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Good manners are key to your child getting ahead in all areas


KIDDING AROUND: The cast of BBC's Outnumbered

KIDDING AROUND: The cast of BBC's Outnumbered

Julie and Colin O'Mahony, with Emily, Grace, Charlotte and Sophie

Julie and Colin O'Mahony, with Emily, Grace, Charlotte and Sophie


KIDDING AROUND: The cast of BBC's Outnumbered

Every generation thinks they're more well-mannered than the last and ours is no exception. But do we have a right to bemoan the lack of respect today's children show their elders?

London-based writer Liat Hughes Joshi has just published a book entitled The New Old Fashioned Parenting Book aimed at parents who can't say no to their children. Whether they don't want to upset them or are simply unable to reprimand them, the author believes it's becoming a huge problem.

We spoke to some parents and experts to find out whether or not they also believe the youth of today need to learn some manners or if they are simply behaving like young people down through the ages have.


Present a united front to kids

Julie O'Mahony lives in Wicklow with her husband Colin and daughters Grace (9), Charlotte (7), Sophie (5) and Emily (4). The legal risk-consultant believes that children today have little respect for adults.

"Children are definitely much rowdier and ruder nowadays.

They never call me Mrs O'Mahony - it's either Julie or nothing, which for kids I know well is a bit rude.

I also think many have poor manners - sometimes I will drop them home and they hop out of the car saying nothing more than 'bye'. We would have said, 'goodbye and thank you for the lift Mrs Murphy'.

Last week my husband walked my daughter to a party and brought our dog with him - he couldn't find the lead and a young boy shouted to him that he should be on a lead - we never would have shouted out and criticised a stranger.

I think it's hard to say no to your kids - I'm sure it always was but when we were young all families were struggling and no-one had many treats, whereas nowadays kids have amazing birthday parties, play dates and trips.

It's the same with treats in the lunch box - my kids moan if they don't get a little something as all the others do. I aim to keep it reasonably healthy - but it's hard.

I also try to limit access to tablet devices for my kids (I was totally against them in fact but Santa had other ideas).My husband felt that we could use them to improve behaviour and they could only have them on weekends but if they were naughty, they wouldn't get them - however, it doesn't always work out that way.

When Colin was young, his dad was out working all day and the biggest threat to Colin and his brothers was that their mother would tell their father what they had been up to during the day. They hated the thought of disappointing their dad.

He always thought our kids would be the same - but they seem immune to the idea that we would be disappointed by their behaviour.

I'm conscious of following through on threats - just this week I refused to bring Grace to Dundrum because of her behaviour. Colin wavered and asked me to reconsider which made things worse as we have to present a united front.

Being a parent is hard work and we try our best. Ultimately, I think our girls are amazing and while they can be rude, naughty or spoilt sometimes, they are mostly good, well-behaved kids."

The word 'no' is not an evil term

Vera Wade  is married to Patrick and has two sons, Kurtis (24) and Scott (18). She runs her own party company in Dublin called www.girlsnightin.ie aimed at both women and young girls. She thinks family values need to be strengthened.

"I don't think the children of today are ruder than when I was growing up.

But what has changed is how they are disciplined.

Most children will test their parents, sometimes without the adult even realising it. It is how they react to this that is most important in my opinion. Respect is a must-have in parenting, not only for the parent themselves but also for the child.

Also I don't think this NO is an evil word - it's a necessity in bringing up children and preparing them for the real world. A lot of people may think that it's negative, but I truly believe otherwise. Children need to know how to deal with rejection and to be able to put it into the right context as they get older.

Again, if children are aware of their parents' strengths and values at a very young age there are fewer chances of mind-games as they get older. Saying that, there is always the time when you are at a low point in your life and it is easier to say yes rather than no to avoid having to explain why they can't have what they want. I think it's fair to say that during these times, if it doesn't come with any obvious repercussions down the road, there's no harm done.

Now that my children are grown up, do I feel I could have done things differently? I don't think any of us know if we get it right. We have all been first-time parents at some stage, been handed this bundle of joy with no manual, and sent on our journey of parenthood.

We are all individuals and can only go by what we believe in our hearts to be the right way of doing things. In doing so, we can only hope that our children grow into confident adults with the ability to stand on their own two feet."


Children need boundaries

Joanna Fortune is a psychotherapist specialising in parent and child relationships. Based at the Solamh clinic in Dublin 18 (www.solamh.com), she says while today's parents are busier than those in previous generations, teaching good manners is always a positive thing.

"Today's parents are busier than ever before and trying to juggle a lot at once. In that kind of chaos children's behaviour gets affected as they do not self-regulate their behaviour. Instead they co-regulate in response to adults around them (particularly if they are under 7).

When parents are stressed-out and in a state of chaos their children will co-regulate with them - this results in similar internal stress and chaos and because they cannot articulate how overwhelmed they are they will express it behaviourally.

Children absolutely need boundaries and clear limits and it is the role of parents to set these boundaries and limits. Of course children will defy these but it's vital that parents stay firm.

I frequently see parents who feel like they have lost control and often they have read so many conflicting books that they are not in tune with their own parental instincts. Parents are the experts in their own children and whatever strategies you use in parenting your child, you must feel comfortable and confident in them or they won't work.

When a parent-child relationship has become out-of-sync children tend to struggle to maintain their behaviour and it often causes anxiety resulting in fear of failure and/or self-sabotaging behaviours.

This can be healed with appropriate supports and I would encourage parents to reach out for help if they are worried in this way.

Do not underestimate the importance and value of teaching and reinforcing good manners and make sure you lead by example. This teaches children to grow up and behave in a kinder and more considerate way both of others and their environment.

It starts at home with you setting the example and leading with your own behaviour. For example parents should always say 'please' and 'thank you' to their children.

It is never too late to change but do not expect them to immediately embrace your new found boundaries and creative discipline strategies, you can anticipate some resistance, at least initially and it is very important you stay calm and consistent as children learn through repetition."

Everyone is less mannerly now

Wexford-based Child psychologist Peadar Maxwell (right) also says parents are the most important teachers in their children's lives and it is vital to pass on the need for respect and manners.

"Today's children are rowdier than the previous generation if that means just making more noise and appearing to have more gusto for life, seeming more confident and being more likely to speak their mind.

But I also believe that there has been a lamentable, general lapse in manners in society and this is by no means exclusive to children.

When we encounter good manners it is so incredibly refreshing. Having good manners sets the child up be being better liked and respected and appearing smarter than his peers: that's probably a product of them developing stronger emotional intelligence skills by trying to see things from another person's point of view.

Parents are the key teachers of their children and can embrace a philosophy of brain-based, no-drama discipline where the focus is on connecting with our children and disciplining them in a respectful, non-violent way where the focus is on teaching valuable skills like how to say please and thank you, using cutlery, staying close to parents to give other families their privacy in public places and the difference between indoor and outdoor voices.

The best time to discipline your child is when things are going well: that's when you show them with your own behaviour how to behave in public and in relationships.

And it's never too late to teach manners. But if the behaviour is ingrained over time it will take more attempts to unlearn the old behaviours and replace with new skills."