“Parenting is an uphill battle sometimes. Our kids will never be perfect. But we can help them to make the world just ever so slightly pleasant with a well placed, “Thank you, Mrs. Robinson,” when she exits the mini van.”

How many millions of times do we remind our kids, say  “Please,” say “Thank you,” hoping and praying that when they are sent out into the world to interact with other human beings that they will portray themselves as kind and polite people? And yet there we are at the dinner table with the grandparents and those same children who have been hearing this broken record for their entire lives, somehow, inevitably drop the ball and order their dinner without the most important last word. And you are left there hanging out to dry despite all your best efforts, uttering the clenched jawed reminder of “Please.”

The good news is, for every time like this, my elementary school age daughter has at least two incidents where I hear from another parent or friend how polite and thoughtful she was on a playdate. This gives me hope. I am relentless and strict about manners. It is not a formality or empty gesture, it is a truly important exercise in expressing gratitude and acknowledging the efforts and gestures of others.

I teach my kids that eye contact matters. That always thanking the parent after a playdate or a car pool ride is important. That shaking hands and repeating someone’s name is respectful. How being a helpful guest and clearing your plate is the right thing to do. When you come to someone’s home you bring a little gift. And you speak courteously to people in service to you always. There are things that a mother needs to instill in her children.

Of course we certainly can’t always control how our kids will behave, and they will at times forget, or be slightly discourteous because they’re tired or timid or just being kids.  But their manners directly reflect upon us as parents, like it or not.  That we cared enough to repeat the same reminders until we hate the sound of our own voice says that we want our children to be good, thoughtful people and yes, reflect well on us. I am so pleased to hear my child was polite and thoughtful. I am glad that she is making other people feel good. And that makes me happy.

Parenting is an uphill battle sometimes. Our kids will never be perfect. But we can help them to make the world just ever so slightly pleasant with a well placed, “Thank you, Mrs. Robinson,” when she exits the mini van.

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