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Manners -- Are They Really Forgotten?

According to Sierra on Friday in the comments, "Manners have been out of fashion for the past 30 years but I hear they are making a comeback. I only hope and pray it is soon."

Sierra's not the only one to mention a lack of manners in kids these days. In the comments early last week, several of you mentioned manners as a life lesson that's been short-shrifted: "Proper etiquette is woefully lacking among many children and is a skill that must be taught and practiced at home by parents," wrote Sue.

So, are they right? Do too many parents really not practice and teach manners? Or do we just see different rules and use different methods than our parents? Here are a few general rules I try to teach my kids:

* Say please, thank you and excuse me.

* Address adults with respect. This one gets tricky. I have my kids use Miss or Mr. in front of an adult's first name, but some folks think this sounds Southern. To me, using last names, which I don't always know, sounds a bit too formal.

* Be kind to others. And apologize when you're wrong.

And some that were expected in my house growing up:

* Don't talk back.

* Don't act out (i.e. no crying, fussing or tantrums) in public.

* Use proper table manners: napkins on laps; salad/dinner forks used correctly. Eat what's put in front of you. And children (when old enough) set the table, and cleared and washed the dishes.

For all families, it's different. So, speak up and say your peace. What's important? What's not? What is proper etiquette year 2007?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  July 16, 2007; 7:20 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers , Teens , Tweens
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Comments


How about do unto others as you would have them do. That is a good way to teach kids manners. If you expect somebody to say please and thank you to you when you share a toy then you need to do the same.

As far as table manners, salutations etc., you need to do what works in your house. I do not like being called Mr. .... and prefer just my first name. I allow my kids to just use first names as long as the adult is cool with it. If they prefer to be called Mr. or Ms. something then that is what I call them in front of my kids.

Posted by: HappyDad | July 16, 2007 7:38 AM | Report abuse

A lot of social manners have been gone for 30 years, like children addressing adults as Mr. & Mrs. When raising my children, I would introduce adults this way, and they would 100% of the time say, "Oh, just call me John, or Mary." I was so insulted by this as these are my children and I want them to learn to address adults properly. I had to compromise and I insisted they refer to them as Mr. John, Coach John, Miss Mary. The reason I was given time and time again, was "it makes me sound old."

Posted by: bravefacari | July 16, 2007 7:43 AM | Report abuse

I know - I, too, have my child put Mr. or Ms. in front. Something about our generation doesn't want to accept being adults or something.

AND, I do NOT like being introduced to their children by my first name. I always mention that in school they HAVE to use honorifics, so may as well get used to it.

Posted by: dwith | July 16, 2007 7:51 AM | Report abuse

"AND, I do NOT like being introduced to their children by my first name. I always mention that in school they HAVE to use honorifics, so may as well get used to it."

Why?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 7:57 AM | Report abuse

I don't have kids but I am always astounded by what parents allow kids to get away with. Why should kids use honorifics? Because adults are not kids--and kids are not on the same level as adults. Period. Kids do have to understand that adults are to be respected (thus obeyed when necessary). If not you have the situation, seen all too often, when kids run around wild, and refuse to listen to their parents, let alone any other adults.

Posted by: Bev | July 16, 2007 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Bev

"Why should kids use honorifics? Because adults are not kids--and kids are not on the same level as adults. Period. Kids do have to understand that adults are to be respected (thus obeyed when necessary)."

Respect must be earned. Using honorifics doesn't guarantee anything. Forced respect for adults is the #1 ally of child molesters. Period. What a nitwit!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 8:12 AM | Report abuse

I grew up in the DC area. I never heard anyone say the "Mr. [first name]" style. Someone is going to accuse me of racism for saying this, but I always associated that form with slavery because every time I've encountered it, it's in books where the slaves refer to the white people that way. (The first one to pop into mind now is John Jakes's North and South trilogy--I'm picturing the slaves saying "Mist' Orry" over and over.) Also, my mother and father both grew up in New York, and if this is indeed a Southernism, that would be a good reason why I was not exposed to it. NOBODY I knew used this form--every adult was "Mr. [last name]" or "Mrs. [last name]" except for our Scoutmaster, who looked like Franco Harris so we all called him Franco (he tried to get "Mr. Franco" at one point but it didn't take).

I agree with dwith about not being introduced to kids by my first name, but I go further than that. I was taught that you do not use someone's first name until that person invites you to do so, because otherwise you're assuming a familiarity that is not yours to assume. I resent it when someone I've never met calls me or e-mails me and uses my first name. I could never do that to a potential client, so don't do it to me. Remember the fad in the 1990s when bank tellers were using people's first names? It died very quickly, didn't it? That's because it's rude!

The other thing about kids is that if you have kids, it's weird to let other people's kids call you by your first name when your kids surely do not do that.

Posted by: Rich | July 16, 2007 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Bev

Do you call your husband Sir?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Forgot one thing--it is not for the parent to decide how their child will address another adult. It is for the other adult to decide. For example, suppose you're a married lady who chooses to use her maiden name. Your neighbor doesn't approve of this and introduces you to his child as "Mrs. Smith" when you go by "Jane Doe" or whatever. Under the logic that the parent is entitled to tell his kids how to address you, you would have no business complaining.

Posted by: Rich | July 16, 2007 8:17 AM | Report abuse

And teach kids to chew with their mouths closed, and not to talk with food in their mouths! (Adults too!!!!) Yes, chewing gum counts too!

Posted by: Sharon | July 16, 2007 8:19 AM | Report abuse

"For example, suppose you're a married lady who chooses to use her maiden name. Your neighbor doesn't approve of this and introduces you to his child as "Mrs. Smith" when you go by "Jane Doe" or whatever."

I don't give a da#n what my neighbors think or what their kids call me. Good grief! Can't people think of anything better to fuss about?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Oh, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. My parents(!) made fun of me when I insisted that my 12-month old son (just learning to talk) say please and thank you and ask for things politely. They said it was too early -- I say it's NEVER too early. This is one of my soapbox issues. I simply despise being around rude children. I have to give credit to my sister-in-law, a Martha Stewart wannabe who happens to be raising two of the most obnoxious boys on the planet. It's partially because of her that I decided to go way overboard. I mean, these are kids that ask their grandparents "can I have this when you die" and things like that.

I don't know what to do about addressing adults. I guess it's a Southern thing to say "Miss Michelle" instead of Mrs. Jones, but I can't stand it. With one exception, my kids call people "Mr & Mrs So-and-so" instead of first-naming. I think there's too much informality between adults and children anyway these days.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | July 16, 2007 8:37 AM | Report abuse

My non-negotiables are: saying please and thank you, saying sorry when appropriate, and not interrupting.

I also expect my daughter to sit at the table to eat her meals, which I've noticed is an increasingly foreign concept as many parents we know sit in front of the t.v. or at the coffee table and the children sort of roam around and graze (this is fine, in theory, when it's what you do in your home, but I find most of these children expect the same arrangement when they go elsewhere....)

As for use of names, I see this also all over the board. Now that my daughter is old enough to learn the names of her friends, I expect her to call their parents Mr. and Mrs. X. Of course, she usually forgets the Mr. and Mrs. and just calls them "Wilson" or "Martinez" and so on but I'm more comfortable with this then her calling adults by their first name, which seems a bit familiar to me.

Posted by: Vienna Mom | July 16, 2007 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Rich: about the slavery comment, I feel the same thing. It's probably from reading "Gone with the Wind" too many times and being a Northerner by birth. We would have been punished for using an adult's first name when I was growing up, even if I was preceded by Miss or Mr.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | July 16, 2007 8:39 AM | Report abuse

I always get comments from other parents about how polite my son is. My husband and I have good manners with each other and our son mostly picked that up. Most adults don't say please, thank you, HELLO, bless-you, or introduce you to their companions--say, their parents who are visiting! We try to get adults to let our son know what they'd like to be called, and the baseball team calls me Miss -----, which is fine.

Posted by: dynagirl | July 16, 2007 8:41 AM | Report abuse

The other thing is, you've got to practice what you preach. My kids see my husband and I being polite to others, to each other, and to them. You can't say one thing and do another (at least not in front of kids)!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | July 16, 2007 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Lived in Mclean most of my life - in 2006, shocked by rude middle schoolers at Little League Batathon - arguing with me, pushing little kids around, etc.

Moved to Northern Florida, sitting at a pool where a young teenager told his friend to "shut up stupid." One of my chidlren repeated that to her brother. I told her not to speak like that. THE TEENAGER TURNED TO ME AND SAID: "I APOLOGIZE MA'AM. I SHOULD NOT HAVE SPOKEN LIKE THAT IN FRONT OF YOUR DAUGHTER."

I almost fell off my lounge chair. The teen had no adult around to prompt his apology or point out his rudeness.

I adore being yes ma'amed and no ma'amed by ALL children down here of ALL races. And all races use "Miss Anne" or "Mr. Bill" when speaking to friends' parents - Mr. and Mrs. Lastname to other adults.

Children in No.Va are rude and have always been rude (I grew up there and was very rude).

