One important lesson that we teach our children daily is manners. It's easy enough to teach them the words please, thank you, and you're welcome. But the lesson in interacting with strangers and using our manners can be tough. Many times you just want to do it for them instead of forcing the kids to use their manners. But what does that teach them aside from the fact that manners are optional? In our household it's not. And sometimes, when I would rather be rushing home to relax after a long day of errands, I find myself dealing with a sobbing kid who wants his star stickers but didn't want to say thank you. Like last Thursday, for example.
After 2 hours of being out and about, Soren and I were tired. We had dropped J off at the airport for a business trip. That was hard to do because Soren always gets weepy when Dad goes away. Next, we headed to the craft store and nabbed a bunch of cool Angry Bird crafts to keep Soren entertained. A quick run to my makeup store and then we headed to the library to borrow more books.
At the library, Soren has signed up for the summer program. Each time he brings books back, he gets a star sticker to put on a paper hanging up on our fridge. Each time he borrows more books he gets another sticker. And each time he visits the library desk he gets another one. This day we did all three and he was set to get three stickers, which he was very excited about.
However, everything fell apart when I told him to say thank you to the librarian when she handed him the stars. Instead of saying it, his whole body went rigid, he looked down at the ground, and smushed his little lips together. Soren refused.
I looked down at him and quietly reminded him that we use our manners. The librarian was so nice to pick out three cool stickers for him and it was his job to be polite and say thank you. His little body scrunched in on itself and he remained silent.
I got down on my knees and told him, very quietly, that if he could not use his manners and say thank you, he could not keep the stickers. He looked away.
So I took the stickers, gave them back with an apologetic smile and said that it looked like we wouldn't be needing them today. The librarian looked at me dumbfounded, then slightly nodded. I said thank you, and picking up Soren, I walked to the door.
Once outside, he started to tremble in my arms, so I found a bench in the shade and sat down, where Soren began to sob. I held him in my arms and rocked him while he wailed for awhile. After about five minutes he started calming down enough that I could talk to him.
Soren: I SO SAD!!!
Me: I know you are. Do you know why you're so sad?
Soren: BECAUSE I WANT MY STICKERS!!!
Me: I bet you do. You were so excited for them. Do you understand why you didn't get them?
Soren: CAUSE I DIDN'T SAY THANKS YOU.
Me: Yup. Manners are very important. When someone does something nice for you it's important to say thank you. But even when I gave you a few chances you wouldn't use your manners.
Soren: I SORRY! I WANT TO SAY THANKS YOU.
Me: You do? I think that would be very nice.
Soren: YEAH. I GO SAY THANKS YOU NOW?
Me: I think that would mean a lot to the librarian if you did. You know, you have always had the power to have those stickers. If you say thank you, you can have them. But if you don't say thank you, they stay here. It's all up to you.
Soren: OK. I READY TO USE MY MANNERS.
So we wiped his tears away, and he bravely walked back into the library. I found the librarian and told her that Soren wanted to tell her something. Surprised, she walked over and got down on her knees. Soren looked up at her and said "THANKS YOU!" and smiled. She smiled back, big and bright, and rushed over to the sticker jar, where she grabbed three very shiny special stickers just for Soren.
He placed those stickers on his paper at home with great care. And I hope this will stay in his memory the next time I ask him to use his manners. While it was tough, the boy did good, and I'm very proud of his decision.