where have all the manners gone?

August 1, 2013

Ok. I am really fed up.  I think those of you who know me in life or have been reading for the 6 and 1/2 years that I have been writing know that I really try to look for the best in everyone.  I do.  I know that no one is perfect. We all have bad days.  But lately, I just cannot get over how rude and mean little girls have become.

When did we stop teaching our daughters manners people?  (and yes, I know boys can be rude too but I honestly do not see this as much with boys as I do with girls right now...probably because I am  around more little girls).

It starts with please and thank you.  I drive a lot of carpools (for camps, dance, art, sports, gymnastics, school).  Parents,please teach your children to say "Thank you for the ride, Mrs. Peanut." Is that too hard?  I know my daughter forgets sometimes but she remembers a lot of times too. And my boys never forget. I have drilled it into them. There are kids I drive day after day, year after year, that have never said thank you.  It is rude.

Once, I was picking up some children from somewhere because their Mom had an emergency. I don't mind doing this at all.  We all need to help each other out, right?  I brought all the kids snacks too.  The first thing one child did was complain.  She expressed anger that I was picking her up rather than her Mom.  Another stranger Mom overheard and said, "you should be grateful this woman is doing your Mom a favor."  Amen sister!

Next, I handed them all a snack.  The same little girl turned up her nose and said, "I don't like this. What else do you have?" Seriously?!  How about..."thank you for the snack, Mrs. Peanut." It seems that almost every time I have a friend over for Kate, some of the girls don't like the snacks we offer (apples, cheese sticks, pretzels, popcorn, blueberries, chips and salsa) and they go right in my pantry looking for something better (we don't have oreos or goldfish).  My kids would not do that.  I have taught them better.  I have taught them to say  "no, thank you" if they don't want something. We have role played what to do if they go to someone's house for lunch or dinner and they don't like what is being served.  I have taught them that you don't complain and you NEVER go in someone's refrigerator or pantry looking for something better.  You take a few polite bites and then eat more when you get home.  And you always say "thank you for the delicious dinner." Since my kids could utter the word "mama,"  I taught them the words,"thank you for the delicious dinner."  In fact, at the Peanut dinner table, that is all you are allowed to say about the meal.  You are not allowed to say you don't like something.  You are not allowed to say, "yuck."  Someone worked hard to buy the ingredients and prepare a meal.  You do not get to complain.

If I make something my kids don't really like, they have strategically figured out a polite way to express it.   Will is the best at this.  He will say, "Thank you for the delicious dinner Mom but I am not sure we should add this to our regular rotation."  That way he does not insult the food I have lovingly prepared but he lets me know he doesn't like it as much as our regular dinners.   And the ultimate compliment is "We should add this to our regular rotation, Mom!" The other peanuts have learned from his example.  Although Kate is still a work in progress with her table manners sometimes.  But we work on them daily.

I think people have gotten so busy trying to teach their kids to be stellar select team athletes and top of the class GT students and little fashionsitas that they have overlooked some of the simple but most important things...grace and courtesy.  

A little girl on Kate's gymnastics team is being really mean to her.  She questions Kate's heritage commanding Kate to "prove" she was born in China.  When Kate shared her Chinese name with said girl, the girl started teasing her that Dan Ru was her "boyfriend" not her Chinese name.  She tells Kate she does not like her and tries to get the other girls to say it to Kate too.  She pushes Kate out of line and cuts in front of her.  Kate tells me all the "sassy" things this girl says day after day. And I think to myself, where does this come from?  In fact, I woke up at 3 am this morning wondering why this girl is being so darned mean to Kate (who would not hurt a fly).

It comes from two places.  First, children who misbehave usually are feeling bad in some aspect of their lives.  Secondly, they have not learned a better way to behave.  Either their parents have not taught them grace and courtesy or they have not modeled it or BOTH.

Let me share another example of how we teach it.....

One day Kate and I were walking home from school and a little girl stopped us and asked "Whose tummy did Kate grow in?"  Oh my.  My heart stopped with that question.  Kate was standing right there.  I took a deep breath and said, "We don't know honey."  She continued..."How could you not know? Why didn't her Mommy want her?"  I was STUNNED!  She kept going and going with rude and insensitive questions. "Why did her Mommy give her away?" Okay, she was a kindergartener so maybe she did not know better.  BUT her 40-something year old Mom was standing right there and never jumped in.  She never said, "Sweetie, that is not our business."  or "All that matters is Kate has a loving family."  I was livid.  I politely shut her questions down once I saw her Mom was not going to do so. She never even looked embarrassed that her daughter was asking rude, personal and insensitive questions.  This is my point.  We have opportunities every single day to teach our kids boundaries and kindness and empathy and manners.  But so many parents today fail to do so.

I am not perfect and my kids are not perfect.  We all have off days. Once I yelled at a sales clerk at the AT&T store in front of Will.  I was having a very bad day.  I ran out of patience. Afterwards, I apologized and told Will how wrong it was and I have never done it again. More importantly,  I have worked diligently and consistently for 16 years to teach my kids graciousness.  And you know what?  They are polite, sweet compassionate kids. ANYONE who has ever met them would tell you that.  It is an investment in a person's soul to teach them kindness.  It is more important than teaching them to read before kindergarten y'all!

This makes it really hard to find good friends for my daughter.  Again, Kate is not perfect.  But she is inclusive and loving and sweet.  She would not say mean things to someone because she knows it is wrong. And she knows that because we have taught her that!  I want her to be surrounded by loving friends with compassionate and understanding hearts.  Friends who don't mind that sometimes it takes her a long time to get her sentences out and will not tell her to "hurry up" or "spit it out."  I want her to have friends who don't question how she came to our family but are just glad she is here.  I want her to have friends who lift her up not tear her down.  And let me tell you, it is hard to find friends like that these days.

This is re-posted from my personal blog. I felt like it was appropriate for this one too.
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