Our two oldest children were fairly well versed in proper manners. They were taught & expected to say “please”, “thank you”, “I’m sorry”, “yes, sir”, you get the idea. Behavior issues were dealt with swiftly and decisively. They knew when mom started counting she was not supposed to get to two, but definitely NOT three!
But when son number three was born things were different. He was seven weeks premature and had to stay in the hospital until he weighed four pounds, which was 24 days after his birth (our first two sons weighed 8 pounds 10 ounces and 10 pounds 5 ounces at birth, respectively.) As you can imagine, we were very careful with Stephen. He was very small and although he didn’t have any health issues related to being premature, he seemed fragile to us. Time passed, Stephen grew and we continued to treat him differently than his older brothers. It wasn’t anything we intentionally did, but it happened. He was “quirky” and had his own way of doing things. It wasn’t until he was about 11 that he was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and his odd behaviors began to make sense.
In the meantime, we had a daughter. She was born when Stephen was four. Because she was the closest in age to Stephen she seemed to take her social cues mostly from him. He was ‘shy & reserved’ and she was ‘shy & reserved’. He didn’t respond to people when they spoke to him and she did the same. It was easy to pass the behaviors off as shyness and give them each a pass on proper social etiquette when they were young. Surely they would grow out of that….
Now here we are with a ten year old daughter who sometimes behaves in ways similar to her older brother who has Asperger Syndrome—although she does not possess the characteristics herself. She isn’t aware of the proper way to greet adults, she doesn’t seem to know how to respond to people who speak to her or compliment her—she often seems socially stunted, especially with regards to adults.
As difficult as it may be and as silly as I may feel having to do it I am now trying to correct those behaviors and teach my daughter the proper way to respond to others. Just like I did with my first two boys as toddlers I am now doing with my ten year old daughter. “What do you say?” “Say ‘thank you’.” “Did you say ‘please’?” There is still time for her to learn to be a polite young lady. I’m sure many of us could use some refreshing on our manners, after all.