Sunday, June 9, 2013

What happened to manners?

 The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.     - Socrates

Growing up, my brother and I were taught to say "please" and "thank you".  We learned that you must asked to be excused from the table after dinner and that it is common courtesy to hold a door open from someone.  Thank-you phone calls were always made after receiving birthday cards.  All gifts acknowledged with notes.  Apologizing for a wrong was expected.  

Today, I feel as though our children and even many adults are seriously lacking in the manners department.   Common courtesy.  Respect.  Showing appreciation.  Whatever you want to call it.

Contrary to how this appears, Ellie is not choking Jack.  She is actually hugging him.  Er, tackle hugging him.
Currently we are trying to teach her to not just run up and hug friends, but to ask first and to be gentle.

My college roommate and I once handed out goodies to 300+ kids at a Philadelphia elementary school.  Guess how many children thanked us?  One.  One child out of three-hundred.  Too many times to count, I have found myself weighed down with a 10 lb diaper bag while pushing a stroller restraining a cranky toddler-Bear and  would be the one holding the door open for children, teenagers, and adults. (Let me tell you, I rarely receive a smile let alone a thank you so perhaps I need to start letting the door slam in their faces.) I occasionally pass out from shock when a young school-aged child holds the door for me.  So much so that I thank him profusely and then inform his parents of his awesome manners.  There is hope for our youth! 

Or what about sorry? If my charming "angel" pulls your child's shirt because it has a ball on it or glitter, I help her sign "sorry" .  Yet so many times I am left fuming because a parent witnesses her own little darling shove Ellie and ignores it.  I am not upset with the child, after all he or she is learning, but I am rather annoyed with the parent. I get that kids push, shove, and steal toys, but if no one tells her not to do it and that it isn't nice then child grows up thinking that all is hers for the taking.    

Some things just shouldn't be shared.  Like viruses, snot, and chewy tubes.

It used to be that if you found a wallet, you turned it in.  Of course you turn it in.  It doesn't belong to you. That is honesty.  Now, if you find money or a wallet and turn it in, you make the news!  Because being honest is rare, I suppose.  The chant Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers is running through my head right now. I do not mean to sound like a sanctimonious little snot, but rudeness really does grate on my nerves.  

When did we stop teaching our children common courtesy?  Is it when we became so absorbed in our smart phones to look up and pay attention to our progeny?  Do parents just not have the time?  Or maybe the parents themselves lack manners (which sadly I have seen all to often). Yes, I realize that I am placing a fair amount of blame on the parents here.  I do believe that children can pick up good behaviors from teachers and other kids, but I also believe it starts at home, at the earliest of ages. We seem to feed into our current generation's sense of entitlement and it is only going to hurt our children later on in life.  

Clearly, not very ladylike.

Perhaps my views of social politeness are a bit antiquated.  Although, I am not asking for married woman to refer to their husbands or partners as "Mr./Mrs. Smith" as opposed to his/her first name nor am I requesting that A lady ought to adopt a modest and measured gait; too great hurry injures the grace which ought to characterize her. She should not turn her head on one side and on the other, especially in large towns or cities, where this bad habit seems to be an invitation to the impertinent. A lady should not present herself alone in a library, or a museum, unless she goes there to study, or work as an artist(Good Manners for Young Ladies, 1800s), because, well, I have failed this horribly.  Me, ladylike?  Yeah, right! However, I still expect the usual please, thank you and I feel as though Chick-Fil-A is the only place that has it mastered.  Come on McDonald's, step it up a bit!

Ellie is still learning to navigate the world, but she is slowly learning that courteous words/signs should to used in certain situations. I am trying very hard to teach Ellie the basic foundation of kindness.  She scribbles on thank-you notes, signs "sorry", "please", and "thank you".  She cleans the table after all meals even if she sometimes mixes up the trash vs. sink.  Ellie may not understand exactly why we are doing these things yet, but in time she will.  However, I am beginning to think that keeping her feet off the table will be a long battle. . . along with wearing shoes in public places.  Oh and not running up to random men and calling them "dada".   

Ah dinner etiquette.  At least her elbows are not on the table.

Cupcake Thief: not okay.

A common scenario:

Ellie sees a child playing with a ball

E: BALL!!!!!!!  
signs "my turn, share, please"
yanks ball out of child's hand, aka stealing and hands him whatever toy she was playing with (she was going for a trade transaction)
signs "thank you, sorry"
The poor kid has no idea what has hit him (or what on Earth Ellie was doing with her hands). 

