Teaching Our Children to Clean

What does cleaning have to do with manners?  Well, it actually has a lot to do with manners. Gentlemen and ladies strive to show respect for all things.

Remember, the definition of manners or etiquette is helping those around you to feel valued and comfortable.  

So, when we keep our homes, our rooms, our cars clean, we show honor to those who live and visit these places and we create a place of comfort.  Have you ever been to someone’s home and you are afraid to put your purse on their floor or you’re afraid to place your coat anywhere?   Yes, I have. This makes for a very uncomfortable situation.

Today, I think many parents are missing the opportunity to have their children play a larger role in keeping their homes clean and tidy.  More importantly than this is the opportunities lost for children to experience pride and even joy in being able to care for things.

There is no reason that children cannot be taught to clean just as well as we clean.  

They just need to be taught and held accountable.  I always kind of grinned on the inside when my son would call for me to come and see what he had done when he finished cleaning his room, or the bathroom or when he had finished doing a special job.  He wanted me to inspect but more than anything, he was proud of what he had done and he wanted me to see it.

Parents, one of the ways to teach children how to show honor and respect for all the things that they have is to allow them to help take care of them.  

It is such a privilege to have a home, toys, a bed, etc.  Our children need to understand that these things took hard work by someone to acquire and to show our gratitude for the things we have been given, we properly take care of them.

We are missing out on great opportunities for our children when we fail to teach them how to properly clean and manage a home.  

Remember, we are supposed to be teaching our children how to be independent of us so that soon, they will be able to live without us and properly care for their own homes.  This doesn’t just happen but takes years of practice and years of being given more and more responsibility so that they can excel at these responsibilities.  Not too long ago I was speaking to my son on the phone as he was at college and asked him what he was doing.  He said, “I’m taking apart the stove to clean it.”  I thought, “Yay…he really was listening!”

Parents, teach them!  They can do it and believe it or not, it will add to their joy.

Why is it polite to clean up our own messes and how do we show respect to our parents by keeping our rooms clean and our possessions protected? Our "Cleaning Up" box from our Fundamentals4kids program covers this with books, games, crafts and so much more. Check out this wonderful tool today HERE.

Have a great day,

Monica Irvine

Accepting & Receiving Gifts Graciously

Hello Friends.  Happy Holidays to you all.  I hope this month is filled with precious memories of times past, hope for a better tomorrow and enjoyment in the moment.

Of course the holidays can be such a sad time for many as they are without precious loved ones which creates an increased measure of sadness during this time of year.

Ladies, gentlemen, may we each take many moments to quietly ponder who needs extra love this month?  

May we sit down with our families and pray and discuss what we can do to brighten someone’s door or day?

No, we cannot wipe away other’s pain, but we can do so much to let others know that we love them, we care for them and we have not forgotten them or their loved ones.

I would like to challenge everyone to use this time of year as we celebrate what is precious to us, to bring light to others.

I get many questions concerning gifts around this time of year…what is too expensive, when to buy and when not to buy, what if someone buys for me but I didn’t buy for them, etc.  May I suggest a few considerations to keep us focused on what’s important and enjoy the gift of giving and receiving.

Deciding to buy something for someone should simply come from the desire to give for the sake of giving.  

For instance, you walk through a store and you see something that just reminds you of someone and you think they would love it, that’s a great time to give.  We should never feel obligated to give to anyone.  I would never want anyone to buy something for me because they felt they should, would you?  Of course not.  We should each be so touched when someone has taken the time and thought to give us a gift, but we should never ever expect one.

If someone gives us a gift, but we have not reciprocated, instead of feeling guilty, just be grateful and show your gratitude in words and deed. I don’t give gifts to only those who I believe have gotten me a gift.  Surely none of us do.  The gift of giving comes from the heart and desire to give and should be received with pure joy.  

Remember, the greater joy comes in the act of giving, not receiving.  There is no need for apologies when we have not reciprocated, rather, just be grateful.

We should consider the amount we spend when choosing a gift.  It does create discomfort when someone spends a large amount on someone that they do not have an intimate relationship with. Make sure our gifts are more about the thought than the money.