Posted by: Florida | July 16, 2007 8:48 AM | Report abuse

"Respect must be earned. Using honorifics doesn't guarantee anything. Forced respect for adults is the #1 ally of child molesters. Period. What a nitwit!"

Ummm...not entirely true. I teach a class for young girls (9-12 is the most likely age group to be abused)and have had extensive training in how to teach kids about these dangers (without scaring the heck out of them). Teaching a child manners is never a bad idea. Proper address is certainly necessary in the adult business world and should be taught early. However, teaching a child that they must kiss and hug Grandma and Uncle Joe at every family function against their will is a bad idea. It blurs the line of acceptable boundries and makes it much easier for another adult to take advantage of them in the future.

As for the actual topic at hand...I think manners have definitely fallen by the wayside. In our house we stress table manners, make our kids call people Mr/Mrs last name unless they are invited to do otherwise (then I prefer Mr/Miss first name), please/thank you/excuse me...I thnk those are pretty basic.

Posted by: Michele | July 16, 2007 8:51 AM | Report abuse

I have coached recreational soccer for close to twenty years, for kids from the age of four to the age of 18, and the most common form of address my players used for me was "Mr. Jones", the second being "coach". I can't recall a kid calling me by my first name. Kids who are brought up properly do this kind of thing without much effort. If a kid isn't doing that kind of thing, the kid's parents aren't doing their jobs.

Posted by: Coach | July 16, 2007 8:52 AM | Report abuse

"it is not for the parent to decide how their child will address another adult. It is for the other adult to decide."

This is so true! People should be addressed the way they wish to be addressed, not how you think they should be addressed. When I did my stint as a teacher, I was called Ms. Lastname, and yet now my friend's kids all call me Firstname. So weird, and frankly it bothers me.

And for what its worth, I was raised in the South and grew up calling adults Mr. and Ms. Lastname. The only southerism I know is thet women were always Miss Lastname, the pronunciations didn't distinguish Mrs., Ms. and Miss.

Posted by: RT | July 16, 2007 8:52 AM | Report abuse

The Miss Susan and Mr. Mike may well be a southern thing, I grew up in NOVA and although I didn't use it when I was a kid, my kids do. I don't find it the least bit disrespectful. Most coaches are Coach John, parents of their friends are Mr./Mrs. Jones, friends and neighbors of ours are Miss/Mr first name. It depends on the situation and the kids will use whatever is requested of them but just not first names.

I think it is about 50/50 here between using the last name and the Miss/Mr with first name.

As for manners in general there is one thing that really annoys me. When we have birthday parties there is always 1-2 kids that refuse to participate in activities and complain about games/cake/drinks, etc. I am referring to kids that are old enough to know better - 7, 8, 9. They don't know how to be proper guests. They might say please and thank you but there is nothing else polite about them. Generally most kids roll with the punches and have a good time but there is always one kid that is rude.

Posted by: cmac | July 16, 2007 8:54 AM | Report abuse

I was always taught to refer to adults as Mr. or Miss... I think it had to do with my dad growing up in the south. Whenever we go down south to visit relatives I am always impressed by the manners of children who say yes ma'am or no sir. I am going to try and instill those good manners into my two young children.

Posted by: Momof2MD | July 16, 2007 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Not to be the grammar geek here, but shouldn't that be "So, speak up and say your piece?"

As far as the topic, YES manners in kids today are appalling! I find myself thinking that all the time and I'm not even 30 yet. When I was growing up, "please", "thank you" and "excuse me" were expected, as was sitting quietly and politely at dinner (whether at home or out) until you're excused. As far as what to call adults, I used "Sir" or "Ma'am" as a default, and "Mr/Ms/Mrs. Lastname" if it was someone I knew.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 9:02 AM | Report abuse

If you want your children to act a certain way, you must act that way. Children learn so much from what we do, so I always make a point in my every day life to treat other people with respect, be courteous, and use proper manners. I give my daughter the same treatment I give strangers and friends. Consequently, she treats everyone the same way I do.

If you want your child to swear, then swear at him. If you want him to lie, cheat and steal, then simply let him observe you doing these things. If you want your children to hit people, animals, etc., by all means, strike your child. Works every time.

Posted by: NOVAMom | July 16, 2007 9:04 AM | Report abuse

http://www.amazon.com/Tiffanys-Manners-Teenagers-Walter-Hoving/dp/0394828771

Teaching table manners would be a nice change. I just love watching children of wealthy parents dressed in Prada, Chanel, etc. eating like they were raised by animals. Using tableware as if they were handling a screw driver and shovel.

But just look across the table at the parents, not much better.

Posted by: NYC | July 16, 2007 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Vienna Mom said: My non-negotiables are: saying please and thank you, saying sorry when appropriate, and not interrupting.

---

I like that idea of a core set of "non-negotiables." I think certain aspects of traditional good manners are very important, such as those named above by Vienna Mom. However, I also worry that over-emphasizing politeness and manners for their own sake could have the collateral effect of teaching a submissive demeanor--especially to girls. I'm not referring to the direst "molester" circumstance already named by an anonymous poster above (although that does figure in to my thinking), but rather to daily activities and decisions.

Taught or executed incorrectly, good manners and politeness become a practice in conformity, and I'm not interested in teaching my little girl to conform.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Anonymous 9:14 was me. My bad.

Posted by: Josh | July 16, 2007 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Momof2MD

"Whenever we go down south to visit relatives I am always impressed by the manners of children who say yes ma'am or no sir."

I'm not. You impress pretty easily...It's weird and creepy. It's not sincere; it's a merely a habit. I don't like being called "ma'am" and my husband is no "sir'!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Handwritten thank you notes are a must. Particularly important for any gifts received that are not opened in front of the person. Thank you notes need to specifically mention the gift, be prompt, and be handwritten. This is non-negotiable.

Posted by: oldfashioned | July 16, 2007 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Have manners been forgotten? Uh, YES!

I've been in restaurants on any number of occasions where a young child is literally screaming his head off while the parents just sit there and calmly eat their meal while everyone else in the restaurant has a miserable time because of their kid. It's sad when a 2 year old is obviously the head of the household.

When I was little, my parents made something very clear to me when we were going out in public - "You act out now, and you'll pay for it later. None of these other people are here to listen to you." It only took one or two episodes of me getting out of line to get the message even as a very young child that I'd better behave in public if I knew what was good for me. Some folks might say this is abusive parenting, but they would be wrong. It was very good parenting, and the lessons I learned at age 2 have stuck with me, since 30+ years later, it often seems like I'm the only one who gives a hoot about anyone else when I'm out in public.

Posted by: vajent | July 16, 2007 9:29 AM | Report abuse

It is polite to address people as they wish to be addressed, not how you want your kids to address them. I hate being called "Mr. lastname" or even "Mr. firstname". I just like to be addressed as "firstname." So I get really annoyed when people insist on having their child call me "mr. lastname" after I've made it clear I prefer "firstname." That's just as rude as using someone's firstname without them prompting you to do so.

As for my kids, I have them address adults as "Mr/Mrs/Miss lastname" until the adult says they prefer something else. Then I have the kids use that name instead.

As for manners in general, the main thing is to practice what you preach and the kids will follow.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Well, I don't eat what I don't like and I don't excpect my kids to either. However, if we are having dinner with friends, I am sure there will be something on the menu that they will like.

I agree with respect is earned and not given and to call people what they want to be called. Thank you notes are a must.

One thing that I find very annoying with some of today's youth is not holding the door for people when they go in and out of places. I find it very rude.

Posted by: Irish girl | July 16, 2007 9:32 AM | Report abuse

As someone who grew up in Georgia with two very Southern parents, I was taught that with certain adults (usually friends of my parents), it was okay to use Miss/Mr. with the adult's first name. It was a sign that this person, while an adult and therefore someone with whom I was not to be too familiar, was closer to me and my family than other adults.

It's similar to using Aunt/Uncle in front of first names for family members.

For all other adults, however, it was Mr./Miss/Mrs. with the adult's last name. Only as I got older and began to interact with these people as an adult have I begun to use their first name, but it feels awkward and strange to do so!

Posted by: Amanda | July 16, 2007 9:33 AM | Report abuse

I was taught (and taught my children) that dis-respect is earned. You start with the assumption that everyone that you meet is deserving of respect and that, through their actions and/or words they have the power to throw that away, but one should always assume at the start an attitude of respect for others as well as yourself.

Posted by: Viking | July 16, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Manners in general are on the decline, and it has nothing to do with childrearing. Just look how adults treat each other when there are no children involved! Look no further than this blog for a million examples- I can't believe how people talk to each other here. It's absolutely astounding.

Posted by: reston, va | July 16, 2007 9:41 AM | Report abuse

reston, va, Amen!

Posted by: Viking | July 16, 2007 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Reston. You're right.

I'm appalled at the amount of geographic bigotry on this board.

