Are Old-Fashioned Good Manners Dead?
How many of us have been there: busy mass transit situation, your legs are killing you after a long day’s work. No available seats, so you stand, exhausted though you are. Through it all, blissfully oblivious, several teens sit comfortably in their seats, earbuds plugged in, heads bobbing. All while your calves and toes scream for mercy.
Rude kids are entirely our fault. We have begun raising an entire legion of etiquette-devoid monsters, whose only mission, it seems, is “Me.” Mainly, it is a matter of putting in the effort. You want a polite child? You must be able to smother away the influences of the outside world, which seeks to corrupt your sweet angel. How do you do that?
- Set Examples. If you eat with your fingers, blow your nose at the table, put your feet up on furniture, sit with your legs splayed, don’t say please and thank you, etc., etc., where the heck will your kids learn what is and isn’t ok, etiquette-wise?
- Make it Routine. Establish habits and rituals that will instill the values you choose to instill. For example, rather than allowing everyone to graze like wild animals wherever they choose, insist on a family meal, where you can keep an eye on table manners and such. It will not only improve their manners, it will improve your family’s bonding.
- Set Rules, and Stick to Them! If the house rule is no swearing, set up a swear jar and make everyone stick to the rule. If it’s no hats or shoes in the house, install a shoe bin or hat rack by every door, to avoid excuses, with an appropriate penalty for transgression.
- Monitor the Online/Mobile Activity. This is one area where rudeness rules: textspeak is short and ugly, doesn’t foster good manners or communication, and the whole online world promotes cyberbullying, which is the ultimate in bad manners. Until your kids are out of the house, keep tabs on their activity. Sure, it may be a bit of a privacy invasion and isn’t necessary 100% of the time, but you would be very glad if you were able to nip a potentially risky or bad situation in the bud.
- Take it On the Road. When you are out with your child, look for ways to teach manners lessons. Offer to help the old lady with her groceries (if she won’t think you’ll steal them!) or hold doors for others. Let them see how good it feels to be polite. It’s addictive.
- Discuss. When you’re watching TV or movies with them and you see something that bothers you, discuss it with your kids. Let them know what it is you disapprove of, and why. They need to understand what the boundaries are, and where to draw them for themselves.