At least, in our home, they do. And because, as a general rule, we believe that children learn what is modeled for them, my husband and I are intentional about using manners. We routinely model saying “May I,” “Please,” “Thank-you,” and “You’re welcome.” We encourage our kids to say “excuse me” when they burp, pass gas, need to get by someone, or need someone’s attention. We also encourage them to say “I’m sorry” when appropriate.
We’re teaching them that they have to take turns, share their toys, and play fair.
Because we intentionally model the positive behavior, you can imagine my complete surprise the other day when I heard my son say, “Get out of my way,” as he was riding his bike.
Excuse me? Then he repeated it! I was stunned. We don’t say “Get out of my way.” So, I quickly started reviewing in my head which children he had been playing with in the previous two days, what shows he had watched, and which adults he had been around. I couldn’t figure out where he might have gotten it from, so I decided not to make a big deal out of it.
“We don’t say things like that,” I told him. “If you need to get through, you say excuse me, please.”
Imagine my surprise, then, when during story time that evening I found the culprit…
My kids love story time, and we have a LOT of books. Occasionally, they will get stuck on one book, and me to read it to them OVER and OVER and OVER. You know how it is. One book on which we became stuck is Duck in the Truck by Jez Alborough. We’ve been reading Duck in the Truck for the last couple of days, and some of those days (okay, MOST of those days) more than once.
It starts out, “This is the Duck driving home in a truck. This is the track which is taking him back.” A smile creeps across my face as I trace the track to illustrate. I’ve traced this track a few times now, and it’s cute.
It doesn’t take long, though, for my smile to turn down into a frown. You see, Duck gets his truck stuck in the muck. Frog offers help, but his attempts are futile. Shortly thereafter, Sheep in a Jeep comes along with a beep. Sheep approaches in a jeep hollers, “Get out of my way” with a beep. What? Had I really glossed over the “Get out of my way” four or five (maybe six) times in the past couple of days?
I’ll admit. My first thought was to throw the book in the recycle bin.
I saw their faces begin to crumple when I started to close the book. So, I continued to read. Soon enough, Goat comes along to help. Working together, Duck, Frog, Sheep, and Goat get the truck unstuck from the muck. You would think that Duck would be grateful, right? Wrong.
The story ends, “This is the Duck driving home in the truck/leaving the Frog, the Sheep, and the Goat Stuck in the muck!”
Really? What happened to being gracious? What happened to saying “thank you”? What happened to lending and hand, “here, let me help you out of the muck, since after all it’s my fault you’re stuck”? As I said, my first thought was to throw the book in the recycle bin. But, I’ve thought long and hard about this foul mannered fowl, and have decided that I will use this rude duck to reinforce manners.
Sure, I could just get rid of the book, and expect my kids to only do as I say, and say as I do. That is, if I want to be a passive parent. That would be a little foolish, though. Especially since Mister so readily demonstrated that it is just as easy to do the wrong thing. And especially since Duck, and Sheep, are a lot like people that my son will have to encounter in life. Rude, thoughtless, and self-serving. But just because the people around him behave a certain way, does not mean my son has to do the same. I will be using the book to jump start conversations about how Sheep and Duck should have behaved, and how we should react when people act like Sheep and Duck. I hope this is what the author intended. I can’t fathom why Duck in the Truck would have been written this way, if not to provide parents with a tool to teach children right behavior by showcasing wrong behavior.
How about you? Would you keep the book?