Finally, if someone has asked us to please not buy for them or their children, please honor that request.  We can show love in many ways outside of gift giving like giving service, cooking dinner for others, spending time with others and simply meeting their needs.  Purchased gifts are only one small way to give to others.

Enjoy your holidays and make every day count.  Love each other.  Be kind.  Thus lies to key to happiness.

Happy Holidays!

Monica Irvine

Family Meetings…They Make All the Difference

Parents, I introduce you to the value in family meetings in raising ladies and gentlemen.  

Having a family meeting once per week can literally cut down on so much wasted time, help the family to be more united, give the family specific goals and create much needed family fun time. Let me explain.  

A family meeting should have an agenda and 
should be led by mom or dad to help everyone stay on track.  

A family meeting is not a time for mom and dad to bark out orders, complain about everyone’s previous week’s mishaps, or become a laundry list of “to-do’s.”  Instead, it should be a time where each family member feels like their voice is heard, their opinions matter and they are an essential part of the family unit.  

Here are some possible ideas for your family meeting agenda:

Go over the schedule for the upcoming week including doctor appointments, ball games, special occasions, birthdays, and any events that the whole family needs to be aware of.  
This helps ensure everyone is on the same page, that rides are coordinated and special occasions do not get forgotten.

Family Fun Times Ideas
Every family should have “fun time” put on their schedule every single week.  
Just like us adults usually have things each week that we are looking forward to, our children need this too.
Family fun does not have to cost money.  It can be a movie at home, playground time, library time, hide-n-go-seek in the dark time…it just needs to be on the schedule, so that everyone can look forward to it and mom and dad don’t forget about it.

Family meetings really help accomplish projects because it helps everyone prepare physically and emotionally for them.  
If everyone knows that they are going to clean out the garage on Saturday, mom and dad can make sure they have all the needed supplies and the kids can “gear up” emotionally for the fun.

One-on-One Time 
Children feel so important when they see their names on the calendar for special time with mom and dad.
Parents, we are trying to raise engaging, responsible, productive and capable children.  Help them to learn these skills by involving them in running the family.  

A family meeting is a great way to teach our children organizational skills that will benefit them for years to come both personally and professionally.

Have a great week.

Monica Irvine

Best Parenting Advice - Respect

Best Parenting Advice - Respect
I think showing our children respect is the best parenting advice I could give.

One of the biggest mistakes parents make regarding their children is the manner in which they speak to them. I hear much too often parents speaking to their children with a demeaning tone, yelling, extreme sarcasm, and in other disrespectful ways.  Parents, this is wrong.

Not only is it wrong, but if we continue to do such, we will slowly but surely loose our children’s respect and then “AMEN” to our ability to parent successfully.

Here's a few tips to help you follow this "best" parenting advice of respect:

Watch your tone 

For some reason, many adults think that they have a license to speak to children in a derogatory tone, simply because they are children.  Here’s what I know.  I know that the people that we should show the greatest care with, that we should speak the most respectful to, that we should be the most gentle with, are within the walls of our homes.

We cannot get from our children what we are not willing to give to them.

Honor - a Two Way Street

If we want out children to honor us, then we must honor them.  Of course there are times that we must correct our children, but it is during these times that we should be the most careful with our speech.

Correcting is supposed to be an act of love, not an act of anger.

When we correct our children, they should be able to feel and see that we are acting out of love and concern for them, even if they disagree with our decision.

The Big Picture - Childhood to Adult Relationship

Parents, please be careful.  We are not guaranteed a positive relationship with our children when they become adults.  So many adults that I meet today, have difficult relationships with their parents as adults and it most often stems from their childhood and how their parents treated them.

  We do not have a license to demean, embarrass, humiliate or scream at our children. 

These actions slowly but surely take a piece of our children's "heart" away and slowly but surely deteriorate the amount of respect they have for us.

Please reevaluate the manner in which you speak to your children and head to this parenting advice. Ladies and gentlemen strive to treat everyone with the utmost respect and honor, regardless of their age, size or mental ability.

Have an amazing week!

