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Civility, or lack of it, is getting a lot of attention lately.
Civility is defined in my dictionary as “courteous behavior, politeness.” The word comes from the Latin, civilis which comes from civis meaning citizen.
You can’t have civilization without civil citizens, right? But look around you. Politicians are anything but civil. The language on most cable TV programs, many PG movies, periodicals, and in homes today is anything but polite. It is downright crude, dirty, and uncivil.
How do parents teach their children civility? How do we teach out kids civil language when the world is full CIVILITY STARTS AT HOMEof “potty-mouth” talk?
Civility starts with respect. We respect the feelings and rights of others. Why? Because in a democracy all citizens matter. Respect is not just a theoretical construct or a nicety. It is the foundation of democracy.
I write often about the three new “R’s” which are RESPECT, RESPONSIBILITY and REASONING. These are fully as important as the three old “R’s” readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic.
Children must be treated with RESPECT before they can be taught to treat others respectfully. Even though you are in charge and must tell your kids what to do and what not to do a zillion times a day, you can and should do it with respect.
Be courteous to your children and respect their feelings (even though you cannot permit them to act on some of these feelings). Teach your children the skills of respect like empathy (how would you feel?), fairness, tolerance, and how to embrace diversity. And don’t forget to teach your children respect for things (we don’t write on library books) and respect for the environment–it’s the only one we have.
RESPONSIBILITY. Nobody is entitled, everybody has to work for what he or she wants. Nobody can put the blame on others, we must all learn to take responsibility for our actions. Chores teach responsibility. Start chores early, increase the chore load frequently, add responsibility for doing the chores so you don’t have to prompt or cajole. Also be sure your children are responsible for their homework and, at an appropriate age, for keeping appointments, writing thank you’s, etc.,
We parents must teach our children how to REASON. This includes critical thinking and thoughtful decision-making. We start when the children are very young with choices of those things children can choose like which shirt to wear. As the children get older, we talk about cause and effect, what makes a good choice, consequences, What If’s? (What would happen if nobody used the trash cans?), and What Can You Think Of’s? (What can you think of to help the homeless?)
Respect for others includes speaking with civility. When children are old enough to understand, explain how people are hurt by name-calling. Evoke the children’s empathy by asking how they would feel if that word were used to describe them.
Swearing, even when it is not directed to a person but used because the speaker is angry, crude, or showing off, shows disrespect for everyone within earshot. To prevent your kids from becoming swearers go to ParenTips, Common Concerns to find last month’s piece on SWEARING.
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