Teach Values, Respect, Politeness | Day Twenty-Eight

Peter came home the other day, telling me how his teachers thanked him for using his manners. "What are manners, mom?"

Funny. I'm glad he knows them, even if he doesn't know what they're called. :)

Did you know -- a child with good manners, respect for others, thoughtfulness, politeness and just general social skills will be more well-liked and have a higher rate of success in school, relationships, career, and life? It's huge.

Psychologists call it "social intelligence" and if you can wrap your brain around this, give yourself a pat on the back:
"Social awareness refers to a spectrum that runs from primal empathy (instantaneously sensing another’s inner state) to empathic accuracy (understanding her feelings and thoughts) to social cognition (“getting” complicated social situations)."
taken from this article by Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., studier and book writer of all things relating to emotional and social intelligence

Yes, this would be a nice skill to have. We all want "smooth, effective interactions." Of course we want that for our children.

There's not a five-step formula, unfortunately. Not that I know of. A lot of this learned social awareness comes from watching parents interact with others. Some of it from watching positive {we can hope!} peer interactions.

Emotional intelligence provides a nice foundation -- teaching children to be aware and accepting of their feelings and the feelings of others. Next, we teach how to watch others' body language and facial expressions to be more aware of their feelings and learn how to empathize with their situation.

Then we give them relational words -- words that will help reduce conflict, words that will heal friendships. "I understand how left out you must feel...and I'll try to think of something we can do that would be fun for both of us."

We model and teach polite words -- please, thank-you, no thank-you, excuse me, I'm sorry.
We respect one another's wishes and needs, modeling and teaching kindness.
We make sure there is time for conversations about our family values, like honesty, compassion, helpfulness and self-control.
We don't rescue our children from situations where they need to learn consequences. It's about developing perseverance and responsibility.
We limit media viewing that could potentially teach values we don't subscribe to.

There are many many ways to teach values -- more ideas here.

Social skills like learning manners, respect, and positive conflict resolution typically aren't taught at school. However, one particular school in South Carolina has a program called WINGS -- teaching social and emotional skills after school. I read through their 30 learning objectives and found things like "identify blessings" and "develop the ability to be patient and delay gratification". This list of objectives will stay with us long-term. A very valuable resource.

And here's a book I'd like to read for more knowledge on the topic -- Raise Your Child's Social IQ by Cathi Cohen

Social skills are a huge predictor of success, many would say more important than a high IQ. After all -- most of life's challenges are socially dependent. School, work, family, hobbies...

According to a 2008 survey on nearly 1000 parents
, "90 percent of parents consider social skills vital to their children's happiness and confidence. A full 98 percent of parents consider it important for their child to be able to share, listen well and have good manners - and nearly eight out of 10 parents consider these social skills more important than academic skills when it comes to their child's overall happiness.

Happy children have social skills!

Click here to read the rest of the posts in the series, 31 Days to Happier Children.