The last segment of our gracious children’s manners series is purposely timed with the start of the school year. The act of inclusivity is a manner that must be taught, modeled and practiced from a young age. Today we are sharing how to do just that!
We’ve all been to a social function or school event where we’ve felt like the outsider:
That cliquish circle of moms that never has an opening.
The two women who dominate the conversation with a subject the third is obviously unfamiliar.
It’s so awkward, isn’t? And sometimes even hurtful.
But many of these situations amount not to the mean nature of people, but rather poor manners. People are just not being considerate of those around them.
So think about it: if most adults have a hard time being aware of those around them – even if unintentionally – then think about how hard it is for children to have this mindset. After all, children are by nature very self-focused.
It’s our job as parents to turn our children’s focus outward to those around them. And pray God does the hard work of molding their hearts to have a heart for their neighbors.
But we must have a lot of grace because they are children after all – and children are a work in progress! Which is why it’s best to start the practice of inclusivity at a young age.
As we start the school year, here are some ways to encourage your children to be inclusive and not exclusive:
Implement a Family Policy
Have a family policy in which you don’t talk about playdates, “best” friends, birthday parties, etc. while at school.
Lunch Table Manners
Since you won’t be at the lunch table/cafeteria with your child, talk about how to handle common lunch time issues. For example, why you should not move seats once someone sits down next to you (because it wasn’t the friend you wanted to sit down with you). Ask them how that would make them feel if someone did that to them? Again, considering other’s feelings is the heart of gracious manners.
What to say to a new classmate. (“Hi, my name is….” is usually sufficient!) What to do when a friend tells another classmate she can’t play with their group. What to do when someone is being bullied. What to do when your child sees a classmate playing by themselves. (He may want to play by himself but try walking up and asking his he wants to play four square with your friends.) This book is such a great book to read aloud to elementary students and older (boys and girls) as it brings up many of these topics of discussions.
Get to Know the New Students
Ask elementary (and older) children who the new students are and how they can reach out to them. Invite a new student to yogurt. (Invite the mom, too!). I have a friend who tries to invite every girl in the class for a playdate at least once during the year (it’s a small class though!).
Create Inclusive Conversations
Practice how to be inclusive in conversation with older elementary and middle school children. When they notice the conversation topic is hurtfully excluding someone (i.e. about a trip two friends went on together, or someone’s small birthday party), how to change the conversation’s trajectory. This is something that takes skill, confidence, and practice but it can be taught!
As with all our manners in this series, children can learn so much from watching us. Remember, children are always watching (and listening!).
How do you teach your children to be inclusive? I think it’s important to realize that we can’t prevent all hurt feelings all the time, but we can strive to always be kind and tactful.
Want to read more from our manners series? Start from the beginning here.
Top Photo: Audrie Dollins