It is a start.  It isn't perfect. It is a work in progress. 

The art of sharing

Even with my rant about lack of manners, I do need to tell you that several of my friends are doing great with their children.  They try to teach the little bambinos about sharing and they help them write Thank-You notes after birthday parties.  My one friends little girl is particularly verbose and is by far the most polite child I have even met.  

She is 3.5 years-old and our conversations go like this:

B: "Uh excuse me, Miss Anna, may I (I know, may I) please have some water?"

me: Yes, you may.

B:  Thank you, ma'am

She then proceeded to tell her mama that Ellie doesn't have nice manners (snicker snicker).  I don't think I ever laughed so hard.  Hah!  

Clearly my good friend has read Parents 25 Manners Every Kid Should Know By Age 9. . . in fact, I think she had the goal of her kid mastering them by age 3.  How did she teach Little B?  By modeling.  

As per Rachel Coleman of the Signing Time! series: "please, thank you, sorry makes everyone feel good."

Other articles:

Narcissistic and Entitled to Everything! Does Gen Y Have Too Much Self Esteem?

Grandmothers blame lazy parenting for children's rudeness and lack of table manners  Daily UK

How to teach manners to toddlers, kids, and tweens. (2010)

Raising your child to have good manners.



  1. Thank you for this post! I agree with you 100%, but realize I have been a bit slack in this area as of late. Thanks for the reminder. :-)

    1. Thanks Jill! I feel like it is a continual work in progress.

  2. Your little girl is such a doll and I bet you ohm nom nom all over her all the time.

    Also, Just a little 'faith in humanity restored' story. It's not a holding doors story or please and thank you (well kinda a thank you) but a heart warming story nonetheless.

    I witnessed this Saturday evening at Steak N Shake (I copied it from my Facebook and pasted it here)

    Today we went to Steak N Shake for dinner and there was an elderly lady sitting alone next to us. At one point, the waitress came to her and said that a man sitting across the restaurant was going to pay for her bill today. The woman couldn't see that far and asked if the man could come to her so she could thank him. She gave the waitress the tip for her services and then the man later came to accept thanks.

    When the lady asked him why he paid for her bill he said that when his waitress delivered food to his table her bill fell off the tray and landed on his table. He said it was a sign from God to pay for her bill.

    Just being a witness to this filled my heart with such happiness and hope because he was a complete stranger and a young boy of about 18 or 19.

    1. Oooh, I do love this story! Thanks for sharing it on the blog. I also like the fact that you were at a Steak N Shake :)

  3. I couldn't agree more with this post and something similar was swirling in my head recently about the act of using manners. I use the indoor track at my YMCA most nights. It overlooks the basketball court/gym and the indoor swimming pool. Kids keep throwing/kicking balls up onto the track and even when I ask them nicely not to do it and throw the ball back to them, they continue. When I was a kid and an adult asked me not to do something and it was within reason, I obeyed--no questions asked--because they are the adults. I had to take my case to the front desk after a ball nearly took off my nose. Of course the kids tried to deny the whole thing, but I had a blue plastic ball in my hands and red, puffy nose to prove it. And where were the parents? Sitting in the lobby drinking coffee and fiddling with their cell phones.......that's the problem.

    I have reinforced manners with Owen since he was young. His first signs were please and thank you. He uses them everywhere we go. We too write thank you notes and I have him do a scribble. Very few people even bother to acknowledge their thanks/gratitude for anything any more. I always have to end up asking "Did the present/book/card/etc. make its way to you?" so that I know they even got it. I don't see this changing any time soon unfortunately.

    I think slamming the door in people's faces is just going to have to happen. Sometimes I go ahead and say loudly when they don't even acknowledge my holding the door for them "OH, YOU'RE WELCOME!".

    1. Ha! I have don't the "you're welcome" too. My own friends and one relative with wedding gifts--"did you get the gift we sent you?" and the typical response for this is "uh, yeah, sorry". By the time I ask if they receive it, I am past the thank-you part, I just want an acknowledgement that it isn't sitting on someone else's porch or lost on a UPS truck. It makes me not want to send them any gifts because clearly they are not appreciated. For the most part, my friends are awesome and are trying to teach their kids. It is the strangers!