Posted by: NC | July 16, 2007 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I was raised by Southerners, and though we didn't live in the South, I had to use Ma'am and Sir to my elders and betters. Still do, even though I've lived in New Jersey for years. I don't make my daughter use those honorifics, but my little (preschool age) friends on the block call me Miss Firstname. I insist that DD use "Yes" and not "Yeah" when responding to an adult's question. She's even corrected her friends, telling them, "My mom's a 'yes' not a 'yeah'."

Posted by: Case | July 16, 2007 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Apparently a lot of adults haven't been taught manners, either. Calling complete strangers 'stupid' and 'nitwit' falls into the category of rude. This blog hasn't yet reached the level of that other one where claws are beared and venom is flowing like Niagra Falls. If you don't agree with someone, just state your case and let the other person do the same. Freedom of speech doesn't include name-calling and denigrating comments.

Children learn by observing adults. If the parents are ill-mannered savages, the kids will grow up to be the same.

Posted by: Steamed | July 16, 2007 9:50 AM | Report abuse

"As someone who grew up in Georgia with two very Southern parents, I was taught..."

Sounds pretty gay. What are the rules for people who didn't grow up in Georgia with two very Southern parents?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 9:50 AM | Report abuse

This weekend I was in a restaurant next to a family. The child started to scream and the mother, instead of trying to quiet the child, plugged the child's ears! Couldn't believe it...How is the child ever going to learn if he doesn't even have to deal with the sound of his own screaming?

Posted by: Sue | July 16, 2007 9:51 AM | Report abuse

"Freedom of speech doesn't include name-calling and denigrating comments."

Duh! It's the Net, not church! You must be a pretty big wuss if you can't take a few mild insults from cyber strangers!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Sorry - my bad -- that should be 'claws are bared' -- caffiene hasn't kicked in yet.

Posted by: Steamed | July 16, 2007 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I grew up in the South and we always used Mr./Mrs./Miss and the lastname so I don't thnik the Mr./Miss Firstname is a southern thing.

Is it more an African-American custom? I've volunteered with inner city African American kids in both Baltimore and Atlanta and the adults (African-American) who work with them full-time have them call all of us Mr./Miss firstname.

I didn't like it at first - I would have preferred just my firstname but have come to like it since. It does give us a little more authority.

Posted by: dai | July 16, 2007 9:57 AM | Report abuse

"I was raised by Southerners, and though we didn't live in the South, I had to use Ma'am and Sir to my elders and betters"

Betters? Do you mean bettors?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

From an earlier post..."Handwritten thank you notes are a must. Particularly important for any gifts received that are not opened in front of the person. Thank you notes need to specifically mention the gift, be prompt, and be handwritten. This is non-negotiable."

AMEN. I'm 33 and still write thank you notes!

I also say excuse me on public transportation or if someone's blocking an aisle in a store and I'm sorry if I accidentally bump into someone (again similar situations), even if it's close quarters. Something not mentioned, I also use turn signals while driving.

And for what it's worth, I'm originally from New York.

Posted by: WDC | July 16, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

"Just look how adults treat each other when there are no children involved! Look no further than this blog for a million examples- I can't believe how people talk to each other here. It's absolutely astounding."

Man, I couldn't agree more.

I remember my wife and I had a hypothetical discussion a year or two ago about what kind of religious education we wanted to give our daughter. Now it has occurred to us that our child's spiritual life will most likely depend on our spiritual life, not upon the decisions we make for her.

Similarly, it's a preposterous notion that we can give our children good manners while treating one another poorly.

Posted by: Josh | July 16, 2007 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I agree that manners have gone by the wayside among children and adults. But the adults are really to blame, as children learn by example. Parents can try to teach good manners but if they behave badly, their children will pick up on it.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse

I think that every generation thinks kids are ruder. I would love to have this blog in the sixties and see what THEY thought of all these boomers as kids. Part of the problem is that ALL people are somewhat ruder and more self centered.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 16, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse

From an earlier post..."Handwritten thank you notes are a must. Particularly important for any gifts received that are not opened in front of the person. Thank you notes need to specifically mention the gift, be prompt, and be handwritten. This is non-negotiable."

AMEN. I'm 33 and still write thank you notes!

Sorry disagree with you. Handwritten notes in this day and age? I believe and have always believed a thank you was fine. Verbal, written or whatever. I think the idea of doing all of that just to have someone throw it in the trash immediately is just silly.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

WDC and Josh: I really appreciate your comments. Years ago I mentioned to friends (at that time in jest) that the only transgressions that were deserving of the death penalty were: failure to say 1)Please, 2)Excuse me, 3)I'm sorry, and 4)Thank you. There is no excuse for being uncivilized.

Posted by: Viking | July 16, 2007 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I find that on the topic of manners there is a tendency to cherry pick the behaviors that are most important to each writer. Hence the many comments already today about what children should call adults.

A recent personal example is a taxi ride I had last week where the driver took offense that I didn't say "good morning" the second that I got into his cab. He was right; I should have been more polite and I apologized to him. But what I found highly amusing was that apparently he did not consider it at all bad manners to then berate me for the next 5 minutes ("if you were my daughter I would slap you; I don't care how old you are"), insult an entire country ("you Americans are the most rude people on the planet") and shout and honk his horn at all the other drivers and pedestrians. If my luggage were not in the trunk of his car I would have exited and walked to my destination.

Posted by: m | July 16, 2007 10:08 AM | Report abuse

I do think there is something to be gained from manners, but I would stress to kids the kind of respect it gets them, as opposed to the other way around. If manners are about raising yourself to a higher playing field, it makes sense out. If they are about demeaning yourself, they're not so useful.

There's also the valuable skill of "code switching" in language. You just use different language with different people. This is often lost with young people.

I do think that the "past 30 years" notion of the loss of manners among young people is something of a misnomer. Adults have been making that observation for a very long time. You could easily go back 100 years and find an oppinion piece in a newspaper about the same thing. I have my doubts about whether this is about "young people today". Rather, it is likely a part of human nature that we will always have to live with.

Posted by: David S | July 16, 2007 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Yes, I'm all for it. I made a comment about this on that other unnamed blog and was soundly attacked for it. This was in reference to a handknit baby gift that I never got a thank you note for. The lame excuse from an unbalanced blogger was that the gift was for the baby and infants can't write, so obviously no thank you note was in order and the baby doesn't care what it throws up on anyway. So there. That mother and baby are never getting another gift from me, I can tell you that right now.

I always send thank you notes for gifts I get, and I keep the notes I receive. They aren't thrown in the trash in my house. Some are from elderly relatives who have passed on, some from neices and nephews for graduation. They mean a lot to me.

Posted by: Re: Handwritten Thank You Notes | July 16, 2007 10:12 AM | Report abuse

pATRICK

"I think that every generation thinks kids are ruder."

Yeah, Socrates said the same thing over 2,000 years ago!

Posted by: Top Gun | July 16, 2007 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I laughed when I read the "southern" sentence. My parents are from NYC and they insisted upon us calling our neighbors "Mr." and "Mrs." Smith/Jones/et al. It's not a "Southern" thing at all, unless the Mason-Dixon line takes a sharp curve up towards the Five Boroughs.

I personally think it's a Baby Boomer thing. You know - the "Don't trust anyone over 30" generation. At least from this Gen-X'ers perspective...because while I applaud the whole "40 is the new 30", "50 is the new 40" concepts that are floating around (I never have quite understood why our culture values youth over experience), it does seem to feel a tad desperate to me. The Boomers don't seem to want to age - hence the apparent hatred of honorifics used by the young. (Oh...for the record, I'm 37 and proud of it.)

I can't count the number of Boomer-aged college professors, older professional colleagues and bosses that have recoiled when I called them Mr./Mrs./Dr. LastName over the years. They always tell me that THAT person is their father or mother - they are simply John/Jane.

I then tell them it was how I was raised and they are not going to be able to change me. I was raised to have respect for my elders and those above me in the professional hierarchy, so it's used as a token of respect. That usually settles most people down - the concept that I do it because I am trying to be polite.

As for the "tricky" part - why is this tricky? If you want your child to address adults with honorifics and the adult doesn't like it, that's the adult's problem, not yours or your child's. I would think adults would like to see a respectful child in their midst.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | July 16, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Top gun, that doesn't make the observation false any of the times it has been uttered.

Posted by: Viking | July 16, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

"Handwritten thank you notes are a must. Particularly important for any gifts received that are not opened in front of the person. Thank you notes need to specifically mention the gift, be prompt, and be handwritten. This is non-negotiable."

Baloney! What about the waste of paper?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Rich and Working MomX: I can't shake the slavery associations either with using Miss/Mr. +First Name. Silly, maybe, but oh well. Our children address most adults using their honorific (Mrs/Dr/Miss, etc) and address close family friends as "Auntie"/"Uncle." Not everyone agrees, but I find it very disrespectful for little kids to address me by my first name as they would a peer. I STILL call my parents' friends and my friends' parents "Aunt"/"Uncle" or "Mr. and Mrs." and I am many decades old.

As to the basic question: I think manners and courtesy have to be the lowest common denominator, and etiquette is more of a choice. I grew up on and will teach my children old school-Leticia Baldridge etiquette--it's served me well in many situations-- but that's not really necessary if a parent is not so inclined. Even common courtesy would go a long way.

