sets of behaviours for different situations. Without ever telling them this, they pick it up perfectly well. It is the more subtle, unintuitive kinds of politenesses such as "Grandma says burping out loud is rude" or "Don't burp out loud in Grandma's house" that have to be blatantly taught. And why is this? Because we so often don't believe in them or practise them ourselves!
I believe the best way to help children learn this is to teach them to be both true to themselves as well as sensitive to other people's preferred behaviours. So in the above example it is better to tell them "Grandma doesn't like people to burp out loud in her presence" (which is the full truth of the matter). Otherwise they may feel they should never burp out loud at all, or else they may think it is alright to do it in front of Grandma in their own house! Children may initially see this as inconsistent, confusing, even hypocritical, but I don't believe that in the end they will miss the point or the purpose of it. Just like the complexities and inconsistencies of the English language, in the end it will fall into place.
One of the greatest challenges for a parent is to be completely honest with their children, and standards of behaviour has to be the main area where adults fail in this regard. And that is because there truly is no such thing as standard behaviour. Rather than some rigid textbook set of personal behaviours, we should be allowing children behavioural flexibility, at the same time as teaching them self discipline through awareness of, and sensitivity to, each different situation. Rather than labelling particular actions (i.e. behaviours) as either "good" or "bad", we should be informing them that they behaved well or badly given the situation - subtle but significant differences in motive and outcome. Also, rather than blind behavioural obedience - leading to a repressed, fearful and confused child - we should be instilling an intuitive understand-ing of human relationships through our own example, and teaching them the relevance of their personal behaviour in that context.
We must remember too, that children are only learning what we have deemed to be the acceptable behaviour for any situation. Even before we speak to them regarding their behaviour, they will have long watched and emulated our own behaviour - since they figure that what parents do in any situation is OK. That being the case, we would then have no right to chastise them or punish them should they copy our own behaviour - only to find it is not acceptable!
Rules and Guidelines
Up to a certain age, or more exactly, a certain level of perception, a child needs certain guidelines - for their own good and for the good of others. Some things are non-negotiable. They must know this, and know what those things are, even if they don't yet understand why. It may be hard for them to understand at first that there is one set of rules and behaviour for one place and another set for somewhere else, and that there are behaviours they must do and behaviours they should do. Here, parenting comes down to setting perimeters, informing the child what will be tolerated and what will not be tolerated in particular situations. Having set the "rules" they must be consistently kept. It is far better to have a few immutable rules which are always enforced and many other guidelines which are flexible, than to have a whole set of rules which are all inconsistently enforced. Parents need to be very specific with children about their most important behavioural rules and they need to be reliable in sticking to them.
So what are these rules? Ah, but that's up to you! My family has its own and yours will have its own. It comes down to one's guiding life philosophy, one's parenting philosophy and the things which are considered important tenets within those areas. But more than a theory or philosophy, whatever are one's guidelines to life, they need to be practical and attainable. Looking around today, and scanning back over the last few decades of parenting, I observe many parents don't have any philosophical anchors to their childrearing anymore. There have been disciplining fads, freedom fads, etc, etc over the years. Nowadays it seems to be very much a "let's figure it out as we go approach". I don't believe this has helped children to know the boundaries of acceptable behaviours, or to find structure in their own lives. When conceiving, and even prior, when courting (that funny old word!), couples should air their views on parenting and construct some shared guidelines based on what they know has worked from their own upbringing. Then they should resolve to work towards those goals within their new family.
In different places throughout the book I have indicated the areas I consider important in the development of a child. These have come from a combination of my own upbringing (the universally good things parents do teach you), my own maturation (the lessons that life has taught me), my yoga training (the things my own guru and the yoga system have taught me) and of course my mothering