The weekend trip hadn’t gone well. The drive was long. The kids were grumpy. And, everybody, myself included, had forgotten the basic Auth rule – “Having Fun is Hard Work.”
This motto, a hold-over from my childhood, is supposed to act as a reminder to me and my family that when you go to do something fun you have to work hard together, as a team. If everybody does their job cheerfully or at least without complaint, than everybody has fun. But, if one person, decides to pout or whine or fight or be inconsiderate of others (repeatedly singing or talking loudly when asked not too for example), the whole thing disintegrates into something decidedly different than fun.
For whatever reason, this motto was no longer working. And, truth be told, it hadn’t really been working all summer.
Later that day, while window-shopping, my wife stumbled across a book titled “How to Behave and Why?” by someone named Munro Leaf.
She flipped to the first page and read: “This is really a book about how to have the most fun in living. And it doesn’t matter whether you are a boy or a girl, a man or a woman – the rules are all the same. How old we are isn’t what counts. The two biggest questions to ask ourselves, at any age, are: Are most of the people I know glad that I am here? Am I glad that I am here, myself? Anyone who can honestly answer ‘yes’ to these two questions most of the time has learned to behave in this world and to live a happy life. You still have to get along well with other people and have most of them like you, if you want to be happy.”
My wife bought the book and another one Leaf wrote (“Manners Can Be Fun”), brought them home and assigned them to each of our children as mandatory reading. At first the kids didn’t get it. Inexplicably, they didn’t see themselves or more accurately their actions as being the same as the ones described in Leaf’s books.
For example, until we pointed it out, one of my daughters didn’t realize she was a “Noisey” – someone who “screams and shouts and yells until those around her can’t even think.” And another daughter didn’t realize she was a “Whiney” – someone who “always has a lump in their throat and cries because they can’t do just what they want to. They whine if they can’t have things they should not. They whine if they can’t go along when they should not and they whine when other people tell them, No.”
We now have a manner of the day and slowly, but surely, things are starting to improve – starting with my outlook on behavior and how it is taught. I relearned that it is always my responsibility to model good manners no matter how difficult the circumstances and if I continue to strive to be honest, fair, strong, and wise, as Leaf (and my parents)propose, that makes it easier for those around me to do the same.
As I read the books, relearned old lessons and worked to pass along the teachings to my children, I couldn’t help but think that you had most likely spent this past summer fighting the same fight with your campers. Hopefully, you were successful and both you and your campers are better for the experience.
If not, or if you’re looking for a new tool to use in the ongoing battle, I can recommend Munro Leaf’s two books – they speak in a language children seem to understand and they work to remind us adults that manners matter, no matter the age.
As always, I hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together.
Till next month,
Rodney J. Auth