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The Values-Manners Link

Guest Post by Lara Lockwood, Founder of Savvy Sosh, LLC

Lara Lockwood headshotI’m a mom of three boys—a tween, a teen, and a college grad—and the struggle to get them prepared to enter the world chewing with their mouths closed, automatically saying please and thank you, sitting with their butts in a chair (and sometimes even remembering just to close the front door) is real!

I’ll never forget the Thanksgiving Dinner we had at my fancy friend Jen’s house. There were no other young kids there so mine were seated at the adult table. My then-7-year-old spilled his wine glass with sparkling cranberry juice all over the powder blue floral upholstered dining chair. For his finale, he was somehow sitting upside down on her couch and kicked a painting off the wall. Like an actual painting by an actual artist that cost actual money.

It wasn’t our finest moment, but I know I stretched my kids too far and too long that night. I also know that I am not the only parent who has watched their kid’s behavior wide eyed and dumbfounded, wishing I’d spent a bit more time on some manners training at home. Maybe our living room didn’t need a football, soccer ball and basketball ready for an indoor match at all times!

With that experience and others behind me, I realized I wanted to find a way to bring back some classic social graces and combine that with the richness of in person social interactions. I also wanted to do this with a contemporary NW style. And so Savvy Sosh was born – a business dedicated to helping youth meaningfully engage with one another. In my classes, we focus on three things: social dances, manners and etiquette and group discussions all with a value-based lens.

I love talking to this age group and knew I wanted to get them communicating with each other about important topics.

kids dancing together

We go deep–we discuss how can they personally enrich their communities, how can they contribute to an environment of warmth and inclusion, and what defines their character and why it matters.

Teens talking deeply, you ask? Yes! I had no idea how well these conversations might go. Because I link it all back to values rather than rules, the kids engage, they learn, and they love it!

Here are some of my top tips:

  1. As a family, start by discussing the values that matter to you. Then, talk about actions that demonstrate those values. Real life examples, both positive and negative, help kids to understand why it matters to be inclusive, kind, responsible, honest… whichever values you decide matter most to your family. Do some family ‘research’ and set out to implement these values throughout the day and then discuss the impact your actions have. How do you feel? How did you make someone else feel? How can we do better next time? We don’t need to overload our kids with more rules, but we do need to help them understand the demonstrable link between their character and their actions.
  2. Focus on the value of respect: When we dive into this, it helps kids understand the why behind things like proper introductions—standing up, making eye contact, offering a firm handshake (or fist bump, elbow knock, or foot tap), repeating the person’s name, and sincerely trying to connect with them.

    Real World Example: One of my boys went to a new friend’s house when he was a tween. When his friend’s father walked in the door, my son put his video game controller down and immediately stood up and introduced himself. When I arrived to pick him up, the entire family greeted me at the door and couldn’t say enough nice things about my son. He had been respectful. They noticed.

  3. Focus on integrity: This value is particularly important in helping kids and teens understand the power of their words, both spoken and written, and helps them make sure that the words they share and use—in texts, on social media, in emails, etc.—align with their values. By connecting to their values and belief about who they are, it makes it easier to curtail the writing or saying of unkind things.

    Real World Thoughts: Every adult I know is relieved to not have every thought we had as a teen forever saved in a text or a post. If being kind and true to one’s integrity is important to someone, they are not writing nastygrams, making fun of others, criticizing teammates, fighting via text, sharing private messages, or just being mean.

  4. Focus on gratitude: This value makes it easier to talk with our children about how to be good guests at someone else’s home (or workplace as adults). Combining gratitude with a good attitude, our children can show an appreciation for the thought, time, and effort given into hosting.

    Real world Example: My 13-year-old son’s friend Austin was at our house last summer playing outside with a group of teens. Before he left, he made sure he came inside the house to thank me for having him over and to let me know what a great time he had. Then he headed right back out the back door and on the trail home. He was delightful and of course forever welcome in my home.

  5. Focus on caring: When teaching our children how to host people at their home with warmth, the value of caring is important. Again, this helps our children understand the why behind their behavior: a host who greets their guests with warmth, makes them feel at home, and seems delighted that they are there is both remembered and appreciated.

    Real World Example: My friend Miranda is such a gracious host that she always has a house full of house guests, kids and even her mid twenty-year-old daughter and her friends who live in another town are a regular presence. Whenever I am there, I feel so comfortable I swear I could kick off my shoes, lay on the couch, wrap up in a cozy blanket and have a nap. She’s also an amazing chef so there is a legitimate risk of me never leaving.

In summary, bringing the behavior we want our children to display back to the values that you share as a family and are important to your children as individuals will help them make decisions that honor both them and those they interact with.

And when we feel honored by the person in front of us—and we honor them back—we begin to build healthy, fulfilling relationships. And that, after all, is the point.

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Christy Keating fun headshot

Christy Keating is a certified parent coach,  positive discipline educator, and motivational speaker. She is the founder and CEO of The Heartful Parent Collective, which includes Heartful Parent Coaching, Savvy Parents Safe Kids, and Heartful Parent Academy.

The mother of two amazing daughters, Christy strives to build a happier, healthier world - one child, one parent, and one family at a time.