  4. I have conflicting feelings about this post. I overuse sorry and thank you to the point where I have been told to stop saying that, but it pops out whenever I am given anything or have anything at all done for me. I'm trying to teach my girls manners and a few days ago I was thinking about how the nerdlet and Darth baby are simultaneously the most polite and rude children at the same time in the exact same way.

    The nerdlet is so very considerate of others. She always takes turns and really cares not to hurt anyone's feelings. She would never rip anything out of another child's hands that she didn't have first and in most cases, she would let a child rip it out of her hands and find something else to play with. Words however, she doesn't seem to get the importance of no matter how much she is prompted. She's not going to spontaneously say 'I'm sorry' or 'Thank you' ever. She will express remorse and gratitude, but not necessarily to the person and not in words. Kate once yelled 'Excuse me' as she ran 5 feet around a group, but I've seen her duck her head down as she gets close to people and not once have I heard her say it when she is close enough for it to mean something.

    Darth Baby, on the other hand, has all the right words and practically none of the consideration. She says 'Thank you' almost every time anything is done for her or given to her. It is rote and she has it down pat, but she seems to think everything is going to be given to her. She is going to say 'I'm sorry' and 'Excuse me' in the sweetest Pebbles-like voice, but it will be as she pushes, shoves, and grabs to get what she wants.

    I'm not sure that I'm really wanting to fix the nerdlet, who comes across as mannerless, so much as teach Darth Baby the intent behind her words. My SIL is super concerned with manners and my niece has them, but she is also growing up with an extreme sense of entitlement. I guess I think that the problem with kids and their manners is more an issue of the parents modeling respect towards other people. Obviously, I'm trying with the manners, but I do get my feathers up when people comment on the nerdlet's lack of manners.

    I'm also tempted to add a bit on smart phones to my diatribe, but I've gotten a lot of flack for this being a personal issue.

    1. Man, I wish I could edit this now, both in words and length. I do understand your sentiment.

    2. Oooh I like this response. Smart phones!!!! That is a whole other post. My husband is guilty too. Seriously, you have to check CNN or FB status while on a date?!?!?! It is interesting to see the differences between the kiddos. The thing is, you are trying and it is obvious to people. I get more annoyed when I see adults with kids being rude. Kids learn by modeling, by example and if the parents are being rude. . . well, you see where I am going with this. Bear can be a little stinker, but I try to help her with signing sorry and explaining why. There is a lot of "time out! We do not pull shirts. That hurts" followed by her signing "sorry" to the accosted child. I then, of course, have to explain that she is signing sorry and that she just like the kid's shirt. I am trying. . .

    3. No no no edit! I like your honesty!

  5. I guess it all comes down to us parents being good role models. thanks for sharing your thoughts Anna! Oh and Ellie seriously makes me laugh! I can totally picture her grabbing the toy from the poor unsuspecting child and then signing "thank you, sorry". Lol! Too cute!

  6. Good stuff. Thank you. Our Adam is the talker, and he is super good about manners. He even says "Excuse me" when he wants someone's attention. Reading this reminded me that I can expect the same from Levi, even if it is through signing rather than speaking. He signs please and thank you, but your post gave me some new ones to teach.

    I brought the boys with me to a teacher training I did recently & on a break, the hotel staffers were making popcorn. Some teachers tried to get some before it was ready & the guy told them (at lunchtime) it was for their afternoon break & they'd have to come back. Levi went up and signed "popcorn...please." I translated, and the man excitedly said, "Now, this little guy can have some popcorn!!!"

    1. Oh Levi! I love it! "popcorn please". I always have to translate too, but it shows the child and the parents that we are trying to teach her kindness and manners. My beef is more of the parents and school-age kids on up who should already know their manners and understand the reasoning behind them. Ellie doesn't understand the WHY behind the thank you and sorry yet but she will.

  7. I definitely agree. My kids all grew up saying please and thank you. Cards were sent for gifts. My granddaughter is now learning... if she is thirsty? "Nana. I need a drink!" She is learning that she gets nothing that way! She is recognizing the frown on my face and then will humbly ask, Nana? May I have a drink please?" YES!! And we do the happy dance and we laugh... and she gets her drink. They have to be taught.

    1. Exactly, they do have to be taught! I love that you are helping your granddaughter learn :)


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