Saturday, February 11, 2006

When Silence Isn't Golden

"Hey, everybody! Dinnertime!" Silence, except for the thunder of racing feet. "Cover your mouth when you cough, please." Silence. "In this house, we do not say 'Shut Up'." Silence. "Do not run inside! Walk in the house, please." Silence. "What a nice day it is out there!" Silence. "Girls! Will you please stop shouting?" Silence. "It's time to do the dishes." Silence. "Hello! Welcome home!" Silence. 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.


Blogger Candace said...

Yes, yes, yes, and more yes.

2/11/2006 01:13:00 p.m.  
Blogger jw said...

Very well stated.

When they get older, same thing. My 20 year old son is away at college. Last week I sent him an e-mail about something important. No reply. A second, then third e-mails. Still no reply. Then, unknown to me, his mother phoned him about the same issue. An hour later he took care of the issue and then phoned to tell me that he got the e-mails. (He lives on the computer, so I know he gets my e-mails within an hour.)

I have learned that he responds almost instantly to Instant Messager messages - - even at 3:00 AM!!!

2/11/2006 01:52:00 p.m.  
Blogger snaars said...

All your advice makes SO much sense. I like reading something that reaffirms my own parenting views, but I especially like reading something that I didn't think of, that will make me a better parent. Mary, you are my parenting hero.

2/11/2006 06:18:00 p.m.  
Blogger Mary P. said...

Candace: Thanks. Simple, isn't it? But so important. Practical, too: if they let you know you've been heard the first time, you don't have to keep repeating yourself! Which, when they're older, they'll call "nagging"...

jw: Com-mu-ni-ca-tion. Long word, surprisingly tricky concept - harder for some than for others. Like I said to Candace, if you're acknowledged the first time, they don't have to put up with the repetitions. A win-win!

Snaars: Gee, I don't think I've ever been anyone's hero before! Thanks. I think your oldest is just about the age mine was when I was introduced to this concept. Keep this in mind, and maybe one day you, too, will be someone's parenting hero!

2/11/2006 07:24:00 p.m.  
Blogger Granny said...

You're reading my mind again.

I find myself sometimes sounding like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.

"I will not be ignored!!"

They know better, they've been taught better, but the closer they come to the dreaded teen years, the more their memories slip.

Did you hear me? Yes. Yes what? Yes, grandma (or yes ma'am). Then why didn't you say something? Silence and "the look". It drives me crazy. The only thing worse is when they answer (after the third time I say something) by saying "what" in that unmistakable tone of voice.

It's not all the time and I stop it as soon as it starts. Usually, they're well mannered girls. The sooner they learn (or relearn) that, the happier our lives will be.

In fairness, sometimes it takes me a minute to realize someone is speaking or tugging at my arm. I think it happens to everyone now and then. I apologize to them. It's all about manners.

2/12/2006 03:55:00 a.m.  
Anonymous MIM said...

So right!

The first time Tod-lar ignored me, I thought to myself, "What the f!$# is this?"

"Mama is talking to you. Please respond when mama talks to you."


That's right you little $%#@.

2/12/2006 11:06:00 a.m.  
Blogger Queen Bee said...

Hee...husbands need to acknowledge their wives too when they are talking to them ;P

2/13/2006 02:51:00 a.m.  
Blogger Mary P. said...

Gran: Too right. Strange how, when they're teens, they seem to regress back to toddlerhood in so many ways... Which is why, of course, it's so important to establish these principles - manners, respect - early. If you haven't done that, the teen years look so much more frightening!

mim: But you called him on it, the first time. So often we look on it as an abberation, and overlook it, or make excuses for it, and before you know it, you have a Bad Habit. (Good vocabulary you used there, BTW ("respond") - I do that, too. I claim it's why my kids all do well in English.)

Q Bee: Absolutely! Been there. Was once with a man who did little more than grunt at me for the better part of five years. (Why did I put up with it that long? Oh, you learn as you go...)

2/13/2006 07:14:00 a.m.  
Blogger Simon Peter said...

We've been slogging away at manners around here, but I hadn't gotten to the every utterance must be acknowledged.

They're not doing bad, but they do need to learn that slapping a "please" on the end of an instruction does not produce anything close enough to a polite request to work with this daddy.

2/13/2006 05:08:00 p.m.  

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