After a few days of weather wildness, I ventured out and went to the Planet Fitness for a much-needed workout. Afterward, I headed over to a store to peruse and purchase workout clothes. Found some cute stuff as a reward for my commitment to fitness. Overheard a the checkout line a conversation that had me smiling. A mom said to her crying toddler, “Use your manner words.” The little girl dried her tears and asked for what she wanted in a calm way. I gave them a thumbs up and said, “Good job, mom, and kiddo.” I wish adults would use their manner words to ask for what they want.

As a therapist, speaker/facilitator, who works with clients of all ages, and a mindfulness teacher for 4-6-year-olds, those words are pure gold, waiting to be harvested.  When a child cries, we may automatically assume a temper tantrum a-brewing. So many (sadly and inappropriately) were told that if they didn’t stop crying, they would be given something to cry about. As a result, they may have shut down their emotions. Perhaps the little one is overtired, hungry, or in pain of some kind. Their attention span may have been stretched to the max.  Nothing justifies threats to safety. I have twice intervened in the past few years when the parent didn’t use their manner words. I didn’t go all social worker on them since if this is how they were in public, I could only imagine how they treated the child in private. What I did was relate to the parent and comment that it seemed they were having a rough time. To the child, I would smile and attempt to distract him or her. Both times, it worked and the yelling and crying ceased. My hope is that the parent became more aware of their interactions with their kiddo and the impact their words and actions would have on future behavior and sense of self. I’m not advocating public meltdowns either initiated by tiny humans or tiny humans in adult bodies.

In the larger world, consider how people make requests that seem more like demands. “I want..” “You have to…” “You ought to..” “You need to..” “You’ve got to…or else. It shows up every day. How do you respond when you hear those words? When I see counseling clients who are on both ends of the asking/being asked spectrum, I reframe by asking them to rephrase. “How about if you…” “Would you be willing to..” “Would you please…” and “I would like/love if you would…”

Manners don’t have an expiration date or age. I grew up being taught to respect my elders AND they respected me. None of this ‘children should be seen and not heard,’ stuff. When kiddos are left out of the respect loop they are more likely to either withdraw or lash out. Manner words include, please and thank you, go on ahead of me, may I?

How will you use your manner words today?


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