Posted by: Milano | July 16, 2007 10:19 AM | Report abuse

To me it's laughable for boomers to say that people are more rude. The me me me generation complaining? BWAAAAAAAAAAAAA! The utter crassness of the sixties would seem to preclude any boomer from ever complaining about anyone being rude.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 16, 2007 10:20 AM | Report abuse

'Baloney - What about the waste of paper?'

Well, if a thank you note is a waste of paper, the gift is a waste of effort, time, and paper. No thank you notes, no gift.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Yes, I'm all for it. I made a comment about this on that other unnamed blog and was soundly attacked for it. This was in reference to a handknit baby gift that I never got a thank you note for. The lame excuse from an unbalanced blogger was that the gift was for the baby and infants can't write, so obviously no thank you note was in order and the baby doesn't care what it throws up on anyway.


ON BALANCE is NOT for the faint of heart. Half of the posters now are anonymous trolls and the other half are worth talking to. I enjoy ON BALANCE but the sheer weight of the anonymous trolls is ruining it.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

The above post was mine.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 16, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

10:34, you do realize that YOU posted anonymously...(LOL)

Posted by: Viking | July 16, 2007 10:27 AM | Report abuse

pATRICK, good recovery...

Posted by: Viking | July 16, 2007 10:28 AM | Report abuse

10:34, you do realize that YOU posted anonymously...(LOL)

I know, i forgot to enter my name, that is why i posted again. :)

Posted by: pATRICK | July 16, 2007 10:29 AM | Report abuse

"I grew up on and will teach my children old school-Leticia Baldridge etiquette--it's served me well in many situations-"

I was going to make a snide comment that it might serve you well to learn how to spell someone's name before you hold them out as your example. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letitia_Baldrige

But apparently at least 10,000 references on the web spell her name incorrectly - including articles from reputable news outlets. So perhaps we could have a conversation about how no one teacher people how to spell anymore?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

As a step-mother, one of my biggest heartburns is my step-daughter's manners. The poor table manners, the sassing back to parents, the pouting, the disregard for other's property... on and on.

Personally, I think it is a package deal, poor manners being a facet of a larger problem--respect for others and self. Good manners lead to respect for othere and then self. I see many ill-mannered, selfish, self-centered young adults entering the workplace. If the kids don't learn to be well-mannered, they have a tougher time, and less success when they get into the adult workplace.

Posted by: Fairfax step-mom | July 16, 2007 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Kids DO need to learn manners but so do adults. I found that when you treat people with respect, life get's easier in so many ways. The day in and day out of interaction is easier.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 10:38 AM | Report abuse

But apparently at least 10,000 references on the web spell her name incorrectly - including articles from reputable news outlets. So perhaps we could have a conversation about how no one teacher people how to spell anymore

Or proof reads? (LOL):)

Posted by: Viking | July 16, 2007 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I was raised in the "yes ma'm how high ma'm thankyou ma'm" style. And I still use it. As a child, teen and a 26 year old adult I respect my elders unless they have done something to remove that respect. All these "old people" complaining about people calling them "sir" or "ma'm" GET OVER IT. You're OLD. Fact of life. Being old has perks, one of them used to be an entitlement of respect. Obviously if an older colleague says "Just Jack please" then that's cool - but he'll still get the honorific treatment first time around.

I also try real hard not to use curse words in front of children...but these days they usually beat me to it.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 10:40 AM | Report abuse

The worst to me are the adults and it seems like the more "successful" ones are the worst. Acting as if their time is so important that everyone else is just a servant and unworthy of good manners. I try to trip these types up every chance I get.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 10:41 AM | Report abuse

10:34, if you want to make a snide comment to me about a quickly written anonymous note on a blog, please be my guest. And hope that no one catches YOUR typo in the last sentence of your quickly written anonymous note on a blog.

Let's skip the pi--ing contest and exchange ideas, huh?

Posted by: Milano | July 16, 2007 10:42 AM | Report abuse

WDC said: "Something not mentioned, I also use turn signals while driving."

If I have passengers in my car and see someone turn without signaling, particularly an expensive car, I always tell my passengers that I think BMW should really stop cutting costs and include some turn blinkers on all of their base models. Always gets a good laugh.

Posted by: Jon | July 16, 2007 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Jon, on the other hand, I can clearly recall several circa-1967 Caddys that I feel quite certain had their left hand turn signal turned on at the factory and were never turned off.

Posted by: Viking | July 16, 2007 10:49 AM | Report abuse

"10:34, you do realize that YOU posted anonymously...(LOL)

I know, i forgot to enter my name, that is why i posted again. :)

Posted by: pATRICK | July 16, 2007 10:29 AM "

Yes, but in the interim, you were a gutless coward....

Posted by: Guns 'n Roses | July 16, 2007 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Guns 'n Roses | July 16, 2007 10:51 AM
yep, you are right. That is why I attached my name, by the way how is SLASH doing?

Posted by: pATRICK | July 16, 2007 10:54 AM | Report abuse

How is it good manners to teach your children to call adults by something other than what they wish to be called? Good manners means addressing people as they wish, whether it be Mr./Ms./Miss First Name or just plain First Name. You teach your child to start with [insert whatever you feel is appropriate] but then adapt to whatever that person wishes to be called. It's not so tough.

Posted by: Raia | July 16, 2007 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Back on addressing adults - isn't it rude to tell an adult what you want your child to call them? I don't see an issue with the adult saying "please call me by my first name". Its an excellent teaching point for the child that always address the adult formally unless they give you specific instructions to address them otherwise, and then, you respect their wishes.

Posted by: BiochemGirl | July 16, 2007 10:58 AM | Report abuse

"I laughed when I read the 'southern' sentence. My parents are from NYC and they insisted upon us calling our neighbors 'Mr.' and 'Mrs.' Smith/Jones/et al. It's not a 'Southern' thing at all, unless the Mason-Dixon line takes a sharp curve up towards the Five Boroughs."

Unless I'm mistaken, you're misreading the original entry. The "Southern" point had to do with "Mr. [first name]"--for example, "Mr. Phil" or "Miss Nancy" or whatever. I've never heard anyone from New York use that form, and as I said in an earlier post, I grew up in the DC area and nobody I knew ever used that form either.

Posted by: Rich | July 16, 2007 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I'm 23, grew up in Maryland & happen to be white ().

When I was little the friendly neighbors/family friends who were significantly older than me (i.e., over the age of about 18 or so) were generally Mr./Miss Firstname until I was told otherwise, and everyone else was Mr./Mrs./etc. Lastname until told otherwise (which generally happened either at graduating from high school or college, but for a few it happened before that). I was taught to use whatever the person was introduced to me as, and then of course go by their wishes if they corrected me or invited me to call them otherwise.

When I helped supervise crafts for camp, I was Miss Firstname (at the time I was about 15 and was dealing with 3-to-8-year-olds). This didn't exceptionally bother me.

My mom also taught me to write thank-you notes & I still do it -- these days I'll admit they tend to be e-mails for those who have e-mail, but they do go out. (The exceptions of course, being for graduations and exceptionally generous gifts, which have automatically gotten a handwritten note -- if they care enough to send a gift, I care enough to send a note, be it emailed or handwritten; what they do with it is their own business.)

This way the people also know that I actually recieved whatever it was, and they don't have to go hound the USPS about it.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 11:15 AM | Report abuse

What's the problem with sounding Southern?
We're not all barefoot and pregnant down below the Mason-Dixon line!!!

Posted by: Mindypoo | July 16, 2007 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Driving Miss Daisy?

Posted by: Top Gun | July 16, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Regarding the addressing adults issue -- before I had kids, I always thought it was proper to have kids address adults as Mr/Miss/Mrs LastName. But now that I have kids, I realize that practically, it's easier to have kids learn to address adults as Mr/Miss/Mrs FirstName, because the kids hear the adults addressing each other as FirstName and learn the name that way. (Also, someone else today already pointed out that sometimes you don't always know last names.) Is this approach a little more casual? Perhaps. But I think it still denotes some respect but is a little more practical in implementation (especially for the preschool-aged set). It's what works for me.

Posted by: Jen | July 16, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

"I was raised in the "yes ma'm how high ma'm thankyou ma'm" style."

Or how to raise a good little Nazi!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Viking--"I was taught (and taught my children) that dis-respect is earned. You start with the assumption that everyone that you meet is deserving of respect and that, through their actions and/or words they have the power to throw that away, but one should always assume at the start an attitude of respect for others as well as yourself."

You go, Mr. Viking! And if only adults would do this, too, we'd ALL be better off.

FWIW, I get "what a well-behaved child" comments all the time, even when flying to and from Europe. He's definitely there on the please/thankyou/may I spectrum. What I find funny is how often I get those when I feel that my child is being a bit of a monster, e.g., has had to be told three times not to kick the seat in front. I think people's expectations have gotten lowered a LOT.