Monica Irvine

Teaching Our Children How to Solve Disagreements

As I travel around the United States speaking to parents, there is always one topic that comes up over and over again that so many parents worry over and struggle to find solutions for.  That topic is sibling relationships.  I’m constantly being asked questions like, “How do I stop the fighting?” “What is considered a normal amount of arguing?”  “How can I help my children get along?”  First, please let me remind you, I’m not a licensed therapist, but I can offer you some guiding principles that I know are true and that I know work based on my own personal experience working with my children and hundreds of other children.  Please consider the following ideas.

It is normal that siblings will disagree, but it is not acceptable that siblings should disrespect, verbally abuse, physically abuse, or do any other behavior that degrades, hurts, or humiliates their siblings.  Of course we all disagree at times, but we must learn and teach our children how to handle disagreements with love and respect and yes, this is possible.  First, we have to raise our expectations in our homes of appropriate behavior.  Second, mom and dad or the adults in the home, have to be the living example of appropriate behavior.  Here are four steps to teach your children how to handle disagreements.  These steps should be discussed every single time there is a disagreement in your home, until going through these steps become “second nature.”  

Step 1:  Recognize there is a disagreement.  Meaning, as soon as we realize that we are having a disagreement with someone, we verbally state it.  At first, this might seem silly or redundant, but it is an important step because when we verbalize this, we’re actually helping to validate one another’s opinion which is often not done in an open disagreement.  It would sound like this.  “So I see that we do not share the same opinion on this.  It looks like you want to watch this, but I would prefer to watch that.” 

Step 2:  Both parties are invited to politely explain their position. This can only take place with soft voices.  This might sound like this: 
Child 1 “I want to watch this, because we haven’t seen it in a long time and the movie you want to watch scares me.  
Child 2 “I really don’t like your movie because I think it’s boring.”

Step 3:  Both parties suggest a solution and then INVITE the other person to agree.  An invitation is very different than a command.  It might sound like this:
Child 1 “Would you be willing to let me watch my movie while you go play with your legos and then you can watch your movie while I go do my homework?”
Child 2  “Would you be willing to let me watch my movie first, since I have scouts tonight and then you can watch your movie while I’m at scouts?”

Step 4:  If we don’t reach an agreement, we both agree that we must move on to another activity with neither person enjoying the first request.  This means that no one gets what they want when no one can make a compromise.

Parents, I would suggest that you make a poster with these steps listed and hang in your home.  On the poster write:  The Four Steps to Solving a Disagreement
Step 1  Recognize
Step 2  Explain
Step 3  Suggest and Invite
Step 4  Move On

Spend some time teaching and role playing these steps with your children until they seem to understand them.  Each time a disagreement arises, walk them to the poster and help them to go through the steps.  Soon, they should do this without your help.  If at any time, voices are raised, ugly words are said, physical contact is made, then the violator must go be alone until they are ready and willing to politely walk through these steps with love and respect.  Parents, never accept your children being ugly towards each other.  Never accept yelling, calling names, mean words, etc.  There are so many adults walking around today with broken relationships with their siblings and it often goes all the way back to the way they treated each other as children. 

Have a great month.
Monica Irvine

The Problem with Expecting Instant Communication

Hello friends.  Let’s talk about communication. 

Today things have really changed and I know you know this.  As you know, we all assume that everyone has a cellphone (mostly) and we also assume that everyone keeps their cellphone with them at all times.  With these assumptions comes expectations of instant or very quick responses.  

I’ve had several friends and colleagues lately discuss the pressure and even the annoyance of these expectations.
Most of us have experienced leaving someone a voice mail or text and expecting or wanting that person to respond within the hour or for sure the same day.

When and if that response doesn’t come, we start thinking things like, “something is wrong,” or “they’re ignoring me,” or “they must be mad at me,” or etc.  These feelings happen because of our expectations of immediate or quick response times.

Likewise, if we are the receivers of a text or voicemail, as soon as we receive it the pressure to respond starts mounting.  Perhaps we’re not ready to respond, or perhaps we need more information, or perhaps we’re just not in the mood  However, the longer we go, the more anxiety most of us feel regarding our response.

Wow, it really has changed.  

What can we do to just help with all of the expectations?
  We can make our expectations perhaps more clear.  

Let me give you a few examples.

