Are dads going overboard connecting with their kids, and ignoring essential parenting opportunities?
A few weeks ago my dad and I were celebrating our birthdays together—his birthday is the day after mine—and we went out to a nice Thai restaurant in his neighborhood with my step mom. We eat there often because the food and service are very good, and it has a peaceful and tastefully decorated atmosphere. It was my dad’s 95th birthday and due to hearing limits, it’s best for him to be in quiet surroundings so he can enjoy conversations with ease. Noisy places aren’t fun for him.
We sat at our usual booth and ordered the specialties of the chef. Our waitress noticed we brought gift bags with us into the restaurant and asked if we were celebrating a birthday? I said, “Yes a double birthday, my dad and me!” Just then a large group of people arrived – a party of 11. Fortunately for them, the restaurant wasn’t very crowded yet so they arranged a long table for them in a few minutes and the group sat down. There were five kids, ranging in age I would guestimate from 7-to-13-years-old, and six adults. The big group was seated a few feet from our booth so the noise level went up a few decibels immediately, but we dealt with that without complaint. After all, we were there to enjoy ourselves and celebrate our birthdays with a good meal and conversation, so we adapted to the changing atmosphere.
The kids sat at one end of the long table together (all intently focused on their cellphones) and the adults at the other end so the two generations could enjoy socializing in their own ways. Around the time we finished our soup and appetizers, the kids and one of the dads at the group table yell out something like, “It’s over there!” Then they jumped out of their seats and ran out of the restaurant. I stood up and could see through the windows that they are running around the parking area and the other businesses in the shopping center with their phones in front of them. My dad was startled by the commotion and he feared an emergency was occurring that required all of us to leave the restaurant quickly. His fear was understandable because, at 95, my dad has mobility issues. I told my dad to hold on, I don’t think we need to get up, and then one of the adults in that group said the kids were playing Pokémon Go. My dad asked me what that was and I explained, and then annoyed he asked, “Why are they playing such a game at a restaurant during a party?” Why indeed? When their food came the kids and the one dad were still outside catching Pokémon. One of the men at their table asked the other adults, should they wait for them to come back before they served the food? One of the women replied, “No, they can eat whatever is left when they decide to come back.” The “fun” dad and kids did come back after about ten more minutes, but it wasn’t long before they jumped up again, in the middle of eating their lunch, to go out and catch more Pokémon. I don’t know how many more times this occurred for that group because the three of us finished our lunch quickly and left the restaurant.
There are positive takeaways from playing Pokémon Go with your children like having fun together and physical outdoor activity. Dads should play games with their kids to bond and spend quality time with them; to oversee what video games they play and if they are appropriate for them, but setting limits and boundaries for playing games on a cellphone is important. Parents should not view discipline as policing or an attempt to curb your child’s unbridled enjoyment; it should be confident guidance and a practice of common sense and balanced activities.
There are plenty of current articles online and books on parenting that help dads and moms with guidelines setting cellphone rules for teens, tweens, and younger children. Not so prevalent, it seems, are the rules and guidelines to teach your children manners to grow up to be courteous and civilized adults. Even if you are a weekend dad or mom who may only see your kids a few days a month, sharing and bonding while learning good manners is showing them life is just as fun and enjoyable without causing chaos, being selfish or oblivious of the people around them. Making someone feel good through our actions of being kind and courteous is a win-win because it should also make you feel good too. An easy step in teaching and influencing good habits and manners in your kids is to be a consistent role model of the kind of behavior that you want to see in them. No brainer, right?
Here are ten basic manners that will never go out-of-style that dads and moms should teach and reinforce in their children:
1. Stand to show respect.
It wasn’t that long ago that men always stood when a woman got up from the table, but our more casual society has made standing to show respect less and less common—but it’s still good manners.
2. Be aware of others’ physical space in public.
Kids and adults need to be aware of who is around them and how their behavior affects them.
3. Show respect for your elders.
It’s hard for someone who has been on the planet only a decade or less to understand it, but adults have earned respect just by living a long time. Experience leads to wisdom, and wisdom should be respected.
4. Acknowledge others entering and exiting your home—including Mom and Dad.
It’s important to politely acknowledge people whether they are your family members or visitors. Children can greet or say a proper goodbye then go back to their playtime or activity. It’s a way of having them focused on that person, not always on themselves.
5. Learn and remember people’s names.
People love to hear their name used and pronounced correctly. It makes other people feel good and we feel good when someone remembers our name.
6. Kids shouldn’t be the center of attention all the time.
As a parent, don’t draw constant attention to your child and ask them to perform. Help your children appropriately share in social gatherings and engage with others without demanding to be the center of attention.
7. Change the subject politely.
Yes, sometimes other people talk about really boring things, but knowing how to deal with it politely is a skill that will serve kids well for the rest of their lives. This is a difficult manner to master, but with practice and your help and examples of finesse, your child will become a welcome and respected adult guest in any meeting or social gathering.
8. Don’t point or stare at people.
Just as not standing too close to a person when you’re talking with them respects a person’s physical space, children need to be aware of other people’s emotional space. You don’t point unless you’re giving directions, and don’t stare at another person because it will make them uncomfortable.
9. Be considerate and kind to people with disabilities.
This one goes with rule #8 and to expand on it by not treating people with disabilities as lesser individuals, but extend courtesies like opening a door for them, or being patient and not push past them in a crowded situation.
10. Be a good guest.
This rule is where being a role model is essential. Teach your kids to be polite and adapt to the rules and customs of the household they are in, or if in public, the venue, and type of gathering you are attending. Children need to be reminded they must temper their normally relaxed behavior at home and be aware of their surroundings and focused on the host and the other guests around them. It doesn’t mean there’s no room for relaxed fun at a gathering, but through politeness and courtesy, the event will be enjoyable for everyone.
Also published on The Good Men Project.
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