I read a book to the kids I remember from my childhood called “Do I Have to Say Hello?”, and though it’s dated and could afford a healthy revision, it was a lot of fun and generated a ton of laughter as well as some interesting discussions. The book is basically a satirical take on a multiple-choice quiz test on manners while incorporating a loose storyline, and though the illustrations are caricature-style bordering on grotesque, they provide an added dimension of absurdity. Here’s an example of one of the questions:
“After Aunt Delia washes off Sarah’s knee, she buys everyone a Good Humor bar. You and Katie ask for vanilla inside with chocolate outside. Sarah orders chocolate inside but you…
a) tell her she has to have vanilla because you say so because it’s your aunt who’s paying.
b) give her a bite of yours when she gives you one of hers.”
I would have added another option or two, and we discussed what those might be, but because at least one of my children has experienced another child saying something along the lines of option a), I couldn’t resist trying to imbue this example with a bit of edification. I said something like, “You know, you might hear kids say things like that, and it’s not ok. What’s happening there is one person trying to manipulate another person into doing something as a way of exerting control. When people do this, it’s because they’re feeling kind of helpless in some aspect in their lives, and they don’t know how to make themselves feel more powerful, so sometimes they do it in ways that don’t make sense and aren’t healthy. It’s not really about the ice cream flavor or the person whose money is buying it; it’s about one kid trying to dominate another kid because he has some kind of negative feelings that he doesn’t know how to heal, even if he isn’t consciously aware of them, so he tries to counteract those feelings by controlling others. Then he feels powerful, but it’s a false kind of power because it comes from treating people poorly and doing things for the wrong reasons.”
At this point, Arlo interrupted me, “Like Donald Trump?”
Kids, man. I’m telling you. They get it.