by Mary Johnson, Director of Children's Ministries

I'll admit that over the years I have allowed myself the-dare I say luxury-of outsourcing certain household responsibilities. The first one was finding a cleaner to do my husband's shirts. Actually I was "fired" from the job of washing and ironing them because I really wasn‘t very good at it. Certainly not up to the level of a professional dry cleaning establishment. OK. I can live with that. And it took me quite a while to admit I hate to clean bathrooms. Because I really could do it myself. I just don't like to. So outsourcing that chore was a pretty easy choice. In one article I read about outsourcing the point was made that it is a matter of choice; whether it is worthwhile to find the money to outsource by cutting something you don't care so much about. That makes sense to me.

But then I came across an invitation to parents to enroll their children ages 8-14, in an etiquette class that for the most part, makes no sense to me. I assumed it would be about the proper utensils to use at a formally set dinner table and the like. Proper table etiquette is always a good idea for every young person to know. Don't you remember the first time sitting at a fully set table and thinking "which one is my water glass and which one is my bread plate?" Then you learn the lower case b and d clue as to which ones go with your place setting. As challenging as this can be, I really think proper table etiquette can be accomplished with frequent family dinners and the expectation that the children will stay at the table and learn from the parents.

While "dining skills" was part of the description of the session, it went on to include...."will cover basic manners, telephone skills, thank you notes, acts of kindness and more." The cost of the three hour program is $60 per child and includes boys and girls. By the way, the venue offering the class posted recently that it was at full enrollment, and, if interested, you could be placed on a waiting list.

I am quite puzzled as to when and why the responsibility of raising a child who will learn "acts of kindness" should be included in a class taught by a manners expert. Isn't that a basic responsibility of parenting? Along with basic manners, telephone skills, and how to write a thank you note. In my opinion, it comes down to the basic principle of modeled behavior. If you want your children to learn please and thank you, say it when asking your child to do something. Take the time while SITTING at a family dinner to explain proper behavior. Sit at the desk or table with your child and facilitate writing thank you notes for birthday and Christmas gifts.

And the opportunities to perform acts of kindness are all around us - everyday. In a loving, nurturing way, a parent has the opportunity to provide examples for their child so that when presented with a similar opportunity it is intrinsic for the child. Open a door for a person going into the same building as you, let the person with two items go ahead of you in the grocery store when you have a full cart, when somebody with arms full drops something - pick it up for them. Acts of kindness. All around us - everywhere. Not so hard to figure out.

The rewards of being a parent come back in so many ways. The achievements our children realize as happy, independent adults are so gratifying. And the pride when hearing someone compliment you on what a great child you have - so polite, so caring, so thoughtful, so well behaved - can be equally as gratifying. It is sad to think that those acquired attributes would be achieved by letting someone else teach your child instead of imparting them yourself - as the parent. Parenting: not always easy. But most definitely rewarding!