Posted by: Erika | July 16, 2007 11:29 AM | Report abuse

"If you want your child to address adults with honorifics and the adult doesn't like it, that's the adult's problem, not yours or your child's. I would think adults would like to see a respectful child in their midst."

Thank you!

That is what I find so startling - who would object to being treated with respect? And the "real world" requires at least a modicum of manners - why make it hard on your children in their futures?

What I also find startling is the number of people (including parents) who compliment us on our son's manners, and ask "how did you do it?"

It really wasn't hard. I use the same manners when talking to him. Just be consistant.


Posted by: dwith | July 16, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse

I agree that it's polite to call people what they wish to be called. Calling someone Mr/Mrs Lastname when they've asked you to just call them "firstname" is rude.

I use Mr/Ms firstname with my DD, except for very close friends. I don't know if it's a southern thing or not, and I don't particularly care either way. Last names have gotten very confusing in modern times, since in a given family, the mother, father and children all may have different last names and I frequently don't know who is using which name. Obviously, if the person in question prefers to use their last name, I'll tell DD to use it.

Posted by: va | July 16, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the use of honorifics. I'm in my late 20s and still use Mr or Mrs X and I find it too casual for children to use an adult's first name. I have a very hard time not calling my in-laws Mr and Mrs even though I have been told to call them by their first names. It seems disrespectful to me.

I also enjoyed the posting about thank you notes. Growing up I hated writing them but as I have grown up I have really grown to appreciate both sending and receiving them. In addition I write hand written letters to my god-parents who live in another country. I love to receive letters and feel that modern technology has really taken the personalization and thoughtfulness (maybe even the romance) that a letter has. And if you are worried about paper - many companies now sell organic and recycled paper using vegetable dyes etc in their printing.

I also enjoyed the comments about the turn signal. I appreciate turn signals greatly but what I really love is when people wave to say thank you when driving. If I'm trying to merge on to 495 in traffic and someone lets me in, I always wave to say thank you.

I feel that its not just young people but even adults older than myself have little manners. What I would like to know is where customer service has gone? That too has disappeared.

Posted by: busybee | July 16, 2007 11:36 AM | Report abuse

"That is what I find so startling - who would object to being treated with respect?"

Cause it's not respect - it's a mindless habit - lip service.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse

"That is what I find so startling - who would object to being treated with respect?"

If someone is calling you by a name you do not want to use (for whatever reason), it is not respectful.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Being Southern, we're all about good manners around here. And the person who made the comment about "just teach them to do unto others" clearly missed the point: that is morals, not manners. Entirely different set of rules - though both are important.

We have the following basics:

1. Please and thank you, yes - however, we must ask properly if we want something. Around here, that means "Please may I have . . ." When asked if we want something, the only proper responses are "Yes, please," or "No, thank you."

2. Table manners. Hold your utensils correctly, napkin (and second hand) in lap, chew with mouth closed, ask to be excused, clear your place. I just don't want to eat with animals, so this is a must. Mine have been clearing their place since age 2. However, this means we use all plastic plates and cups for obvious reasons. I'm looking forward to being able to turn over the breakables to them soon.

3. Excuse me, sorry, "bless you," and all those other things that you say when something untoward has happened.

4. "Y, may I introduce my friend X? Y, this is X; X, please meet my friend Y." My four year old daughter had this down so well, she did the little weight shift between the two people when she would negotiate this exchange. Truly a talented little miss. My sons have somewhat more trouble with this, but at least manage to blurt out "Jack -- Kent. Kent, this is Jack. WHERE ARE THE TRANSFORMERS?? LET'S PLAY!"

5. Wait your turn without pushing or complaining.

6. Do not take the last one without asking everybody else if they want one. This is especially true if it will be your second of whatever it is. (This may be strictly Southern, if experience is any guide).

7. Running and yelling have a place; that place is seldom indoors.

8. We don't comment on physical characteristics. You can ask questions or comment in private - never blurt out those questions in front of the person, because that is rude.

9. We do not call names. We do not say "shut up."

Those are the basics, anyway. We've also got guest/host rules with which I wouldn't bore you. We still hit rough patches, but we're getting there. And somebody was right: never too early to learn. And above all, if you expect them to learn, you'd better be using the same manners yourself! I think that is likely to be a problem for many people.

Posted by: bad mommy | July 16, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Please, thank you, excuse me...table manners, addressing elders with "Mr." or "Ms." if they want to be...and just a general respect for others is something we're trying to instill in our little one.

However, I was raised very, very strictly (in the South) and some things I'm just not doing with our daughter. I was required to address my parents with "ma'am" and "sir" at all times, my hands would get smacked if they were left on the dinner table while eating, etc., etc. A lot of those "social graces" are long gone and just not quite as important in this area.

Posted by: PLS | July 16, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

"That is what I find so startling - who would object to being treated with respect?"

Cause it's not respect - it's a mindless habit - lip service.

Hmmm - using your logic, saying please and thank you is also a mindless habit, and should be discouraged. . . Useful to know.

Posted by: dwith | July 16, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I live and work north of the Mason-Dixon line, and I hear the Mr./Miss First Name all the time. It is also a custom that appears to cross racial-ethnic lines in these parts. Curiously, it is a practice that I've encountered only on the east coast. I grew up in suburban Chicago in the 1950s - mid-1970s and never heard it once. Didn't hear it at all during my three year stint in Southern California, either.

Posted by: Murphy | July 16, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Fairfax Stepmom, I completely understand where you're coming from. My stepdaughter had a party when she turned 12. My husband and I went, and the ex-wife and then-husband were also present. I had to leave the room after witnessing my stepdaughter say to a friend "only $10?" after she'd opened a birthday card. Her mother LAUGHED. I was mortified. I force my stepdaughter to write thank yous for all gifts she is given by our friends and family. The one year she refused, I told everyone to give her nothing but blank thank you notes for her birthday and Christmas the following year. She got the message, and to this day has not yet run out of thank you notes.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | July 16, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

PLS

"A lot of those "social graces" are long gone and just not quite as important in this area"

Good. Those "social graces" were waay too much in bed with slavery and snobbism!

Posted by: Winchester | July 16, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I've always thought that the "Mr/Ms firstname" routine was originally Southern, although it has now spread over most of the country. I first heard it in Mississippi/Louisiana, probably when I was about 9. I couldn't get used to it; it took me a while to address my neighbor as "Miss Betty" instead of "Mrs Jones".

I've coached various youth sports for the last 10 years and always tell my players to call me Coach Joe. (No, it's not my real first name, and yes, I do tell them to use my real first name, smart-alecks!). I do that among other reasons because my last name can be fairly difficult to pronounce. I do have a few players who insist on calling me by my lastname; for those I just work on pronunciation and they usually have it after the first week or so. My kids still usually call me "Dad" during games and practices.

Last point - "ugly American" much? I used to do quite a bit of international travel for work. I made it a point of learning the major customs of the places I went. I'm always amazed at the number of Americans who travel overseas and try to impose their (lack of) manners on others - and then wonder why they're not treated with respect. Okay, some people fine the Japanese business card ritual daunting, but you learn to deal with it and it's fine.

Posted by: Army Brat | July 16, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

To Rich -

D'oh - yeah, you're right, I didn't read it correctly the first time.

I'm not a big believer in the whole "Mr. John" or "Mrs. Jane" thing. I always thought it just sounded weird.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | July 16, 2007 12:00 PM | Report abuse

"How about do unto others as you would have them do. That is a good way to teach kids manners. If you expect somebody to say please and thank you to you when you share a toy then you need to do the same."

Manners aren't about you - they are about making other people comfortable. Applying the Golden Rule to teaching manners is exactly the wrong approach to take to your children. They need to use please and thank you because it matters to you and you expect it. Period. A 4 year old couldn't care less whether her friend says please or thank you, but it's a habit parents must instill so that the 4 year old instinctively uses those magic words for the rest of her life in all contexts.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I work in a public library. We enounter various degrees of politeness, of course, but I always address ALL patrons as Sir/Ma'am regardless of age.

Of course I always use "please" and "thank you" liberally and do my best to offer explanations to everybody rather than policy, albeit tailored to the listener.

My behavior often gets smiles from parents, but my logic is this: we tend to treat others as we are treated ourselves. So, with a little luck, using polite forms of address will leave a lasting impression on younger patrons. Hopefully, they will remember that they were respected by an adult, so in turn they should be respectful to everybody too.

Being polite and respectful to EVERYBODY, regardless of age or status does no harm, and may be beneficial in the long run.

Posted by: librarian | July 16, 2007 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Respect must be earned. Using honorifics doesn't guarantee anything. Forced respect for adults is the #1 ally of child molesters. Period. What a nitwit!

Posted by: | July 16, 2007 08:12 AM

What an incredibly odd excuse for raising a rude, thankless, self-centered child no one wants to be around. My hats off to you for stretching logic further than was heretofore possible.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

The way I was brought up was that anyone who does something for you, whether it is a friend, coworker, spouse, waitress, clerk, secretary, whoever, you say "please" and "thank you" to them whenever possible. Whenever we eat out, the wait staff always responds favorably to me since I'm constantly thanking them and politely asking for anything extra.

