Ever get caught off guard by something your child says or does and then realize they learned it from you?

Our kids and grandkids are watching us all the time. They are learning from us how to be in relationships, and they are learning about how to act out in the world.

Kent Nerburn, in Letters to My Son, said that you need two things for a relationship to endure. You need the ability to laugh together, and you need to respect how the other person deals with the rest of the world.

Dave Barry said the same thing very simply: “A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person.”

What do you want your kids to learn about interacting with the world?

Here are some important ideas to consider:

– Treating people respectfully regardless of their position or relationship. (Are you nice to the waiter?)

– Being ethical (Are your standards high and consistent?)

– Being loyal to those not present (Do you gossip?)

– Choosing to engage in conversations that add value (Are they negative or not worth having?)

– Choosing language that expresses respect (Are you civil, courteous?)

– Keeping the confidences of others (Are you indiscreet or do you share what others would want you to keep to yourself?)

– Being open and responsive (Do you share things that allow people to know you?)

– Being aware of others and their experiences (Do you notice people who are being or feeling left out?)

– Using simple courtesies (Do you say please, thank you?)

– Respecting other people’s time (Do you ask if this is a good time to talk or avoid making unnecessary requests?)

– Giving your word and keeping it (Do you follow through on promises made?)


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Paul Axtell is author of Ten Powerful Things to Say to Your Kids: Creating the relationship you want with the most important people in your life. He and his wife, Cindy, live in Minneapolis and love sharing time and conversations with their 13 grandchildren.