I’ve been wondering where common manners have gone. I feel like I’m some kind of old-fashioned relic just because I expect people to have manners. I’m not talking about middle-ages chivalry here or some strange guy throwing his brooks brothers down so I can walk over a puddle, just the everyday stuff, like holding the door for the next person or for someone who obviously needs it because they are handicapped or have their hands full. I’m talking about a simple please and thank you. I’m talking about asking instead of demanding, responding with a simple yes or no when you are asked to attend an event. I’m talking about dencent table manners and chewing with your mouth shut. Where have all the good mannered people gone?
Here’s a story from when my kids were younger, before I had a real cell phone and when many of my friends didn’t have one. My Daughter was about 12 and my son was about 9. We were on our way home from a school function. I was wearing a dress and heels and the kids were tired out. It was dark and the roads were a slushy mess from a recent snowstorm. We were barely a block away from the school when my tire went flat. Now let me just say that I am in no way some damsel in distress that doesn’t know how to change a tire. My dad made sure of that. Thanks dad! 🙂 However, I was in a dress and heels and had two young children in the car.
I pulled off onto a neighborhood side street, a cul de sac, I think it was. A few minutes later a few men came out of one of the houses to see what was up. I couldn’t believe that not a one of them lifted a finger or so much as offered to change the tire for me even when I had a little trouble with one of the lug nuts and told them I had the little ones in the car. Although one was kind enough to hold a flash light for me. After all, they were in jeans and boots and I was now squatting in the slush, ice melt, and muck ruining my dress and my heels. I certainly wasn’t going to ask since I was perfectly capable of changing the tire myself, but where were the manners?
On more than one occasion either my husband or I have invited someone over or out somewhere well in advance so that they had time to plan and RSVP only to have them hem-haw around and never hear a definitive from them and find them absent from wherever said invitation was to. Sometimes we’ll even try to make contact a day or two before to no avail. I ask you, where are the manners? A simple yes or no will do people.
When my kids got old enough to attend birthday and slumber parties at their friends’ houses I consistently received high praises from parents about how polite and thoughtful they were. Kids would come to my house and say “I want this” or “I want that” no please, no “may it”, just “I want”. Really? No wonder the other parents thought my kids were a joy to be around.
Don’t even get me started on the way kids dress in public with their saggy pants and wearing their pajamas and slippers in public. I wasn’t even allowed out of my room until I was fully dressed except on Christmas day when I got to wear the pj’s that were picked out by my mother and given as presents to my sister and I the night before.
Yes, I admit, I was raised to have impeccable manners and that is in no way a bad thing. It’s a very good thing. Should good manners be taught in school? No way! Teachers have enough on their plates. Parents should be teaching and showing their kids good manners.
Instead of eating in front of the TV or worse, leaving the kids at the table alone to eat – sit down with them (and don’t get up until they’re done). Show them there is a time and place for everything. Show them how to eat without waving their fork all over the place dropping food all over the floor and playing at the table. Help them learn how to use their utensils and not shovel food into their mouths with their hands before they enter school. Show them how to use their napkin. Don’t let them get away with not saying please and thank you. Be consistent. Show them how to behave in public and enforce consequences when they don’t (hint, the rest of us shouldn’t have to be subject to the temper tantrum of your toddler because he didn’t get a nap before you took him to the high-priced, two hour King Tut exhibit). Suck it up and exit, with your child, stage left. Show them why wearing clothes that are inappropriate in public is rude (hint, the rest of us don’t want to see your son’s underwear or his crack while walking around at the mall and we don’t think hello kitty pajamas are the cool thing to wear to the grocery store). Teach them to take off their hat at the table. Teach them how to look someone in the eye when they speak. Teach them to use words and phrases like please, thank you, excuse me, may I, and sorry.
Show them how far a little bit of manners will take them, because manners is also the beginnings of tact, negotiation skills, communication skills, empathy, and learning to appreciate others.
Here’s the thing, kids should be encouraged to grow and explore and to be anything they want to be, but not at the expense of others and not as ignorant savages. Kids should have parents that care enough to show them how the world truly operates and how to function properly in it. Despite the fact that we all want our kids to be free, there are simple social frameworks required within society to facilitate healthy and productive relationships. Good manners are an essential part of this training.
Anyone else care to add their two cents?