Hooray, it’s National Parent’s Day! An annual celebration held on the 4th Sunday of July that recognizes parental figures and honors them for the significant and supportive role they play in their children’s lives.

This special day of observance pays tribute to all parental figures whether biological, foster or step, single or married, traditional or non-traditional. Regardless of how our families are comprised, most will agree that parenting in today’s world is relentless and requires the deft hand of an expert as well as a magician. The responsibilities are endless, and the rewards are plenty, but it is truly with luck that our children are able to grow up unscathed and actually able to thrive.

For those that assume it’s a day for parents to kick back and relax and be pampered by their children, don’t be mistaken. Although the day celebrates the unconditional bond of love between parents and their children, the true purpose of National Parent’s Day is to raise awareness on responsible parenting and encourage positive parental role models. Established in 1994 by President Bill Clinton, this day acknowledges the parental figure for their commitment, investment and focus in their child’s growth and development.

A parent’s greatest concern is that their children grow up with a healthy sense of self-esteem and that they are kind and empathetic. A parent who incorporates the teaching of good manners is essentially providing them with these crucial characteristics and enabling them to use this special skill set to help them not only feel comfortable within their own skin, but also to feel confident interacting with others.

Manners, after all, are “the secret sauce” to raising confident, poised, comfortable, communicative, happy children. They are the adhesive that holds everything together. These life-long, commonsense guidelines help children become more socially intelligent by providing them with the tools needed to assess situations, approach people and apply themselves as gracefully and effortlessly as possible. Knowing how to behave in any type of situation and learning how to get along with others and thrive is essential to survival and success in today’s fiercely competitive world.

In order for children to fully flourish, they must receive encouragement and inspiration from their parents. It is the parents responsibility to instill the three “R’s”: (a) Raise Awareness, (b) Apply Repetition and (c) practice Role-Modeling. By earning their children’s respect and practicing what they preach, parents are making a direct and positive impact into their children’s overall happiness and future success.

Below are five key areas in which parents may introduce good manners habits into their children’s lives, along with practical exercises for application in the home.

1. The Importance of a Positive Attitude

  • It all begins with a smile
  • Positive thinking leads to positive results
  • The energy you put out into the world is the energy that is returned to you
  • Choosing gratitude over entitlement reaps endless rewards

Exercise for Parents: Have a conversation about the importance of smiling and make a pact with your children to smile more often. Encourage your children to practice their smile in front of the mirror twice a day after brushing their teeth. Make it a house rule that all family members must greet each other with a warm and cheerful hello or good morning each day, even if they don’t feel like it. The reason for this exercise is to show how a pleasant smile and positive attitude can help set the tone for an entire day and increase the likelihood of positive encounters across the board.

2. The Effect of Making a Good First Impression

  • A good first impression creates opportunities
  • Communicates a self-awareness that exudes confidence
  • Allows you to stand out from the crowd
  • Makes you a likeable and approachable person

Exercise for Parents: Find one aspect of yourself in the way you look, the way you sound or the way you act, that might be inhibiting you from making a good first impression and have your children do the same. Make a deal with your children to alter this aspect and continue a more becoming pattern going forward. For example, dad may need to start shaving more often to avoid looking scruffy at work or daughter may need to stop gossiping with her friends at school, etc. The hope is that, through this exercise, children will notice how making one small personal adjustment can lead to a world of possibility for the better.

3. The Advantage of Adaptable Behavior

  • Being a chameleon encourages us to assimilate even when we might feel uncomfortable
  • Taking risks is part of life and often leads to unimagined gifts from the universe
  • Participating in new experiences and exploring new environments demonstrates our openness to the world
  • Acceptance of others (different cultures, diverse religions, etc.) is vital to success in today’s society

Exercise for the Family: Designate one weekend afternoon per month in which a member of the family may select a unique outing for everyone to participate in together that is completely unfamiliar and which will require them all to adapt. This may be as simple as a hike and afternoon picnic in Temescal Canyon or a visit to Chinatown for a dim sum Sunday brunch. The motive of the exercise is to unlock new experiences and expand the horizons of the family unit creating an adventure that is new to all.

4. The Value in Creating Boundaries

  • Earning your child’s respect must be a primary focus
  • It’s okay to say “no!”
  • Acting like a parent and being a good role model is what your children yearn for and need
  • Showing love and taking an interest are key components to the whole picture

Exercise for the Family: Create an arbitrary ban on all electronic communications for an hour each weekend. This means parents and children alike must abstain from using cell phones, texting, Facebooking or partaking of other social networking sites, playing video games, working on their computer, etc. Instead everyone in the family should find an alternate activity such as making conversation, reading a book, playing an instrument, doing handwritten homework, etc. The purpose of this exercise is to get family members to stop retreating behind modern technologies and begin interacting with one another using traditional communication skills.

5. The Significance of the Family Meal

  • Creates an opportunity to introduce good health habits
  • Allows family members to review their day and practice conversation skills
  • Promotes better learners, especially when presented with a well-balanced, nutritious meal
  • Offers a chance for everyone to slow down and connect in person

Exercise for the Family: Select one night of the week where all family members must dine together. This experience should be different and more civilized than the family dinners typically experienced during the week. The table should be set using formal dishware, glassware and silverware, if possible, and all family members should be encouraged to dress for dinner. The meal should be made with care using only the freshest ingredients. Parents and children alike should make pleasant table conversation. The goal of this exercise is to witness how these seemingly frivolous changes can enhance the overall enjoyment and experience of dining together.

So take the time to send a personal card, a handmade gift or a bouquet of flowers to any parent who has made a difference in your life. And, if you are a parent, enjoy this day and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well-done thus far and then dig your heels back in the trenches and continue forward…