It is interesting to me that I so easily accept that children must be taught formal subjects like math, writing, or art, but that they should somehow know on their own, how to have good behavior. I had this experience happen just last week. We invited some friends over for dinner; I was busy cooking and preparing. My husband reminded me that we ought to talk with the children about what is expected behavior for our children when their friends arrive. I was too busy at the moment and didn't want to take the time to sit down with them and discuss appropriate behavior, so I casually called to them in the other room, "When your friends get here, remember.... be good!" Needless to say as the friends arrived, the chaos commenced. Now some of the children where running from room to room, going up and down the stairs, messing with the set table, etc. To try to remedy the situation, I pulled out a board game that our family enjoys hoping to settle them all down in some quiet play. But, once the newness of the idea wore off they were on to something else. After our guests left and we put our children to bed, I asked my husband, "Why do our children go crazy when they have their friends over? They don't behave like this when it is just us at home and they don't behave like this with all children we have over. What is it?"
After a bit of reflection, I believe that there were three mistakes made on my part. First, my biggest error in this particular situation was not taking the time to sit down and explain exactly what being "good" looks like. We have had this experience, even with the same friends, of us sitting down with our children and explaining exactly what is okay and what is not okay and I made sure that I was present in the situation to remind or correct if needed. Not surprisingly, the time went well and was pleasant for everyone. Second, I need to be fully present. This is a tough one with other adults. The adults usually want to talk with each other, many times at the neglect of the children. When this happens, I have to remind myself that it is right for me to politely interrupt the adults to tend to my or other children when necessary. Third, I need to watch for certain patterns of behavior with particular children and use discretion as to whom to invite and how often.
It is a primary responsibility for me as a parent to inform the ignorance and support the weakness of my children. This situation reminded me that children have to be taught “good” behavior; they don't just know it intuitively.