As for what to call adults, as children we were told to call them "Mr/Miss/Mrs Last Name" and to say "yes/no sir/ma'am" to their questions. Old habits die hard; even after I married I found it difficult to call my in laws by their first names!

Posted by: John L | July 16, 2007 12:15 PM | Report abuse

To all the basics add: if an older person walks in (i.e waiting room, public transport) and there are no empty seats, teach your children to offer up their seat.

Posted by: hearsathought | July 16, 2007 12:18 PM | Report abuse

As a child, my parents always referred to their adult friends by their first names when speaking to me. While this was fine for their close friends, who practically helped raise me, my parents never explained that I should use Mr. or Mrs. when speaking to adults that I did not know well, or who were the parents of my friends. I can only imagine what my friends' parents must have thought of a seven year calling them by their first names! Regardless of how you prefer your children to address those that are close to your family, children should be told that some sort of honorific should be used with most adults outside of the home.

Posted by: collegestudent | July 16, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse

"the most common form of address my players used for me was "Mr. Jones", the second being "coach". I can't recall a kid calling me by my first name. Kids who are brought up properly do this kind of thing without much effort. If a kid isn't doing that kind of thing, the kid's parents aren't doing their jobs."

I grew up with Mr Joe and Miss Sue rather than Mr Jones and Mrs Smith for parents of friends, neighbors, and our parents' friends. Teachers and other adults we came into contact with for professional reasons (dentist's secretary for example) were addressed by their last name. For our area, this was considered acceptable and respectful. I live less than 30 miles from where I grew up. The people here use a mix of a title with first name address and a title with last name address. There are different customs in different areas. Just because someone's custom is different than yours doesn't mean the parents aren't doing their jobs.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

"To all the basics add: if an older person walks in (i.e waiting room, public transport) and there are no empty seats, teach your children to offer up their seat."

This could back fire. Some people get offended when offered seats!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Isn't there more to manners than what you call other people? For me personally the names are the easy part, it's things like making other people feel comfortable or remembering to send thank you cards that are so much harder. I find it's things that take thoughtfulness and a little extra time and effort, that are so appreciated by others. I didn't learn it growing up so I am trying to do better now....I hope I can instill in my children somehow the importance of making other people feel respected and comfortable and at ease. Will probably take me learning how to do it first! LOL

Posted by: teaspoon2 | July 16, 2007 12:27 PM | Report abuse

"It is polite to address people as they wish to be addressed, not how you want your kids to address them. I hate being called "Mr. lastname" or even "Mr. firstname". I just like to be addressed as "firstname." So I get really annoyed when people insist on having their child call me "mr. lastname" after I've made it clear I prefer "firstname." That's just as rude as using someone's firstname without them prompting you to do so."

I disagree with this viewpoint. If a person has a preference of Mr first or Mr last name, I think it should be respected. But, when a parent is teaching their children that it is respectful to use Mr when addressing adult men, I think the men should defer to the parents' teachings and accept the Mr without being annoyed. It may take a village to raise a child, but I personally think that there are way too many people interfering with parental teachings.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

The anonymous poster at 12:07 made an excellent point: etiquette is about making other people comfortable. This means addressing them a they wish to be addressed, among other things. It's never a mistake to start from a point of maximum respect and formality, and then move from there to a more comfortable, casual mode of address.

Has anyone ever received a thank-you note and thought "well, this is stupid", and tossed it? I certainly haven't. I read them, they make me smile, I often keep them. And I ALWAYS write them, on pretty paper, by hand. As will my children when they're old enough to write. In the meantime, I'll write them in their stead.


Posted by: WDC | July 16, 2007 12:38 PM | Report abuse

To anonymous at 12:24 who said "This could back fire. Some people get offended when offered seats!"

That is the problem of the fool who takes offense, not the person who was kind enough to offer. I hope we aren't now teaching our children to dispense with manners just in case the recipient of a kind gesture is one of those loons who gets offended at everything!

Posted by: WDC | July 16, 2007 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Dai,

I was born in 1956, am white, and grew up in Baltimore in an all white neighborhood. There were no black kids in elementary or junior high and a very small minority in high school. The Mr/Miss first name was definitely not an African-American thing.

Chasmosaur and pATRICK,
As a boomer, it is a little tiresome to hear so many generalizations about the boomers. Some are selfish, some are not. Some are rude, some are not. My friends and I may have cringed a bit when we realized we were old enough to be called Miss, but I only know three people who tell children to just call them Sue. Those people are somewhat self-centered, immature, and afraid of growing old. They are by no means representative of an entire generation.

Posted by: just sayin' | July 16, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

The underlying problem re: manners seems to be lack of discipline when it comes to raising children. There are many times when I witness a parent asking thier child "Can you say hello to Mr. Smith?", and then the child says nothing at all, and the parent doesn't follow-up!!!!

The problem is lack of implementation. If you want to instill good manners, you have to be willing to follow through on discipline and make sure the kids know you are serious about it.

Asking children if they want to do something that is a requirement is absolutely ridiculous. That's like saying, "Johnny, the fire alarm is going off. Do you want to leave the building?".

Don't ask the kid!!! Tell them what you expect them to do, and then follow through and make sure it gets done every time, or else they will see that as tacit approval of their non-compiance.

Some parents seem to be more interested in being a friend to their kid, rather than a parent. I happen to think this is a bad trend for our society, in general, and I hope the pendulum swings back the other way soon. There is a happy medium between parenting extremes, where you can raise happy, well-socialized kids who are not fearful or mistrusting, but respectful of adults.

Posted by: jorgey19 | July 16, 2007 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Can you say hello to Mr. Smith?", and then the child says nothing at all, and the parent doesn't follow-up!!!!

I agree with you but frankly you are dealing with immature people in children. How would you force a kid to say that? Children are not logical adults or robots.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 16, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

By starting early, a parent can practice this with their child in the home and with other family members. Have conversations with your children when they are little, to talk about what is expected.

You can go over it at home, so they are familiar with the scenario of meeting new people. Same as answering the phone correctly; you need to go over it ahead of time, so they know the expectations.

It's important to encourage them with positive body-language and tone of voice. If you are enthusiastic about them meeting a new person, then they will pick up on that.

If they don't do it, then make sure and point that out and discuss it privately with them as soon as possible. Again, if you follow through and use good parenting (which includes discipline, e.g. rewarding good behavior and not rewarding bad behavior) then the message will be heard.

Children with boundaries and discipline are happier children!!!

Posted by: jorgey19 | July 16, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

growing up in northern Florida, we had to use manners or else there were consequences - and having my very-involved grandparents in my life left me with some fairly strongly instilled manners. We did the Miss Sue and Mr. Joe address for people at church and family friends, and last names for others. I even address my mother in law as 'Miss Marie', even though she initially told me to call her Marie - I did it a few times out of habit, and she loved it (I think she was afraid to ask me to call her that because she wanted me to like her).

My grandfather's favorite phrase was 'it doesn't cost a nickel to be polite' and he was right - and it often pays. See what the difference is in the service at the hotel or restaurant when you look your server or chambermaid/housekeeper in the eye, say 'thank you' sincerely, and always preface your requests with 'please'. It's amazing. It also goes a long way with business associates - I get more slack on things, and get more inside information, because they all know I'm the sweet girl that always asks politely and sends a quick thank you e-mail when someone does something extraordinary for me. I don't think it's subservient - in fact, I think it shows that you respect yourself and the people you are dealing with highly when you use your manners.

I wish more people could see it that way!

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | July 16, 2007 1:16 PM | Report abuse

"By starting early, a parent can practice this with their child in the home and with other family members. Have conversations with your children when they are little, to talk about what is expected."

Land's sakes! Isn't this basic common sense?!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 1:17 PM | Report abuse

By starting early, a parent can practice this with their child in the home and with other family members. Have conversations with your children when they are little, to talk about what is expected."

Frankly this is naive. You can talk to a child and be perfectly reasonable and then the child could be cranky, hungry,tired, mad etc etc when you meet someone and try to introduce them. The best you can do is stay consistent.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 1:26 PM | Report abuse

The thank-you notes "rules" that people seem to insist upon really bug me. Even Miss Manners says that you do not need to send a thank-you note if the gift was opened in front of the giver. However, everyone I know complains vociferously if they do not receive thankyou notes for such gifts (yet, strangely, they often fail to send thank you notes themselves). As a result, I send thankyou notes for all gifts, but I chafe at people who chastise others for such "ettiquette gaffes" when the actions in question are not really gaffes at all.

Posted by: m | July 16, 2007 1:27 PM | Report abuse

My grandfather's favorite phrase was 'it doesn't cost a nickel to be polite' and he was right - and it often pays. See what the difference is in the service at the hotel or restaurant when you look your server or chambermaid/housekeeper in the eye, say 'thank you' sincerely, and always preface your requests with 'please'. It's amazing. It also goes a long way with business associates - I get more slack on things, and get more inside information, because they all know I'm the sweet girl that always asks politely and sends a quick thank you e-mail when someone does something extraordinary for me.

