Miss Debrett on... The Well Brought-up Child
The well brought-up child is the holy grail
of every parent. The very phrase conjures
up images of Victorian rectitude,
a captivating mixture of demure
deference and quirky charm, all
wrapped in a cloak of impeccably
Alas, the reality can seem
very different. Boisterous,
excited, brimful of anarchic
energy, our own kids tear
through our lives in a barely
containable blur. All too often children can seem to be little more than monstrous egos - desperate for attention, greedy for treats and attention, impatient of any attempts to contain them. They are truly a wonder of nature - but can they actually be housetrained?
Do not despair. Put the holy grail behind you and settle for a pragmatic second-best. At the very least you should be able to train your child to say please and thank you, to (more or less) do what they're told, to close their mouths when they're eating and use a knife and fork, to be reasonably considerate towards other children. This is the bare minimum.
Inevitably, they'll let you down. They'll be reduced to mumbling neanderthals when their grandparents ask them about school…. Or they'll boast shamelessly in front of your friends. Or they'll succumb to an additive-fuelled frenzy at the end of the children's party and won't put their coats on… Or they'll arrive at your friend's house and immediately, and repeatedly, ask "When can we go home? I'm bored." These are the crosses that every parent has to bear.
But try and retain a sense of proportion. At least they're not psychotic bullies and delinquents. At least they have an idea of what's expected of them. At least, some day, they'll grow up into reasonable human beings…
Miss Debrett's Top Tips
- Be pragmatic, and settle for a basic minimum - pleases, thank yous, mouths shut while eating...
- Once these building blocks are in place you can start constructing a more subtle, and refined, framework of good manners.
- Accept that there are always going to be times when your children let you down, and remember it's not the end of the world.