Good Behaviour Helps them Stand Apart

This blog is the tenth of a 12-part series on ‘Parenting is a Journey’. Ignatius Fernandez also blogs at

On Sundays, young parents walk into Church with children in tow. Moments after they find seats, the lady opens her bag. Toys, books, crayons, goodies, drinks and other pacifiers come out of her bag. She is fully equipped to cope with the demands of her children. Even as she tries to keep the children quiet, her spouse looks on anxiously, ready to carry the naughtier child out of Church. What chance do they have of prayerfully celebrating Service? In malls, we see helpless parents trying to reason with their children, who scream for something they fancy.

If children are not taught to behave well at home, they will behave badly in public places also. Lack of discipline and overindulgence make children believe that they have the upper hand; and we become defensive.

Good behaviour is born of consideration for others – respect for them, their belongings, feelings and time. When children are insensitive to the needs of others, they will be rebuffed in some way, at sometime in their lives; sadly, we too will suffer with them. Isn’t that compelling reason for us to set them on the right path?

Let us look at a few situations and practices:

1) When watching Cricket on TV, we have the revolting sight of players picking their noses, biting their nails and spitting repeatedly. Embarrassed parents of those celebrated sons, squirm as they realise that their boys are watched by millions. How they wish they had checked those loathsome habits when their sons were small! Do we count ourselves among such unhappy parents? Unless such quirks are stopped, even as they start, exorcising children of those demons, as they grow older, becomes difficult.

2) Personal hygiene is another area of concern. Adults who wear clothes that stink, (oblivious of others) who care little about oral hygiene, who do not bathe daily, who use bathrooms badly (although they insist on using clean bathrooms), and who leave a trail of debris from uncouth behaviour, were once children who were given hygiene-concessions by parents. When such young people find partners, their behaviour could lead to quarrels and even separation. We may dismiss indifference to personal hygiene as a minor aberration. Why not tell that to someone who has to share the same bed with the offender?

3) Let us consider table manners. It is rather embarrassing to watch some children eat. The noisy chewing of food, scattering of food on the table, stuffing mouths, gulping drinks and ravenously eating favourite dishes, are all omens of untrained table behaviour. Ask a child to pass a fork; he passes it, prongs pointing. Our children should learn table manners to save them, and us, some blushes.

4) We tend to take appointments casually; seldom being on time. Children copy us. Soon, their sense of punctuality gets warped. As a result, they value their time less, and take for granted the time of others.

5) Disregard for others is seen in yet another form—snatching things from others. Snatch a toy, a book, a chocolate. We let such incidents pass. The child is emboldened, and in his adult-life will try to grab somebody’s wife, or steal a much-coveted, high-priced thing.

6) When children leave their rooms, they do not switch off lights, fans and air conditioners. They scribble on walls and write on their palms. After using the wash basin, they do not fully shut the tap. On holidays they waste time, doing little or nothing productive. How accountable will our children be, of the resources God gives them?

7) This indifference is also seen in the way they dispose of rubbish. Throw it out of windows or running vehicles or deposit it near the neighbour’s place. Surely, their civic sense is dented.

8) Seldom do we see young people tastefully and neatly dressed, carrying themselves with dignity. Instead, we see them in loud T-shirts and tight jeans, sporting a casual style. We let our children drift into such dressing habits, little realising that the Corporate world, which is thankfully returning to formal wear, will frown on poorly dressed entrants. Unkempt hair, unshaven faces, poorly matched clothes and shoes that do not shine, do not reflect good grooming. Our girls should know that showing more skin is not more beauty. Yet, we tolerate the supposedly popular tastes of our children in the illusion of giving them freedom to choose. Freedom is not license. The sooner we realise that, the better for us and our children.

Some of us argue that good behaviour ought to be taught at school, where we pay hefty fees. We need to look at that case again. Teachers, despite their good intentions, cannot bestow on my child the time that I can. Her time is divided among many. So is her interest. I can focus on my child. At best, the teacher can augment inputs given at home. So, the responsibility rests with me. The buck stops with me.

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.