Leaving a voicemail:
  • Hey Sara, it’s Monica.  Just wanted to say, “Hi.”  No need to call back but would love to talk when you have some time.
  • Hey Sara, it’s Monica.  Could you give me a call by tomorrow?  I need to ask you a question before I buy those tickets tomorrow.
Texting responses:
  • Got your text.  Will respond when I have more time to think about it.
  • Thanks for your text.  I appreciate hearing from you.  Give me a few days to think about it.
It’s rude to not return calls and texts but it’s also rude to expect other people to stop what they’re doing and respond instantly to our correspondence.  

I think we all would benefit from being more patient with each other and realize that we each have very busy lives and sometimes, we simply cannot respond.

Perhaps if we lowered out expectations with regards to instantaneous responses, we would avoid hurt feelings and wrong assumptions.  Ladies and Gentlemen are patient, kind and avoid making assumptions about other’s behavior.  Let’s do our best to respond to correspondence in a timely manner, even if that response is just a request for more time.

Have a fabulous month.

Monica Irvine

Conversation Blunders

Have you ever been asked a question that made your stomach “sink” or made your face turn red (with anger or embarrassment)?  

Let’s make sure that we are careful and thoughtful before we blurt out a comment or question so we are not guilty of conversation blunders.

Here are a few questions/comments that Etiquette Factory readers have experienced and listed as “Etiquette Blunders”:
  • You look tired.
  • Oh wow, your baby is small/big for their age.
  • How do you live in this city (town)?
  • How much did you pay for that?
  • Is this your mother? (never assume relationships, NEVER!)
  • Why aren’t you married yet?
  • How can you send your children to that school?
  • How old are you?
  • Are those all your kids?  Don’t you know how that happens?
  • Are you all going to have children?
  • “Don’t take this the wrong way, but....”
  • What happened? (seeing a scratch, bruise, bandage, etc.  Not supposed to ask)
  • Aren’t you so glad you finally had a girl?
  • Did you play basketball? (because of height)
  • I think you have.....(trying to diagnose a medical condition)
  • Have you had him tested/evaluated?
  • Oh my goodness!  I didn’t recognize you.  How much weight have you gained?
  • You look just like.....
  • When are you expecting?
  • Do you work? (assuming that staying home is not work)
  • Wow, you’ve changed.
  • Do you own or rent?

As you can see, there are many things that we can say or ask that even though we might have good intentions, can sound hurtful or inconsiderate.  

Let’s be careful that we keep our conversations positive and upbeat and only ask questions and make comments that reflect highly on the other person.  

Have a great month,
Monica Irvine
a.k.a. Mary Manners

Raising Children to Be Happy

Raising children is hard.  If you’re a parent, this is something you know deep down in your bones.  As I go around the country teaching and interacting with young people, I see a few common threads, some are a little discouraging, but many are so full of hope.  What makes me sad is when I meet children and teens who seem to be lacking in so many essential skills to help them to be successful, but mainly to help them to feel good about themselves which is the key to them being successful. These lacking skills are often; self confidence, integrity, charity, empathy, ambition and social skills.  However,  where I find hope even when I see the lack of these skills, is in the children’s desire to learn these skills and make them a part of their lives.  

Once children understand the “payoff” for acquiring these skills, they are usually very interested and even dedicated in mastering these ideas.  Parents, the most important thing for you and I to realize when it comes to helping our children develop these attributes, is to know that our children are not born with them...they MUST be taught by example and by constant discussion and constant praise and reinforcement.  Children want to be proud of who they are.  Children want to make the right choices.  Children want to be good because being good is what helps us to be happy.

So how do we do this?  We must look for opportunities every day to show our children the joy we feel by living these precepts.  Do our children watch us...

  • being kind with words and deed to all those we associate with, especially inside the walls of our home
  • live a 100% honest life
  • do hard things with grace and gratitude, always believing that things will work out
  • serve others continually, always looking for opportunities to do for others
  • as we NEVER speak unkindly about others, but instead only notice the good that others have to offer
  • as we demonstrate impeccable manners, always striving to speak and act in a way that shows how much we value those around us.

Parents, what do we really want?  If you’re like me, you want your children to be happy and successful.  We have to invest everything we have; our time, our energy, our prayers and especially our love into the constant mentoring of our children.  But when we do, we will ultimately have what money and status can never acquire, and that’s happy children.

Have a wonderful month,

Monica Irvine