Modeling + Expectations




There’s been a story floating around for the past couple weeks that’s– once again– got people cheering or ranting from either side of the fence.


This time it involves a woman who posted on social media about how, disappointed in her children’s lack of manners, she promptly threw their ice cream in the trash to teach a lesson.


I’m gonna be honest with you– I read the story the first time through and my only thought was, “Okay, lady, if that works for you– go for it.”


This is largely because I lean toward the NMKNMP (not my kid, not my problem) philosophy on such matters.


I wasn’t ready to give her a parenting medal, nor did I think she was somehow scarring her poor, innocent children. I also wasn’t in the camp of those horrified by the wasted ice cream. I was just– I don’t know… fine with it, I guess.


Turns out people had lots to say on this matter.


There were those lauding her for making a statement, seizing a “teachable moment”, and proving to her children that she means business when it comes to showing manners and gratitude.


There were those who felt there were much better ways– to lead by example, correct in private, and avoid public shaming (both at the ice cream shop AND on social media.)


Here’s what I’m gonna say–


While my kids are far from perfect little angels, I am totally confident in saying they are incredibly polite. In fact, after our recent vacation, I actually remarked to my husband about how pleasant it is to go places with them. They are kind and grateful and their pleases and thank yous are 100% automatic at this point.


But how did they get that way?


Luck? Example? Expectations?


I’ve spent awhile thinking about this and here’s where I’ve landed:


It’s a combination of leading by example AND setting expectations.


Modeling + Expectations


It’s not one or the other. It has to be both.


I could tell my children to “mind their manners” ’til I’m blue in the face, but if they don’t see my husband and me modeling that behavior, it’s unlikely to strike them as all that important. They might learn to do it most of the time, in front of us, but it’s unlikely to become something they view as natural and integral.


At the same time, my kids need to know, clearly, what my expectations for them are. The reality is that there are times I won’t be there and I still expect them to do the right thing. Furthermore, expectations for children and adults are NOT always the same. (In the case of basic manners, they should be, but in other areas of life, there are distinctions.) I need to know that my kids know exactly how we expect them to treat others and to respond during interactions. This, too, is critical. I don’t need them to simply mimic me– I want them to understand both the WHAT and the WHY of expected behavior.


So, at the end of the day, would I toss my kids’ ice cream? Probably not. But, to be totally honest, I have an incredibly hard time imagining my kids’ treating a service worker poorly. And that’s not because I’d throw away their treats. And it’s not because I’d guide them through a quiet, calm, edifying private lesson later on.


No, it’s because for 11, 10, and 6 years, respectively, we’ve put in the groundwork of both modeling and setting expectations.


And, if you’re willing to do that?


It’s unlikely you’ll ever be faced with the decision of whether or not to toss your kids’ dessert.




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