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Momma Didn't Mean to Curse!

Christine Pafumi
Aug. 6, 2012

One mom's take on teaching good behavior and keeping profanity to a minimum as part of the Care.com Interview Series

When it comes to teaching good manners, Jennifer Williams has it covered. Until she accidentally lets a few swear words slip, that is! We talked to the Momma Made It Look Easy blogger about how she enforces the golden rule with her 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son. She lets us in on the importance of being nice first but not necessarily last, and why bodily function sounds just seem too hard to control at the dinner table.

Tell us about your family. How many kids do you have? What are their ages? What are their personalities like?

I have two children, a girl, age 7, and a boy who is 4. My daughter is very outgoing and caring. She also has a ton of sass that either serves her well or gets her into trouble, depending on the situation. My son is funny and clever and busy and loud and jumpy. I had no idea boys were so loud and jumpy.

Are there any golden rules of manners in your house and how do you teach them?

Be nice first. I think it is important to teach kids to be kind and polite to the people that they meet, but of equal importance is that they need to stand up for themselves. Our rule is that they have to be nice first, but they don't have to be nice last.

What age is appropriate to start teaching manners and how have you approached it with your children?

We started from the very beginning. At the table we did "eat like a princess" with my daughter because she loved princesses and with my son it was "eat like a superhero" for the same reason. We are also big on respecting your elders, (e.g., yes ma'am and no sir). Different age levels require different levels of instruction. When they are just learning a direct instruction is best, but as they get older you can explain why manners are appropriate and how people will view them if they don't practice good behavior.

What role do you feel good manners play in building your children's confidence? How are you working to reinforce that?

I think the biggest impact comes from how they are treated by others when they have good manners. That feeling when someone compliments them on their behavior is the best reinforcement of all.

What is your biggest pet-peeve when it comes to manners? How do you handle it with your own kids?

Table noises are the worst for me. I teach my children to keep their mouths closed when they eat and not to make body function sounds at the table. The latter, of course, is the hardest.

With the rise of technology, manners have certainly changed in the digital age. How have you have taught your children to avoid being rude? Do old-fashioned manners still apply?

My children are still young enough that this hasn't been an issue for them. They don't have their faces buried in cell phones texting away with their friends. Yet.

I do think old-fashioned manners still apply, and I wish more people would focus on teaching them. I think it shows a sign of respect for the people around you to just be present and be polite.

What is the funniest, most impolite thing that your child, or any other, has said or done that you just couldn't help laughing at?

We were in the grocery store and my daughter was about four years old. We walked past this very elderly couple and they smiled and said hello to her. She responded very politely, but just as we passed them she said very loudly, "those people are so old they could be dead." I was mortified. I explained that we don't comment on people's appearance and hurried her through the store, hoping I would not run into them again.

Have your kids ever caught you breaking your own rules? We want to hear about it!

Oh yes. I have a little (ahem) profanity problem. I don't say the super bad words in front of them, but I have been known to let one slip or to call a fellow driver an ugly name. They always call me on it and I have to apologize and explain that they are right and I shouldn't behave that way either.

In twenty years, what good manners do you hope your children take with them in their adulthood?

I hope they are just generally polite. I think this is a lost value in our "me" centered world today. Kindness and consideration for others seems to be a lost art.

If you could tell other parents just one thing about manners, anything at all, what would it be?

That their precious little darling may not do any wrong in their eyes, but the rest of the world does not view them with rose-colored glasses, and that is where they will have to live their lives. I would rather hard truths come from me than my child's future boss.

Jennifer Williams, a storyteller at heart, uses her blog Momma Made It Look Easy to share her stories with the world. She lives in Texas with her husband, daughter and son. Find Jennifer on Twitter and Facebook.

For more helpful tips, check out the Care.com Interview Series: Teaching Manners ยป

Photo used with permission from Jennifer Williams.
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