Mrs. McVeigh's Manners
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Show your Children and their Teachers Respect

            Teachers in our country seem to encounter two extreme situations in their school districts when it comes to parents. The first is the parents are not involved at all with their child’s education, and never read to their children or help with homework. The second is the parents are very involved, from constantly telling the teacher what do, to “helping” with their children’s homework. It is the second extreme that I experience in my school district. Parent involvement is great, but a lot of parents take it too far when they are trying to be a help, which ultimately is disrespectful to their child and their teacher.

It is very common to see parents fighting battles against the teacher for their children. Even as young as Kindergarten, encourage your child to talk to his teacher if he has an issue. If you storm up there and tell the teacher that he/she is doing something wrong, your child will expect you to fight his battles for the rest of his life. (Sadly I know of parents who call their child’s Human Resources Department or boss asking why their 25 year old did not get a raise this year.) Role-play with your child about what he is going to say to his teacher, and if it is his first time, tell him you will go with him, but stand back and let him handle it. Then stand by the teacher’s decision. I heard of a parent who was discussing a situation with her child and teacher, did not like what the teacher had to say, so told her child that she is the boss, not his teacher.

            Second, do not do your child’s homework for him. Helping by checking it over is one thing, doing it for him is undermining the teacher and you are not doing your child any good. My first two sons had the same 2nd grade teacher, two years apart. When the second one had her I noticed she was not sending home as much homework. I asked her why and she said it is because too many parents were doing the homework for their kids. I asked her how she could tell, and she said the homework was coming back in the parent’s handwriting.

            Lastly, do not bad mouth a teacher to all the other parents, or give your child a bias on the teacher they end up with. Not every teacher is a good fit for every child, but it does not make him/her a bad teacher. I get upset at the beginning of the year when parents freak out about their teacher, and it is because one of their friends did not like him. Give your teacher a chance, and just because you do not like him, does not mean that you child will feel the same way.  

Handling Uncomfortable Situations

              We all have an occasional “situation” with people who we interact with everyday, whether they are a friend, family member, or co-worker. What is the best way to deal with these uncomfortable situations? As much as most of us hate confrontation, you have to deal with people by communicating directly in order to get past a problem.             It is great if you have a relationship with someone that you can just bluntly tell him or her that he offended you, and then he apologizes, and vice-versa. As we all know having a relationship like this is rare, because as human beings we get our feelings hurt, get defensive, or just hate to be criticized. For the 99% of the people who we cannot be blunt with and get it over with, you still have to face up to the unpleasant task of talking things through. The approach you never want to take is to sweep it under the carpet and leave the situation without discussing and settling it. Resentment can build up, and the next time a “situation” occurs, it will become twice as big as it should be.             The best way to handle an uncomfortable situation is to ask to meet in person to discuss it. If that is not an option, pick up the phone. Be a good listener and let the person vent. If you truly are wrong then just go ahead and admit it. It is amazing how quiet a person becomes when you simply apologize. All the anger he or she felt up to that moment seems to go away.  Arguing back adds fuel to the person’s fire, but an apology puts out the fire immediately. If you have points to make in a rebuttal, before you explain your side try to summarize what you hear the other person saying. This will validate if you are hearing him correctly, and then he knows that you are truly concerned and are listening. After you agree that you understand the person’s grievances, calmly explain your actions or point of view. If you keep your voice low and non-threatening, the person should calm down and lower his volume.             Never handle a disagreement over email. What is the first thing you do when you get an unpleasant email from someone? You pass it on to everyone you think will care. You never know who will end up seeing the email, and how it will be used against you. Also, your tone of voice can easily be misinterpreted. Seeing a person’s expressions is priceless, and people seem to act more reasonably when they see you are truly looking sorry and concerned for how they feel. There is no substitute for talking something out. No matter if you think you are right or wrong, always appear calm and apologize for how the person feels. If you think humor will be taken in the right way, then start using it as soon as possible in the conversation. It is hard to yell at someone after ...

Feedback from Dallas Morning News Readers

 Nothing like constructive "feedback" from my readers. On the article that appeared in yesterday's Dallas Morning News Neighborsgo that I wrote about wearing pjs out in public, one reader thought I sounded snobby and judgemental about how people dress. Not my intention whatsoever. Just suggesting that people may want to wear "daytime" clothes.  Another reader liked what I said, and totally cracked me up! She emailed me a grocery store ad that invited people to show up in their pajamas to their bakery, and receive a complimentary cinnamon roll!  That is too funny and coincidental!

Thanks to everyone who reads my columns and blog. I love feedback - positive and negative. 

Good Manners and Volunteer Work


            I had a reader tell me she went to her child’s school the other day as a volunteer cashier in the cafeteria. The volunteer sitting next to her talked to her the whole time about how terrible her life was going. The reader said it was so depressing to hear this woman go on and on, she had to go talk to a friend during a lull just to get a break from this woman. Is it rude to bring your personal life to a volunteer job? Here are some things to remember when volunteering.


·      Treat a volunteer job just like a real job. You would not bring your personal problems to the office, so do not do that when volunteering.

·      Take the volunteer job seriously. If you have a deadline, then meet it. If you are supposed to make phone calls, recruit other volunteers, or stay within a budget, then do your best to accomplish what others are expecting you to accomplish.

·      Show up on time, and if you are running late, have a phone number handy to call someone to let him know.

·      If you cannot fulfill your volunteer commitment, then find your replacement. Do not put it back on other people in the organization. Do you best to find someone who can do the job as well, or better than you could.

·      Feel free to turn down a volunteer job. Saying yes out of guilt or because it is your best friend and she really needs your help could lead to disaster. Someone rather have you say no then do a bad job, or quit in the middle of it. Feel free to ask a lot of questions first, ask to speak to the person who had the job before you, and make sure the job meets your other goals in life.


            Being a good volunteer is important. Complaining or being negative during a volunteer job, or about a volunteer job makes it a lot less fun for the other volunteers. Use it as a fun distraction from your everyday life, and feel good that you are helping others.



Text-speak affects thank you notes

My sons are writing their thank you notes for Christmas presents to all of the relatives. I look them over before we mail them off, and I noticed one wrote “Thx” instead of “Thanks”. Before I could give him a lecture on how inappropriate this is, he replies, “Sorry Mom. I did not mean to, and did not even notice that I wrote that.”

“Text-speak” has become integrated into our lives. Adults who have been alive long enough typically do not have a hard time with abbreviating everything in more formal correspondence, but younger people are being raised with this form of communication. It is affecting their everyday writing, and I have heard of teachers really struggling with getting students to stop using this form of language.             

Let’s review the rules of when text-speak is appropriate. If you are truly texting or emailing a friend, then it is fine. If you are emailing a friend asking him to forward your resume on, then I make it more formal. You never know if someone is going to copy and paste the part that is appropriate for anyone else to see, or if he will just forward on your original email. If it is an email to anyone at work, then formal is better. Texting a co-worker with abbreviated words is fine if it is a personal matter, but not if it is someone higher than you.   

Explain to any students living in your household that teachers and professors expect complete sentences and correct grammar and punctuation. Tell your child to proof read his emails to make sure the tone is clear, and that misspelled words and bad grammar are a distraction from the point that he is trying to get across.

Last, but not least, when you are hand writing a thank you note, use complete words and sentences, and double check that there is not any “text-speak” in the note. 

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