That is great post, I agree. Treating people with respect pays off. Better service and lower blood pressure.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 16, 2007 1:28 PM | Report abuse

"Land's sakes! Isn't this basic common sense?!"

Well, yes it would seem so...but unfortunately many parents are apparently overlooking this step because their children are rude to adults and don't know how to behave properly. I attribute this to lack of parental communication and role-modeling.

It seems to me that our busy, harried lives are leading some to feel that there is no time for a common-sense, basic approach such as the one I described.

Posted by: jorgey19 | July 16, 2007 1:30 PM | Report abuse

To anon @ 12:24: This could back fire. Some people get offended when offered seats!

_________________

So true! One of my most vivid memories was riding the Metro one afternoon with my co-worker, "Sue", who had just returned from maternity leave. The train was crowded, so I offered my seat to a woman who was obviously about eight months pregnant. The result was that the pregnant woman ripped me several new bodily orifices. She loudly explained, using several words beginning with "f", "s", "b" and a few others, that she was not crippled, was not helpless and did not need either my pity or my seat. She told me what I could do with my seat.

What makes the memory so vivid was the response of my co-worker, "Sue" who promptly ripped the pregnant woman several new bodily orifices! While I sat somewhat stunned, "Sue" explained that I was attempting to be polite, not condescending or patronizing, and that had someone offered her a seat on the Metro when she was eight months pregnant she would have very gratefully accepted. "Sue" did this using language I had never heard from her before (nor ever heard again).

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Oops - 1:31 pm was me! Forgot to sign it.

Posted by: Army Brat | July 16, 2007 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I was surprised to see how many people call in-laws by their first names, and/or Mr/Mrs. My parents each called their in-laws Mom & Dad, and I assumed everyone did that.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Oops - 1:31 pm was me! Forgot to sign it.

Posted by: Army Brat "

And now you are no longer a "gutless coward". Congratulations!

Posted by: Texas Toast | July 16, 2007 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Rebecca in AR: great post! And I agree that using good manners can help you out in a lot of business and other situations.

An example I give my kids when they complain about having to use manners: I was in San Francisco, scheduled to take a red-eye back to Dulles one night. Because of thunderstorms all over the country, lots of planes weren't where they needed to be, airports were shut down or significantly backed up, and the bottom line was that all flights from SFO to either Washington or Baltimore were cancelled. I was in line between two elegantly-dressed women, one in her twenties and the other in her forties (most likely mother and daughter). They screamed at the ticket agent - did she not know how important they were? Did she not understand how important it was for them to get back to Washington, RIGHT THEN? Why, the ticket agent was so incompetent that it was her fault, personally, that there was a delay! That airline needed to roll out a plane right then and there to get them back to Washington, or there would be h-e-double-hockey-sticks to pay! And yes, they dropped several f-bombs, among other words. They wound up dealing with the supervisor, who told them that they could either wait 24 hours for a flight the next day, or be routed home via Denver, Chicago, Minneapolis and Detroit, arriving home at 11:30 the next night.

I was the next customer to see that agent. I very politely walked up, smiled, and said "Good evening, ma'am. Sounds like you're having a rough night. Some of these people just seem to think you can roll out a plane to serve them personally. I know there's probably not much available, but what can we do to get me home?" (Or words to that effect.)

I got a first-class ticket on a flight leaving 30 minutes later to Chicago, connecting to a flight to BWI with a voucher for a cab to Dulles so I could retrieve my car. And getting home about 13 hours earlier than the two elegantly-dressed women.

Manners do pay!

Posted by: Army Brat | July 16, 2007 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Precisely - manners are about making others feel comfortable. I still remember the lesson I was taught about manners NOT being a rigid set of ruled...

A foreign guest at a dinner party was unfamiliar with how to eat the soup, and picked up the bowl. The host, immediately did likewise, so that the guest would not be embarrassed.

It is courtesy for others, consideration.... NOT rules for their own sake.

Posted by: Sharon... | July 16, 2007 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I don't know of ANYONE at my son's school, Sunday school, or parents who don't appreciate (or demand) being called Mr, Mrs, Miss, Doctor, Pastor, uncle, aunt. I cannot imagine living in a world where we don't train children to be polite to polite adults. I remember kids in my elementary school who had just "come off the communes" as my father would say who had seriously hard times talking about their parents "John told me to clean my room." "Is John your brother?" I mean, I can see no reason why a parent would want to purposely harm their child by not teaching them to address adults as Mr. or Ms. I mean, I work with African-American professionals and if I addressed one of them by their first name upon meeting them, they'd be insulted because they didn't get where they were not to be called Mister. you know? why raise your children to disrespect people? It will handicap them in life.

Posted by: DCer | July 16, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

"You can talk to a child and be perfectly reasonable and then the child could be cranky, hungry,tired, mad etc etc when you meet someone and try to introduce them"

You seem to be saying that it's o.k. not to use good manners if you are feeling hungry, tired, mad, etc, etc. Wrong!!!

It is precisely that type of logic that causes adults to think it's is o.k. to treat others badly in public, and the kids pick up on their behavior!!!

If using good manners is viewed as optional based on the mood swings or whims of the child (or adult), then it will never be instilled as non-negotiable.

It is not naive to expect correct behavior, or to expect parents to follow through on enforcement and discipline. Taking the easy way out and excusing everything because Johnny's not feeling up to it is weak, weak, weak.

Posted by: jorgey19 | July 16, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm not. You impress pretty easily...It's weird and creepy. It's not sincere; it's a merely a habit. I don't like being called "ma'am" and my husband is no "sir'!
-------

Have you thought of going to a therapist to rid you of these thoughts?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

It is not naive to expect correct behavior, or to expect parents to follow through on enforcement and discipline. Taking the easy way out and excusing everything because Johnny's not feeling up to it is weak, weak, weak.
---------

are you a parent of a child under 2 who can talk? Because what you wrote doesn't remotely make sense until the child is maybe 4 or 5 years old.

Posted by: DCer | July 16, 2007 1:55 PM | Report abuse

DCer

"I mean, I work with African-American professionals and if I addressed one of them by their first name upon meeting them, they'd be insulted because they didn't get where they were not to be called Mister"

I don't give a da#n what you or anyone else thinks! I'll raise my kids as I please!

Posted by: Disgusted | July 16, 2007 1:55 PM | Report abuse

You seem to be saying that it's o.k. not to use good manners if you are feeling hungry, tired, mad, etc, etc. Wrong!!!

It is precisely that type of logic that causes adults to think it's is o.k. to treat others badly in public, and the kids pick up on their behavior!!!

No, you missed the point. Your post suggested that it's just a matter of informing kids what is expected. That's all fine and dandy but the real world comes into play with real kids who are tired, hungry, cranky etc. It is just more hit and miss. That does not mean you quit trying.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 1:56 PM | Report abuse

"I disagree with this viewpoint. If a person has a preference of Mr first or Mr last name, I think it should be respected. But, when a parent is teaching their children that it is respectful to use Mr when addressing adult men, I think the men should defer to the parents' teachings and accept the Mr without being annoyed. It may take a village to raise a child, but I personally think that there are way too many people interfering with parental teachings."

Again, there are those of us who feel that children need to be taught it is polite to address other people as they prefer, not how your parents want you to do it.

I do not like to be called "mr. lastname" so I make it clear that I prefer to be called "firstname". It is extremely rude for parents to insist their children call me "mr. lastname" after I tell them I prefer "firstname."

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm not. You impress pretty easily...It's weird and creepy. It's not sincere; it's a merely a habit. I don't like being called "ma'am" and my husband is no "sir'!
-------

Have you thought of going to a therapist to rid you of these thoughts?

I disagree. Sir and Maam, are excellent words that convey general respect, especially among people who don't know each other at all or very well. My own little manners peeve is when I say thank you to someone in business and they grunt or say "no problem" or worse stare at you.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 16, 2007 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I think the other key is to treat children in a well-mannered way. Asking them please to perform a task, thanking them for doing it, etc. I too often see children being ordered about and their efforts not being appreciated.

Posted by: Grimm | July 16, 2007 2:00 PM | Report abuse

"That does not mean you quit trying."

Absolutely! Listen...I'm no polly-anna that expects perfection, and yes I am a parent too. Of course nothing in life is perfect, but I just hate seeing parents abdicate their position of authority to the kids. It seems quite common these days.

Nobody ever said parenting was easy. :)

Posted by: jorgey19 | July 16, 2007 2:00 PM | Report abuse

"I do not like to be called "mr. lastname" so I make it clear that I prefer to be called "firstname". It is extremely rude for parents to insist their children call me "mr. lastname" after I tell them I prefer "firstname."

And you, I am afraid, are being rude to the wishes of the parents not wanting more friends for their kid. As happy as it makes you feel, it makes many kids very uncomfortable - the upshot is (in my experience)the kids call those adults nothing.

