Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Please and thank yous and the basics

I am often complimented by fellow parents and even strangers on how polite my boys are.  Now I am not writing this blog from the "oh look at me and the compliments I get" point of view.  Sure I am proud of them for this but I also think they have what I count as fairly basic manners, there are many things they do (fork holding, lack of knife cutting skills, some burping) that make me cringe.  Luckily I usually have to at most deal with elbows on table type stuff in public, bodily functions are contained to the joys of our home.  The cutlery skills will keep being worked on. 

I am writing this blog because people should not be that impressed by these basic skills.  Manners and being considerate are not special skills they are necessities.  I grew up in a house where my father in particular was an extreme stickler for them, how to hold a knife, how to not switch hands when cutting as he did not get this habit being European, no elbows on table, both hands visible because after all I had not lost one in a war.  All of this was frustrating many times, led to some doozy meals and at my worst led me to shout "I am not eating with the Queen of England" to which he replied "But if you ever got invited to you wouldn't know how to unless you eat like that every day".  I get the point now I got an ulcer then.  Now his methods were not correct, they lacked etiquette ironically since yelling at your dinner partner is never on the "acceptable" list, but his message was.  

As a parent I am charged with helping to shape future behaviors.  My boys should know to say please and thank you because it means someone is showing a kindness or giving them something.  They should know to walk into a house or a room and speak with an adult present and introduce themselves.  They should not expect things because they proclaim "I am hungry", always followed by "nice to meet you" if they or their friends say it to me.  I would expect them to treat people they know this way and it is not acceptable to treat people who are in a service industry this way.  

My kids should know how to make a phone call and politely ask to speak to someone even if it's most likely they will communicate via text more.  I do not know when it became acceptable to not teach these things to children, when we stopped expecting people to let others go on public transportation as we walk out, to not hold a door for a woman if you are a man, to hold a door for a pregnant woman regardless of who you are, to offer a seat to someone elderly or pregnant or holding a child.  I do not know when people think the green light was given to walk into a room and not say hello, or get up when guests come or go to your home, or just brush past each other without an excuse me.  This does not make you hip or cool it just makes you lacking in manners and rude. 

Manners are not bourgeois or hoity toity they set markers that help us acknowledge one another in a positive way.  The art of knowing how to eat with utensils elevates your meal and you can actually not chow through it but enjoy it - this is not a bad thing it makes us appreciative of having a meal.  If we cannot show basic manners to our fellow humans how are we to show compassion, caring, understanding and acknowledgement of their presence for bigger things.     

So thank you for telling me how well my kids act but I believe that most of their friends have the same manners.  I believe that many parents still care enough to raise children who show consideration and that the outliers stand out because of this reason.  I try and model this behavior for my children as often as possible because if they cannot see the person as worthy of the respect manners conveys, including eating well instead of stuffing your face as if the cook shoveled it on your plate, then how can they respect people?  Let us continue to raise children who are better than us because the world will benefit from it. 

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