I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile.  It’s been at the back of my mind turning over and over.  And yesterday I was reminded why I needed to write it today.  I’m sitting in a restaurant.  I’m waiting for my food to come.  There’s a young man sitting next to me and his food has arrived and he begins to eat.

SMACK    SMACK   SLURP    SMACK

mannersThis was the sound of him as he chewed his food like a cow, with his mouth open and smacking away at his food.  I was disgusted really.  My food came and I began to eat but it was too much.  I asked to be moved to a different table.  The only thing I could think to myself is that I would never hire this person to work for me.  It didn’t matter if he was the best person for the job.  It didn’t matter if he was super talented in the area that I needed.  The fact was that I would never be able to sit down and have a meal with him and I certainly couldn’t put him in front of any of my clients and have a meal. 

And here’s where the parenting stuff comes in.  I don’t know this guy’s parents.  They may have taught him to chew with his mouth closed and maybe they didn’t.  My point is that he needed to learn.  And it’s our parents that we learn this stuff from.

The power of a good parent can mean the difference between success and failure in life.  It can mean the difference between having self confidence and feeling worthless.  It can be the difference of being fit and healthy or an overweight slob. 

Here are some things I remember my parents telling me repeatedly that I used to hate and yet, they served a larger purpose than I realized:

  • Sit up straight!  Pretty much nightly at the dinner table I was told to sit up straight.  Yes, it was good manners but it was more than that really.  By forcing our bodies to sit up straight we develop the necessary abdominal and back muscles to hold ourselves upright.  We look more confident when we sit up straight too.  Even now, when I catch myself slumping down, the little voice in the back of my head says, “Sit up straight!”
  • Eat your vegetables!  Again, another nightly ritual at the dinner table was constant reminders about eating my vegetables.  I hated lima beans (and still do) so those were the ones that sat on the plate the longest.  And in my family, we didn’t leave the table until the vegetables were gone!  Vegetables provide necessary nutrients to our bodies and chewing them (instead of taking a vitamin pill) is essential to our digestive process.  Our parents were trying to make us healthy forcing us to eat those damn lima beans and other veggies.  They weren’t trying to torture us.  I spoke to a friend of mine the other day who sat with her son for 2 hours at the dinner table waiting for him to finish his vegetables.  He finally did.  But she stayed there and waited until he ate them.  That’s the power of good parenting! 
  • Say please/thank you!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, “Thank you” or “Please” for another adult when they have asked for something or been given something.  Where have our manners gone?  My parents would let me have it if I didn’t say “please” and “thank you”, especially to other adults.  I remember taking my first plane trip and people coming up to my parents while we were disembarking saying, “Your children are so well behaved!”  All we did was say, “please” and “thank you.”  Our parents were teaching us gratitude and humility.  It’s simple stuff that people focus on these days (gratitude journals) and yet, if we just remember what our parents taught us, we would already have this mastered.  The other cool thing that saying “please” and “thank you” teaches us is to ask for what we want and to speak up when we want something.  I remember ordering in restaurants and having to speak up loud and clear to the waitress about what I want (or didn’t want- “No lima beans, please!”)

I was speaking to a coaching client the other day and he said that he wanted to be the cool parent that didn’t force their children to eat vegetables.  In fact he didn’t even like to eat them.  And yet, how does this serve the child?  Is it okay for the child to grow up and not know how to provide their bodies with proper nutrition?  Is the school meant to teach them that?  I believe it’s the parent’s job and it’s also the parent’s job to be the role model.  It’s great that you want to be a cool parent but pick your coolness somewhere else!  The power of a good parent is life-long.  Keep your children out of my office and teach them the necessary skills to be able to function as an adult – self discipline, confidence and the ability to connect with others (while they eat their vegetables!).

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