of the boys when you catch them doing the right thing, the others will catch on. If they get more attention when they are praised than when they are corrected, the good behavior will become the norm.
Of course all of the above goes for girls too. Although when they get older they’ll appreciate, "ladies first." You can count on it!