Shaking hands. Eye contact. Promptness. Appropriate dress. Voice modulation. Paying attention. Respect for others. All things that I was taught by my parents, my teachers, my friends’ parents and anyone else that had anything to do with my upbringing. Once these things became ingrained I lost gratitude for them. I didn’t think about whether it was good, bad or indifferent. Just that it was expected if not demanded. That society placed value on manners. This appears to have changed dramatically.
I see this change in the toy store with the screaming and then sullen child who doesn’t get the exact toy they want. It is the cowering parent who pleads with little Johnny to choose something rather than walking that little brat out the door. Had I EVER thrown a fit in a store, the grace of God alone would have been the only intervention considerable enough to save my young behind. If I didn’t like what was being chosen, tough beans. I was grateful for what I got. Not so now. Now it is all about making up for the fact that parents don’t spend time with their kids and think that things will suffice. Not so my friends, not so. Your children feel gypped and are letting you know by throwing that hissy fit. Should that make the behaviour acceptable ? Hell no.
I feel sorry for these kids. I don’t blame them. Not one bit. I blame the lazy parents who don’t teach their children the value of please, thank you, may I and countless other points of etiquette that make the difference between a child I will spend the afternoon with and one I want to duct tape. It does the child a disservice when instead of insisting on a modicum of decent behaviour, the parent rewards the tantrum with a toy. What does that get you ? A generation of kids who just suck.
Going to school has been an eye-opening experience in this regard. The sense of entitlement is huge. Unbelievably huge. Is this true for everyone ? Absolutely not. I have met some lovely people who are shining examples of good parenting. Yes, I will play the “your momma raised you good, son” card. Momma’s do deserve some credit as well as criticism. I have met others that absolutely make me cringe on a regular basis. No regard for others. No regard for manners. No regard for values. It’s all about them all the time. Like some nasty infomercial that you get sucked in to watching at 2am when the insomnia strikes. Or some kind of really bad reality TV show where you yell at the screen – are you kidding me ? Really ??
This saddens me. It also makes me appreciate the time and effort I have put in to my fantastic kids (yes, I will go there – they are fantastic) for whom I regularly receive compliments about their behaviour. Can they be a pain in the butt ? Abso-freaking-lutely. Can I take them to a store or restaurant and be assured I will not have to yank them by the ear to the car ? You betcha. My kids get what matters most: my time. Not only physical time but the time I spent in teaching manners to them in the first place. The time I spent researching positive parenting techniques. I will confess that those techniques don’t always spring to mind when they are being a pain in the butt but I digress.
I value my kids and the people they will become. I value the effort and expectation that my parents put in to and placed on me. I value that my children are a credit to me and their father where ever they are. Do they occasionally pull a bone headed move ? Or what we can euphemistically refer to as a stellar teaching moment ? For sure. But they’ve learned the basics. They’ve learned to value other people’s time and effort. They’ve lived with a mother who abhors being late. Who routinely demonstrates that you are never too old to work on self-improvement. Who does not hesitate to apologize if I have suffered a bone headed moment with them or anyone else. Who does not tolerate rudeness and will impose consequences for inappropriate behavior, not reward when the screaming stops. If my kids ever tried to enter in to a screaming contest with me, who do you think got the toy ? It sure as hell wasn’t them. And I still enjoy a good round of play dough now and again.
My point is that manners never lose value. That the generations who have come of age during the “me” generation are now in turn having their own little “me” monsters. Please and thank you are a rarity rather than common place. Showing up on time and giving respect to whom ever is waiting comes second to the gratification of a Tim’s coffee. Giving full attention to the person in front of you is put on hold for the little screen ringing and vibrating in your pocket. Being rude masquerades as multi-tasking. This is not progress. This is not an improvement to society. Personal gratification is what is being demanded rather than valuing personal integrity. This is not a change that I value at all.