My children are good kids and know their manners. However, as children, they are also loud, messy, often obnoxious, frequently hilarious, and at times unruly. My well-behaved children seem to lose their minds at the worst possible (read public) moments.
I needed a solution. Something subtle. Something effective. I needed a secret code, a word or phrase that would signal my kids to stop fighting, sit up straight, take their elbows off the table and otherwise shape-up.
Thus, The Manners Code was born. Well, reborn actually. In truth, my mom invented it when my brother, sister and I were kids. We (probably my brother and sister) were having trouble remembering to put our napkins on our laps. Before a visit to my grandparent’s house, my mom devised a code so she could give us a secret napkin reminder in front of my grandparents. The code she came up with was to pick up her napkin and swat at an imaginary fly while saying, “There’s a fly in here.” My mom is not known as a subtle cryptographer.
Kids love secret codes. Parents love impressing friends and family with well-behaved children. It’s the perfect combination. Discuss with your kids a statement or action that is code for “remember your manners!” Maybe you’ll tap your wrist and ask your son if he forgot his watch. Or you’ll say, “I’ve been looking forward to this dinner all day.” Others won’t know that you just secretly told your kids to straighten up. Kids will appreciate not being embarrassed by their parents.
I didn’t have to wait long to put my newly reborn Manners Code to use. On 8-year old David’s first day of summer-day camp I asked him if he was okay, told him to remember his extra sun screen, reminded him to eat all his lunch, asked if he needed more water before I left, introduced him to a couple other campers, wished him a fabulous day, gave him a kiss, and told him I love him. Apparently this was too much. He responded by asking me to leave.
We needed a code. We decided I would say, “Good-bye David. Have a great day.” That would mean I love you, don’t get sun burnt, eat your lunch, and stay hydrated. David would then politely respond with, “Bye Mom, “which would mean I am fine; you can go now and not worry about me. We had the perfect plan. On the second day of camp, after resisting the urge to give him a kiss, I said, “Goodbye, David. Have a great day.” He turned around, flashed me a peace sign, and loudly yelled, “PEACE OUT, MOM!” My son inherited his grandmother’s skills at subtlety.
(In a conversation earlier today, I jokingly accused my mom of only reading the beginning and end of my blog posts. This entry is very craftily devised to talk about her smack in the middle. Ha! Peace out, Mom.)