I wish rude and polite behavior were simple button choices but as you know, they are not. Let me tell you a story.
Not too long after Mary and I got married, we were quietly standing in line together at the grocery store. Suddenly, in the distance we could hear them coming––what sounded like a pack of wild animals fighting to the death. What actually appeared was a mom and her three kids, all the kids were under the age of seven, who were arguing over what cereal to buy.
A box was being passed around between the two tallest children while the younger one screamed with hands stretched toward the heavens and feet rapidly pounding the floor.
Mom was pushing the basket leisurely around the corner while reading a food label on an item she had just taken from the shelf. She appeared unfazed by the volume and the antics.
She calmly placed the item she was holding into her basket and got in line behind us. The tantrum over the cereal box had moved on to claim new territory: the gum and candy display that the horrible people at the grocery store had so conveniently placed alongside the checkout line. Now the loud dispute centered around the choice of gum and quickly escalated into a situation involving at least one headlock. Mom, again apparently not fazed by the uproar, casually thumbed through a magazine.
Mary and I were stunned. It was at that moment in my married-with-no-children brain that I not only thought, but uttered the words under my breath to Mary, “Our children will never act like that!” And we continued to believe that all the way up until our little cherubs were born.
Fast-forward nine years. We stood in line at the grocery store with our twin four-year-old boys. They were arguing over a box of cereal, and Mary and I were arguing over gum. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a recently married couple with no kids. (Yes, I could tell.)
After observing our behavior the guy turned as if to say something to his wife; before he could speak a word, I said, “Don’t. Don’t even say it.” I knew what he was thinking. It was the same thing Mary and I had thought nine years ago.
What’s the difference between rude behavior and kids being kids?
I will let you marinate in that question for a while and say this about rude behavior. Kids will never behave in a polite and respectful way if they don’t see it modeled on a daily basis.
Now, that being said, you can pick up the book Faith and the Modern Family and read several stories of both Mary and I “not being the best example” to our kids. You can be a good example or a terrible warning, but the great news is this, if you have been a terrible warning you can immediately be a good example by asking your kids for forgiveness.
The bottom line is that rude behavior, or healthy behavior isn’t learned one time in a grocery store it’s learned over time in the home. I like what author James Baldwin said,
“Children have never been very good at listening to their parents, but they have never failed to imitate them.”
Deuteronomy 6:5-6 gives all of us as parents great words of wisdom when it says, “And you (Mom and dad) must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you (mom and dad) must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.”
Here’s my question…why? Why should we do these things that Deuteronomy is talking about? Here’s my answer, because modeling healthy behavior is more important than talking about it.
What rude behavior do you see your kids modeling these days?
Was or is that behavior present in your own life?
Photo Credit: shutterstock.com Image ID: 177376910 © Stuart Miles