Thursday, March 1, 2012

Excuuuuse Me!

As I have mentioned previously, I have worked very hard to teach my son manners and using polite words like “please” and “thank you.” I have taught him to say “please” when he asks for something and “thank you” when he receives it. I knew he’d taken those lessons to heart during his last doctor visit when the nurse struggled to draw his blood and when the ordeal was finally over and she gave him a bandaid, he tearfully told her, “Thank you.” I went on to teach him to say, "Excuse me" when he burps and "Bless you" when someone sneezes, and to say, "I'm sorry" when he bumps into someone or hurts anyone by accident, and when he's been disobedient.

The next round of manners lessons has been through formal family dinners in the dining room once a week. Although we try to eat together as a family as often as possible, more often than not we sit together on the playroom floor. And because of my husband’s varying work schedule, he sometimes gets home late so I feed my son an earlier dinner either alone or with me. But as good as my son is when we go out to restaurants, I wanted more opportunities to teach him proper table manners in a quieter, less distracting atmosphere. So every Thursday, we have a dinner lesson.

My son helps me set the dining room table with the fork on the left on top of the folded napkin and the cup behind the plate on the right (he gets a “big boy” cup instead of his usual spillproof sippy cup), and then Daddy lights the candles, lowers the lights, and turns on some soft music. We all begin by carefully placing our napkins in our laps, then we solemnly (and gently!) clink our glasses. We practice good table manners like chewing with our mouths closed, not talking with food in our mouths, eating small bites, not slurping our drinks, putting our forks on our plates between bites, and placing our cups on the far side of our plates.

Pleasant conversation is encouraged. My husband often asks my son about his day, or he’ll ask him to tell us a story. My son’s story usually involves a truck, or occasionally Goldilocks or the Big Bad Wolf (and a truck). When he finishes, he’ll often ask one or both of us to tell him a story. And of course, my husband and I use dinner time to tell each other about our days, as well. And of course, every time one of us is talking, my son wants to interrupt.

After the first few times he loudly interrupted our conversation, we had a discussion about how to politely get the attention of someone who’s talking. I told him to say, “Excuse me,” and then he would get his turn to talk in a moment. He understood the “excuse me” part right away, but the part about waiting for his turn was a bit more troublesome. What he usually says is, “Excuse me. [brief pause] Excuse me. Excuse me excuse me excusemeexcusemeexuseme EXCUSEMEEXCUSEMEEXUCUUUUUSEMEEEEEEEE!!!!” So last night I continued the lesson by explaining that after he says, “Excuse me,” he needs to wait patiently until Daddy or Mummy says, “Okay.” The next time he interrupted, he said “Excuse me!” and then looked expectantly at us with a playful smirk as if to say, “See how polite I am?” I was excited at how quickly he had caught on – until I took a split second too long to give him a turn to talk and he broke into his multiple “excuse me” patter again.

Oh well, it’s a start. And if he doesn’t quite have perfect manners yet, it’s my fault. So excuuuuuuuse me!

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