Teaching Manners

Wed, 22 Aug 2012|

-Hi everyone, I'm Rene Syler. Today, we're gonna talk about discipline starting with the kids. Corinne Gregory from The PoliteChild is here to tell us about her program called Social Smart, and it's all about the social skills kids need to do well at home and in school. Hi, Corinne. -Good morning, Rene. How are you? -I'm good. Good to see you. How did you come up with the program, Social Smart, initially? -Well, it is a long story, and I know we don't have very much time, but essentially, it came out of the observation that our kids today, for too many reasons, are not gaining the social skills, the behaviors, and the foundations that they need to truly be successful in life, and most of the time, when these skills are taught, they are typically taught to older students, and so I begin with starting to focus on something that was available for even the youngest students and then follow them through all the way through their career, through high school. -Wait, does this mean that parents are not doing their job somewhere or somehow? -I don't like to phrase it that way. -Uh-huh. -I believe it's truly that most parents want to do the absolute right thing for their kids to make them successful. The reality is then for a hundred reasons though, everything from divided households to cultural differences to busy parents, not too many kids that we have today in the school system just don't have those social skills they need to be successful, and so we're trying to help bridge that gap. -What skills are we talking about exactly? 'Cause when I think of school, I think of sort of the rote learning, Math and English and, you know, that sort of thing. -Uh-huh. -I don't really think of-- what skills are you talking about? -Well, we're talking everything from attitude to actual skills themselves. When you take a look at the research that shows repeatedly that our kids' future personal and professional success depends primarily on their social skills, what you're really saying is that in addition to teaching the academic skills, you need to teach them those interpersonal relationship skills, those-- the old-fashioned virtues, the things like honesty and trustworthiness, responsibility, reliability, respect, the whole fundamental-- again, not just the behaviors-- but those fundamental motivators behind it so that they really understand what it is that will help them be successful. -You know, it's interesting because I don't know that I ever thought, "Let me teach my children virtues," or "Let me teach my children morals." I guess I assume that they would sort of pick that up through osmosis. You know, I mean, isn't that how we did it? -Our framework for how we're learning these things now has changed dramatically in the last 30, 40 years, and it's only been getting worse. Unfortunately, too many of our kids nowadays, what they pick up by osmosis is not necessarily a positive set of values. It's very frequently a negative set of values or, I should say, counterproductive set of values. And so we do have to be more vigilant and work on teaching them because we can't be guaranteed that they're gonna get it any other way. -How does compassion, let's say, let's use that as one of the virtues. How does that translate to increased test scores? Because I know you have data that showed that the children who completed this program or learning through you guys have double digit increases in their test scores. How does that-- -That's what the schools are saying. -How does that work? -Well, compassion, for example-- compassion is a subset of empathy and consideration, and consideration really is a matter of understanding that, you know, in my educational system or my particular way of being it's not all about me, that there are other people involved in the equation. So, for example, you take that into a school environment, these students now understand that in order to be considerate of other people, that means that, for example, you only speak when it's your turn to talk, you listen to somebody when they're speaking, you give respect to the teacher when they're trying to teach. You understand that, for example, the order and discipline is appropriate in the classroom, that it's not a free for all. So they really-- those types of virtues really translate very broadly into the classroom environment. -That's interesting. And then of course into the working environment. -That's right. What I like to refer to as the adult sandbox, we call the working environment. -Yeah, they were the adult playground, exactly. -That's right. -At what age quickly should we start-- -Yes. -a program like this? -My attitude is the moment they pop out of the womb, it's never too early to start. The good news is it's also never too late to start. If you poise this properly, even a teenager will understand, "Look, if I particularly take on some of these values, I'll get a lot more of what I want a lot more easily and a lot less of what I don't want." So-- and it's also, it's a life lesson. It's not something you just teach at a certain age and then go off and stop teaching it. -Yeah. -It's truly a life lesson. -Interesting. -Uh-huh. -Corinne Gregory, thank you so much. -Thank you. -That's really, really interesting. And you know what? You can find out more about the Social Smart program. You can go to And to get a peek into how I discipline my kids-- and it's not that great, I have to say-- head over to We'll be right back.