Before I get carried away, let me first tell you that this piece is about two of the most beautiful words in the human language, “yes ma’am” and “no sir.” With that said, let me first tell you how the previous paragraph connects. To do that, we’ll need to take a look at one of the many mistakes my mother would quite frequently bring to my attention.
When my children became old enough to speak, they did as normal children are known to do and questioned everything I had to say. At the end of each request or command, I would hear the infamous question, “Why?”
When they were small, I never once thought twice about answering their questions and explaining to them why it is I wanted them to do something. This was where my mother would say to me: “You shouldn’t do that. You shouldn’t explain everything to them.”
Of course, I didn’t listen and simply kept on doing things the way I had been doing them. It worked, after all. At least, I thought it did.
As the years passed, those innocent little questions grew into whiney complaints and ceaseless attempts to escape my requests and demands. What I had actually been doing over those years, in blissful ignorance, was teaching my children how to argue with me. The exact thing my mother was trying to warn me about.
While these years are passing by me, and my lesson is ever so slowly being taught, I stumbled across the rare breed of parent who requires their children to say “yes ma’am” and “no sir.”
To be honest, I gave it very little thought, different strokes for different folks, and all that jazz. It wasn’t until recently that I noticed a very important detail in these children that I had been overlooking over the years.
These children didn’t question or argue! There were no pleas, no growling, no stomping of feet and no “why can’t they do it” in reference to their siblings. Mom and/or dad didn’t have to fuss and argue until frustrations were escalated and the entire neighborhood knew that little Jimmy wouldn’t take out the trash.
In our home, things can go any given way, on any given day. One day, I can ask my daughter to clean her room, and she obediently does so without a word. On another day, we have a long drawn out argument that generally ends in a lot of yelling, a few tears and the end-all-words heard in homes everywhere, “Because I said so!”
It was during an episode involving my son and an overflowing trash can that my mother’s repeated advice and the words “yes ma’am” came racing back to me. This was why she told me over and over not to explain everything to them. This was why she insisted I reply to every “why” with a quick and simple, “because I told you to.”
Suddenly, it all made complete and total sense. I had always known that the use of these two simple words had been a respect issue, but never once did I know the reason behind it. After 13 years of parenting, it has all finally clicked into place.
Arguing with an elder, any elder at all, is rude and disrespectful. Not to mention the fact that allowing your child to argue with you is as good as teaching them that they are your equal. Now, some of you may become angry with what I am about to say, but your child is not your equal. This is a common mistake in parenting.
That’s a topic for an entirely different day though.
Today’s topic, however, is about how two simple little words can completely change the atmosphere in a family’s home. It’s an open admission that mom and dad may very well know what they’re talking about, and how much easier our lives would be if we applied the knowledge they’ve gained over the years, the knowledge they so graciously offer, and we so quickly ignore.
I don’t believe that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. In our house, I’ll be doing my best to ensure that my children say those two beautiful words, and I hope that all you parents out there do the same thing.
LaFayette resident Tanya Nave is a mostly sane mother of three children, a proud wife and caretaker for many pets. “I could probably give life a little more than I am, but I love the one I have,” she says. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She also has a Facebook fan page.