Social Skill: MANNERS

Manners. Gotta love 'em … but are they trickier than we think?

As Jane interacted with her aunt, Sara, a well-meaning friend, hovered near by:“I want an apple,” said Jane, bounding happily towards her aunt.  


Sara piped in, “Don’t forget the magic word!”  In sullen compliance, Jane added, “Please.”  


Jane’s aunt was actually interested in what Jane wanted and why. Without the 'magic word' advice, the conversation would have continued in this way:“Oh, you want an apple?  Are you hungry?  Is it time for lunch? Or do you just want a snack?”


But the interaction between Jane and her aunt was short-circuited because of her friend’s well-meaning intention to teach manners. Most definitely, it’s great when kids say, “Please” and “Thank you” in appropriate situations.  It’s even better when people can have authentic, respectful conversations in which children learn manners as an outgrowth of genuinely considerate and mutually respectful interactions. 


In this situation, the conversation with an adult who had a real desire to deeply listen to a child was subverted.


So let’s roll this back. What exactly is the purpose of manners?  Manners, according to Google dictionary, are “polite and well-bred social behavior.”  By prompting the child, Sara actually interrupted the spontaneous interaction and actually embarrassed the child.  Is that mannerly behavior?  To interrupt and cause someone to be embarrassed?


Manners are much more effectively taught within a meaningful, mutually respectful context.  For example, Sara might have held back, and then later said, “Please Auntie, may I have an apple, too?”  Thus, modeling the use of the desired social pattern without interruption or shaming. 


One of the numerous, multi-dimensional benefits of Kids’ Own Wisdom peer group discussions is the opportunity for students to collaboratively reason their way towards understanding the manners that make life flow a little more smoothly for everyone. (Which do you think will be remembered and used more: (a) being told to do something, or (b) or exercising innate reasoning powers to discover the impact of various words and actions?) 


Through training in the design and implementation of SOARR-ing questions, educators learn subtle yet powerful strategies to expose children to socially acceptable behavior in alignment with the brain science of learning.  WIN-WIN!!

~ WZ + NW

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