Teach Your Children Well

I grew up as a heathen. ( I can see my mom rolling her eyes right about now) ….Not quite, but it was a very simple, country, relaxed, kind of upbringing. My family and I were part hippie, part country, but 100% real. No pretentiousness, country clubs, fancy outings or extensive travel. Both of my parents had a mix of country and city life as they were growing up, but ultimately decided to raise their children in the country. Now, we weren’t completely uncultured. We had manners, spoke properly (with a southern accent) and respected our elders. Mom and dad just wanted us to live a simple life in the country, and that’s what we did.

My days were spent feeding farm animals, running barefoot everywhere I went, getting dirty, picking the produce from the garden with the family, while snacking on fresh tomatoes along the way. We worked together and played together. I was definitely a “free-range” child. I learned how to live off the land, and that’s quite valuable to know. If all of us would have never left the farm, maybe that’s all I would have needed to know. But, as life happens, we all ended up growing up and moving away. It was beautiful, but I must say, I’ve had to learn a few things in my adulthood that I wish I would have learned as a child.

When I was young, we didn’t travel much, eat out often or stay in hotels. I hadn’t even had my first job by the time I married, at the young age of 18. Then traveling often with my military husband, I felt a little lost. Learning to live in a big city was a challenge. (San Francisco was his first duty station). Riding the subway, public transportation, driving 90 mph while trying to follow a map (no gps in the 80’s). I had a lot to learn.

When my children were young, each thing I learned about etiquette or life in general, I felt compelled to teach them right away! I would have that moment of “ I wish I would have known this before!” I felt like I was growing and learning with my children, which is not entirely bad. I didn’t know how to set a proper table, which pieces of silverware to use for what, and when? I had no idea how to handle a business call, write a resume’, buy an airline ticket, read a subway map, or make a reservation. Whether it be dinner, hotel, airline, rental car or the like, I was clueless. I didn’t know what valet parking, a concierge, or hailing a taxi was all about. As a child, we would take a few road trips, but I only traveled by plane twice before I was 18, my first time being 12 years old with my grandmother.

As I raised my children, I tried to expose them to many different experiences. At home, we would do “training sessions” for dining out. All from what I learned from reading etiquette books, the internet or dining with people who already knew. I would watch, copy and learn from them. Properly set dinner tables, napkins in the lap, manners on-point. I would occasionally take my children to the nicest restaurants I could afford. They would dress in their best attire, and use the learned manners, and etiquette from home. I would ensure they knew to speak clearly to the waitstaff, ask questions and be polite. I taught them to discretely calculate a gratuity, and when to offer to pick up the bill for their entire party.

You can start these “training sessions” at home, simply by role play. My children and I would have so much fun setting up an “airplane, bus, restaurant, train, etc” at home. Line up a few dining chairs, set a table, add some stuffed animals, friends or family for extra passengers, or customers. Someone plays the role of the waiter, flight attendant, etc. Create paper tickets, pack small suitcases, and serve simple dinners. It’s a great way to play, and practice these skills at the same time. You can use this role-play in many aspects of teaching your children. Write pretend resume’s for them to apply for their “dream job” ( this will be a cute keepsake later ). Make pretend business phone calls, teach them how to speak articulately and solve problems. The scenarios are endless.

We weren’t able to travel by air much when they were younger. But as my children got older, I made sure they were taught to be able to travel on their own. I believe it’s important to teach your children how to make a reservation, check-in to an airline, get through security checks, find their gate and seat on the plane. After them experiencing it a few times with you, it’s a great idea to let the child “lead”. What I mean is, Let them assist in making the reservations and once it’s time to travel, have them lead you through all of the steps necessary for the trip. Have them tell you when and where to check your luggage, print your boarding pass, what to do at security and have them find your gate and seats. It’s a great way to learn with the guidance if they need it. So when that day comes that they may be traveling alone, they will have the confidence on what to do, thanks to you taking the time to show them.

I know my grandchildren practice table manners at home, as well as at Nana’s house. When the grandchildren visit, we like to take them out for a special dinner or go to the theater. They really enjoy a nice, fancy night out with Nana and Grandpa. We encourage them to try new foods, remind them of their dining etiquette, how to behave while attending a theater production, and in general, “keep in practice” with all things taught at home. It’s important to do this as often as possible, so it’s not one of those “Oh, I think I remember what to do, from that one time we went out”. If your grandchild is old enough, maybe have them make the dinner reservation and also pay the bill.. (with Grandpa’s credit card, of course). Take the grandchildren to the ballet, opera, theater or symphony. Expose them to cultural enrichment, as well as teaching them the basics at home. Again, this gives them practice, in a safe, non-judgmental environment. Make sure they know it’s ok to ask questions and make mistakes. It’s all part of the learning process.

Ultimately, It is our responsibility as parents and grandparents to prepare our children for the real world. The more we can teach them, the more confident they will be. As we know, with that confidence, the possibilities are endless!

“Making Grandparenting Glorious!”

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