Often, in the midst of the 4,682 junk emails I get daily, I find a note from a desperate parent, seeking my sage advice on a familial crisis. Okay, it's not really often. Actually, it's only been once. And it was just a couple of days ago. Here is the actual email, followed by my response:
I don't want to go all "Dear Abby" on you, but I am guessing that you can help. I noticed that on your blog you are endorsing "Children's Good Manners Month". We have been trying to get our offspring to have just one manner, the thought of several of these manners is quite overwhelming. We do fine with the other eleven months, when we are free to have bad manners.
Any advice for enforcing this particular holiday?
You are not the first parent with this problem. Believe it or not, I have even seen a bad manner or two in my own home. It happens in the best of families.
It has been my observation that when children are having a difficult time following a certain standard of behavior, it is most often because that standard of behavior has not been well-modeled to them by one of the parents. And by one of the parents, I mean, of course, the father.
I would bet my entire bathroom cupboard filled with Mary Kay products that, very shortly after the whole forbidden fruit debacle, Adam started making farts with his armpit at the dinner table. Eve scowled at him while their sons fell off their chairs in hysterical laughter, and the whole human race has been on a rapid downhill course ever since.
So, my recommendation is that you let your wife do the manners training. And in the event that your children grow up and leave home with all the social graces of a billy goat, your wife can always fall back on the line my mother-in-law uses: "We didn't raise him that way! ... He's only been like that since he married you."