Teaching Children How To Behave When Visiting with Older Relatives

When babies are born, many mothers record their miles stones.  We know that during the developmental process a child begins to start something new, like he or she smiles, rolls over, crawls, says first words, walks, and notices his or her environment more and more.  But somehow over the course of life, we forget that we too have milestones that we reach.  We discover what we want or don’t want in life and we start journeys toward whatever our goals are.  However, there comes a point that as we progress in life, we eventually regress.  All the time, patience and energy we once had in our youth is just not the same. 

No matter how many hair dyes we use, exercise, or select the “right foods” to eat, our bodies begin to alert us to how important our lives truly are.  So this is the case with our elderly relatives, they have spent many years learning, working, teaching, building, fighting, growing, and more to earn the lines we see on old faces, the curve in tired backs, the gray hairs on wise heads, and more.  So when a child acts disrespectfully toward those who are obviously bigger, smarter, and overall better than they, we, as parents, must sit these children down and teach them.  Some children will learn quickly while others will need some serious prompting, but either way, children must learn to respect authority despite how we might personally feel about certain adults.

So I thought of writing this piece, because I know there will be many family gatherings this holiday season where children will be present.  There will be parents of children who are polite, kind and respectful while there will also be parents of children who simply don’t know any better and refuse correction.  It is my concern that some untrained parents will take offense when an elderly grandmother, aunt, uncle or someone else will take the liberty in chastising bratty, little Sam or Sue or rebellious teen Jim, and when they do, the offended parent will try to excuse his or her son or daughter’s offensive behaviors.  Why take offense?   

Parents have just about all year to train children prior to family events.  From funerals to Christmas, children should be at least somewhat prepared for adults who will talk to them about interrupting conversations with whines or sassy quips.  They should have already been made aware that loud talking, running thorough someone’s home, and acting fussy is unacceptable.   

Knowledgeable parents have back-up plans, consequences or alternatives when dealing with children who don’t behave themselves.  Yet, there will be those parents, unfortunately, who don’t bother to discipline (train) children to:  “Sit and be quiet, wait your turn, don’t take too much food, watch carrying that plate, don’t run like that around granddad, watch your tone when speaking to relatives and friends…” 
Children are just that, children--not little adults, when we don’t bother to train them to have self-control, be respectful, and kind to us and others, then we actually cause them harm and unfortunately witnesses will not appreciate seeing them or us in the future.  Sure, we have relatives in our circles that haven’t earned anyone’s polite, “Hello” much less respect, but as we all know, two wrongs don’t make it right.  Let us teach children to be the solution and not the problem.  Tips as follows:

One.  Advise them to say things like, "Please" and “Thank you” when they want something done for them or when someone has thought enough to do give them something.

Two.  Show them the correct way to behave when speaking to others and how to act when seated in the company of others (ie. dinner table, living-room, riding in someone else’s car, etc.)

Three.  Create consequences when children don't demonstrate appropriate behavior and rewards when they do.

Four.  Check your own emotions and don’t be so quick to defend your child’s misdeeds especially when you have not witnessed his or her behavior.  Most children may act one way at home and then do some things totally different elsewhere ie.) tell lies, tamper with things that don’t belong to them, make false accusations, claim that someone was acting mean while leaving out what they did to receive such a reaction.

Five.  When a situation has come up regarding your child interacting with other children and adults, don’t embarrass your son or daughter by “showing off” in front of them as to appear like you have it altogether as a parent ie.) berating, threatening, or staring at them evily.  Rather, call your child’s attention to the matter by taking him or her out of the room and away from prying eyes who have nothing better to do than to gossip about your child.

Lastly, don’t permit yourself to get angry or tearful before others when it comes to matters regarding your child.  You will look unwise and foolish and will give others unnecessary chat about you and your family.  Know-it-all busybody types will love to give you advice (and even prayer and Scriptures) despite having something to do with a child’s emotional outbursts.  Maybe your son or daughter was only trying to communicate a concern when he or she said, “You shouldn’t smoke grandma…Don't say bad words.  Why do you have that ugly sweater on?  I don’t eat that nasty stuff.”   

Sometimes we can control some things, but other things we simply can’t.  Forgive yourself, forgive the child and forgive others for they know not what you put up with!  Then move on.  If they don’t like how you are trying your best to make the visit pleasant consider this, you don’t have to be around those difficult relatives next year!    

Nicholl McGuire is the author of When Mothers Cry and other books.

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Over 20 years office work experience, six years completed college coursework, background in print media and communications, recognized for exceptional attendance and received merit increase for past job performance, self-published author and part-time entrepreneur, Internet marketing and social media experience. Interned for non-profit organization, women's group and community service business. Additional experience: teaching/training others, customer service and sales. Learn more at Nicholl McGuire and Nicholl McGuire Media

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