Children, Walruses…and Training Good Behavior

walrus-74080_1280When we last visited Sea World, I couldn’t help noticing the children in the crowd—and the training their parents were unknowingly giving them—in contrast to the sea animals and the purposeful training they were carefully receiving.

When the walrus even began to turn his head in the right direction, the trainer responded with a big handful of fish, stroking his skin, and praising him. It was obvious that if the trainer ignored good behavior, or approached wrong behavior with a slap or criticism, the walrus would quickly “un-train”. It took constant positive reinforcement to keep the animals willing to do the trainer’s bidding.

Children are not walruses, of course, but as I observed the crowd, I saw parents interacting with their children and it was very instructive. I saw children behaving wonderfully well, but they were given no positive reinforcement or attention at all. Misbehaving children were given plenty of negative attention, scolding and occasionally a spank. Some misbehaving kids were actually bought off with treats or souvenirs to shut them up and keep them happy. It is amazing with this kind of parenting that we don’t “un-train” our children and numb them from ever trying to please us, or respect any kind of authority!

Soothing words, kind treatment, genuine quiet praise, focused attention, sincere appreciation for cooperative behavior, rewards skillfully given to those who are really trying to control themselves and behave—this is what truly works in the long run.

Both with walruses and kids!

May I recommend:

Remember Your Manners

Remember Your Manners

Social skills are so important!  Take time in your home school to make sure your children are taught how to get along socially by behaving mannerly. This helpful resource contains 15 reproducible stories and 35 teaching posters, activities, role-play ideas, and guided questions. The stories and activities reinforce those important magic words, making friends, mealtime manners, phone etiquette, good sportsmanship, good citizenship, kindness, honesty, responsibility, showing respect, self-control, and more! 160 pages. Reproducible. Great for special needs kids or children age 3 and up.

Uncommon CourtesyUncommon Courtesy

Courtesy really has become uncommon! Maybe it is different where you live, but out West it seems that rudeness is the rule. Here’s some courteous know-hows on living with your fellowmen respectfully and happily. When we were young, if our parents didn’t teach us to be mannerly, it still rubbed off from society, since others expected you to behave properly. Not always so today—it is time for this book! Uncommon Courtesy for Kids teaches table manners, phone manners, rules for church, courtesy words such as “pardon me,” “please,” and “thank you,” how to treat adults, how to act on public transportation, manners in the car, and more. Each topic is treated by listing several rules in large type so that it can be used as a visual aid or poster. The rules are also illustrated in full-page black-and-white cartoon drawings. We must choose to be courteous and develop the discipline of courtesy each day. We do not stumble into being a gentlemen or a lady. A good one!

Blunders Board Game

Blunders Board Game

Blunders! We all make them! Teach your children the social skills that will help them for a lifetime with this clever new game that makes learning manners and good social skills fun! Through funny and blundering adventures, you’ll learn table manners, dining etiquette, confident introductions, host and guest skills, telephone manners, how to show respect and kindness, how to avoid gossiping, bullying, and teasing. 2009 Game of the Year Award. For ages 5 to 10 years, 2-8 players.

Chivalry, It’s Up to Us!

emilymay2007My daughter Emily (17) came home from high school thoroughly disgusted. Emily is a very upbeat, happy spirit and she loves everybody and everything, so it shocked me to see her upset. She only attends 2 classes at our local charter school, and is very studious and diligent in her homeschool assignments. She tells me regularly that she loves homeschooling best, which brings me great delight!

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Company’s Coming!

Summer and company go together like bread and butter. Consider what a visit from this special guest would be like! It makes me want to re-evaluate everything I say and do in light of His company, and be far better than I am.


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Company Manners

Emily turns 15 with her towering ice cream cake!

Emily turns 15 with her towering ice cream cake!

Company’s coming . . . and it can be a bit nerve-wracking wondering just what your kids are going to say or do! Get them ready to host guests—or to be good, mannerly guests themselves—wherever you go!

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Polite Answers


More and more we are seeing children who just don’t reply when they are spoken to. (In fact, I have a daughter who occasionally falls into this category!) Shyness may be an excuse, but really it is not okay to be still when you are spoken to! Even for the young. What’s a mother to do?

First course of action is to do some training. This can be plenty of fun. Bring a few hats for props and some name tags to dress up your kids. “Mrs. Jones” can wear the flowered hat and “Mr. Jones” can wear a baseball cap, for example. Now, take turns having “Mr. Jones” introduce his “wife” to one of your family. Role play it first, so they know just what is expected. Then switch around and let everyone have a turn.

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You Go First



When I was a little girl, I used to dream about living in the south during the Gone with the Wind era, when belles wore full, swishy dresses and used southern hospitality. It seemed ladies were sweet and genteel, and courtesy was the order of the day. Now that I’ve grown up (and studied the Civil War and got accustomed to air conditioning), I don’t think of living then so longingly, but I do still wish that ultra-courtesy was our culture’s style of interaction.

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Sweet Civility

The world is getting rude.

Sometimes my ears yearn for those soft and fluid words that show our humanity: our belief in Christ and the worth of a soul. The virtues of unselfishness and patience. Ah, words of kindness . . .

Print them out and post them on your bathroom mirror. Practice saying them while you are in the shower, until they sound convincingly polite and loving. Use them all day long, as much as you can. Embrace them and make them part of your vocabulary. Expect your children to do the same. Teach your littlest toddler to say, “You go first” instead of “me first”.

[Read more…]

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