Teach Your Child to Give the Magic of Seven

A lighthearted yet powerful trick to teach good manners.

Posted Feb 28, 2014

I recall a few years ago when I was on a plane and struck up a very nice conversation with a young family sitting across the aisle. They had a son who was four years old and a daughter who was six.

There was a typical exchange of pleasantries in addition to sharing a little bit about our lives. One of those experiences, you could say, where people just seem to hit it off . I smiled to myself as we were about to stand up once the signal came for us all to deplane. I was thinking that I would likely remember this delightful family. In particular, I was reflecting, at the time, on the enjoyable conversation I had with with their four-year-old son. I was quite moved by the young boy's enthusiasm to share about his life and the innocence he had at that tender, young age. Little did I know that he was about to school me in a lesson that I have since passed on to many parents and their children when I meet them…

As I stood up and went to shake hands, he politely put his hand out first ahead of the group. I smiled, and as I went to shake his hand, I heard his father say, "Please make sure you give him seven." The boy smiled and replied, "Yes, dad." He then reached for my hand with a firm handshake and looked me right in the eye.

I caught on quite fast that "giving seven" means five fingers and two eyes when greeting or saying goodbye. I treasured this message of "giving seven" and my young clients, along with their parents, seem to value it as well. When I don't get initally get seven from a young person coming into my office, I calmly share the story of what this four-year-old boy taught me. Children usually think of giving seven as "cool" and this soft, indirect coaching in manners seems to warm parents hearts as well. This life lesson of "giving seven "is something that I wanted to share here with you. I hope you can all pay it forward and spread the magic of giving seven.

Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein is a psychologist with over twenty-two years’ experience specializing in child, adolescent, couples, and familytherapy. He holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the State University of New York at Albany and completed his post doctoral internship at the University of Pennsylvania Counseling Center. He has appeared twice on the Today Show, Court TV as an expert advisor, CBS eyewitness news Philadelphia, 10! Philadelphia—NBC and public radio. Dr. Bernstein has authored four books, including the highly popular 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child (Perseus Books, 2006), 10 Days to Less Distracted Child (Perseus Books 2007), Liking the Child You Love (Perseus Books 2009) and Why Can’t You Read My Mind? (Perseus Books 2003).