One of the nice things about having your own blog is that you get to talk about whatever interests you at the moment and this week I started thinking about the differences between children raised in the South.
I grew up partly in the South, partly in the North, and have lived my entire adult life in the South. I have seen Southerners and I have learned a few things from these observations. Southerners tend to be polite and respectful but are reluctant to reveal their feelings, sometimes to a fault. That’s probably why Ret Butler’s line to Scarlet O’Hara was so shocking to southerners, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”. This was not a Southern way of communicating. When I lived down South as a child, I was expected to give my seat on a bus for others without question, open doors for others, say thank you, please, yes ma’am, or sir. I felt like my feeling were unimportant and always secondary to demonstrating good manners and respectful of adults. And there were consequences for manner transgressions. You were often publicly chastised by your parent and that sometime hurt.
Let’s fast forward to when I first started having a lot of contact with Southern children as their pediatrician. It actually used to bother me when their parents chimed into our conversation and said to Jannie, “Say yes sir or no sir instead of just answering the question” or when a parent would give conversation instructions like “Look the doctor in the eye when you answer him.” or “make sure you say thank you”. It all seemed to formal and critical. I was feeling like the child was sick or nervous and criticizing them for their conversation style just inhibited our ability to communicate. It seemed all so unnecessary but now… I am not so sure. I actually now feel that much of this socialization that Southern parents engage in does help these children become mannerly, respectful of adults, and serves them well as they move into the adult world of communication. Having good manners, making eye contact with those to whom you are speaking, not interrupting others when they are speaking, and using respectful language are all things that will serve these children well later in life.
So here is my advice to all parents about teaching the social graces of communication and respect to your kids; I think it is fine for parents to put emphasis on teaching a code of behavior that you expect your children to adhere to but I don’t think that this training should be done in public. I think it is your parental duty to correct your children’s behavior if you feel that your child is not being polite. But, I don’t feel that this should be done in a way that is not respectful to your child. I think we need to consider a child’s feeling about being publicly corrected, corrected in a doctor’s office, at school, on the field, when they are already frightened and nervous about just being there. The next time you are tempted to correct your child’s behavior in front of people outside the privacy of your home, make a mental note of your point and wait until you have your child’s ear in private. I think the message will be have more power when your child has the protection of being corrected privately. But by all means, do teach your children manners but don’t forget to protect their feelings. It will serve them well in the future.
Thanks for joining me. I always welcome your comments at www.docsmo.com. I would love to hear from you and post your thoughts. While you are there, go ahead and subscribe and become part of the DocSmo family. I’ll send you an email about the latest content to keep your pediatric knowledge up to date. this is Doc Smo, recording in studio 1E, hoping you have the parenting fortitude to teach your kids a positive attitude. Until next time.