When Silence Isn't Golden
"Hey, everybody! Dinnertime!"
Silence, except for the thunder of racing feet.
"Cover your mouth when you cough, please."
"In this house, we do not say 'Shut Up'."
"Do not run inside! Walk in the house, please."
"What a nice day it is out there!"
"Girls! Will you please stop shouting?"
"It's time to do the dishes."
"Hello! Welcome home!"
A fundamental of good manners, which can be started as soon as the child can lisp out "mama" and "dada" and "carcar", is acknowledgement. A wise older woman once advised me to insist that when I'd spoken to my child, they acknowledge me. Even if they were silently complying with whatever I'd said, the verbal acknowledgement, she said, is simple good manners.
My two children were four and 15 months at the time. I sat down and explained that from now on, when mummy said something to them, they were to say, "yes, mummy". The fifteen-month-old wasn't really talking yet, but that didn't stop me. He understood what I was saying. In time he could follow his big sister's example.
Of course, it should be reciprocal. Respect and good manners are best taught by example, after all. When they spoke to me, I needed to acknowledge them, too. Never fear: One does not need to be held hostage to an endlessly verbose three-year-old! A simple "I hear what you're saying, but right now mummy's busy. I won't be answering any more questions now," followed by completely ignoring the child not only falls within good parenting manners, but is also an essential teaching tool.
Acknowledgement: "Okay." "Yes, momma." It doesn't have to be fancy. It's just good manners.