Posted by: CFA | July 16, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

I never let my kids throw tantrums at restaurants. Out we go and they know that's a bad thing. The worst is having an adult NOT do anything about a screaming child. IMO

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

My "California hippie" parents were very laid-back about etiquette and all other things they thought of as elitist and stuffy. When I hit adulthood and moved to the east coast, I found myself completely bewildered; I sensed that others found me rude, but I had no idea why. I read some etiquette books, which helped, but I'm still trying to internalize good manners so that they will just come naturally. I really feel that my parents did me a disservice by not training me to good manners from a young age.

As far as other people's manners go, the one thing that always upsets me is a lack of gratitude. My students often email me rough drafts or questions about upcoming exams, and I'll spend anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour writing a detailed response. More than 50% of students don't reply at all, much less say a simple thank you. It's as if I'm just a machine that is expected to spit out the correct answers, day or night.

Posted by: Amy from CA | July 16, 2007 2:07 PM | Report abuse

This string reminds me of a story comedian Steve Allen once told on a radio show. He said he and his wife Jayne Meadows had a group of foreign exchange students at their New York apartment for a welcome reception. As the students were leaving, one had obviously been reading a book on etiquette. When he got to the door he shook Jayne Meadows' hand and said 'Thank you, Sir or Madame, whatever the case may be.'

Posted by: Lurking for the day | July 16, 2007 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Disgusted: "I don't give a da#n what you or anyone else thinks! I'll raise my kids as I please!"

Then you should hope that none of your kids ever has to interact with someone from another culture, because I'll guarantee you that if your adult kid, upon meeting a senior executive from a Japanese company, calls that individual by his first name, the deal's off and/or your kid is fired.

Posted by: Army Brat | July 16, 2007 2:09 PM | Report abuse

"Again, there are those of us who feel that children need to be taught it is polite to address other people as they prefer, not how your parents want you to do it."

When you are teaching your children, you may teach them that it is polite to address people as they prefer. It is not polite to override how other people are teaching their children. I have had this discussion with my mother about my children. I teach them not to put their feet on furniture, even if they do not have shoes on. My mother tells them it is OK. She may not mind, but I do. I am teaching my children a rule to follow everywhere they go. They are not old enough to always distinguish that something is ok in one place but not another. No parent wants another adult to encourage a child to go against their teachings.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Army Brat: I've been bawled out by a boss because he was sitting on a plane on the runway in a thunderstorm at JFK and couldn't get back home. It was all my fault because I got him on that flight! Honest. Now if I had control over the weather in New York, I wouldn't be sitting here in this office.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 2:15 PM | Report abuse

"It may take a village to raise a child,"

No, it doesn't Goober!

Posted by: Barney | July 16, 2007 2:17 PM | Report abuse

No parent wants another adult to encourage a child to go against their teachings.

This is why my parents don't get the kids that much. Me-kids need a nap, Her-they don't need a nap- then kids overtired and cranky. Me-they don't need sugar after 6, Her, ice cream and cake won't hurt them-then kids unable to sleep and crying. Sorry, don't undermine me and we can visit more. I get them back exhausted and upset.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Please, thank you, you're welcome, excuse me are pretty standard as well as offering your seat to an older person, holding the door, and asking for permission to be excused from the table. My kids are 12 & 18 and I frequently am taken aside by other parents who are amazed at how polite they are; even when "no one is looking." One thing that I'm still working on with my 18 year old, is cell phone etiquette....grrr hisss ;)

Posted by: momof3boys | July 16, 2007 2:17 PM | Report abuse

"I don't give a da#n what you or anyone else thinks! I'll raise my kids as I please!"

If you were to introduce me to your child as "Rich," I would immediately correct you and say, "That's Mr. [my last name] to both of you."

Posted by: Rich | July 16, 2007 2:18 PM | Report abuse

"Do not take the last one without asking everybody else if they want one. This is especially true if it will be your second of whatever it is"

Great, teach your children others are more important than they are. If it's a buffet and you are there, take it. If somebody else wanted it, it's their responsibility to get it.

Now, this is different from grabbing them all on your first pass (unless all that's left is one).

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Great, teach your children others are more important than they are
---------

Are you agreeing or disagreeing? please explain. you write something positive but treat it like it's negative.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I'm in my 30s and don't have kids. I agree that many children seem to have no idea about how to behave in public. I think it's their parents' fault for not teaching them properly (most of these parents have terrible manners as well).

I will say that last Halloween I had over fifty kids come to the door, and every single one of them thanked me for the candy. I was very impressed. So there's always hope.

However, the current generation doesn't have the market on bad behavior. Just for fun, here's a quote to ponder:

"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."

Attributed to Socrates in Book 4 of Plato's Republic

Posted by: Sappho | July 16, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Great, teach your children others are more important than they are
---------

Are you agreeing or disagreeing? please explain. you write something positive but treat it like it's negative.
-----------------

Please tell me you are joking that you think "teach your children others are more important than they are" is a positive???

Obviously, it is a negative to teach your children they are less important than others. They have the same rights as everybody else. They should take a backseat to nobody. Doesn't mean they don't consider others when acting. But it means they shouldn't - by default - get the short end of the stick.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 2:43 PM | Report abuse

But it means they shouldn't - by default - get the short end of the stick.
------

And that's how you view being polite? Did we read the same post?

There's this thing my grandmother used to go on all about, the meek shall inherit the earth... it was the cornerstone of her religion... ever hear about it?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I do wish that other adults would be more polite to my daughter when we are out and about. She's just 2, so her manners are far from perfect, but she does try. And it makes my crazy when she politely says "hello" to an adult, only to either a) be ignored or b) get an outright dirty look, as if to say, "how dare you speak to me!". It is terribly rude to fail to respond to a polite greeting, even if the greeter is a child.

Posted by: reston, va | July 16, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Forgotten!? Try never learned. Just look at their parents - ungrateful, entitled, rude, arrogant, fat headed pipsqueaks. The apple does not fall far from the tree.

Posted by: John Paul | July 16, 2007 3:04 PM | Report abuse

think the other key is to treat children in a well-mannered way. Asking them please to perform a task, thanking them for doing it, etc. I too often see children being ordered about and their efforts not being appreciated.

Posted by: Grimm | July 16, 2007 02:00 PM

This is so true, thanks for bringing that up. Parents can not be reminded of this enough as I think many (including myself) forget this occasionally.

Posted by: cmac | July 16, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Re: Sappho's remark regarding Socrates' take on the children of his day:
Reading that quote - which I have seen before - always reminds me how cyclical and ongoing certain issues are with children of every time period.

One of the errors I make with my boys is when they do act without manners, sometimes it is done in such a comedic way that my sense of humor runs away with me before my sense of propriety can kick in. Then I end up saying "Now, that was NOT FUNNY!", all while trying to stop myself from laughing.

However - we are lucky in that we often are complemented on our kiddos' behavior. What we have found is when they are with other people, their manners are much more "on" than they are when they are with us, and that tells us that they understand the importance of good behavior. It also tells us they clearly relax quite a bit with their family, but that in itself is a desired behavior to me.

Posted by: FourBoysInStafford | July 16, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

sorry, thanks for "bringing it up"

Posted by: cmac | July 16, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I work in a large firm. At one time one of our professionals was the child of a very famous actress and a very famous musician. This person had every right to be self-important and arrogant. They turned out to be quite the opposite. They waited in line in the building cafeteria, just like everyone else. They said 'please' and 'thank you' and even engaged in small talk with the staff. After they left the firm and came back for a visit they even remembered the names of the staff here.

Now, if someone with all those advantages -- wealth, famous parents, education -- can be polite, why can't the average Gen X-Y-Z plugged into their iPod, or a commuter on the Metro, show a little civil decency?

Posted by: Lurking, now back to work | July 16, 2007 3:17 PM | Report abuse

"One of the errors I make with my boys is when they do act without manners, sometimes it is done in such a comedic way that my sense of humor runs away with me before my sense of propriety can kick in. "
I wouldn't be to hard on them. Kids understand pretty early that joking around with close friends and family is different from the formal tone you use with other people. When I was a kid, my parents and I used to all tease each other mercilessly, and it was all in good fun. I remember one of their friends reaming me out once when we were all out together (I was about 19 at the time, and home from college), and I turned to my mother and said, "is this the latest you've ever been out?" It was obviously a joke (shoot, my mom lived in Morocco during the 60s, and has lived a pretty interesting life). Anyway, my parents' friend started yelling at me to have "more respect," and I was completely chagrined. I guess it's no surprise that this guy has basically no contact with any of his adult children. What's the point in having family if you can't have fun together and let loose once in a while?

Posted by: to 4boys | July 16, 2007 3:22 PM | Report abuse

If the child sees parents with good habits the child will model the behavior. My 5 year old DD went to a family function earlier this year. It was an informal breakfast and when we were both done I threw away my plastic plate, cup, and silverware. DD followed me and without asking threw everything away.

Meanwhile at the same table my bil was begging his older children to clean up. They asked why? and do we have to? My bil earlier the day before said I was too strict with my DD because I would not let her jump off a stationary train. It was too high for her and it was full of splinters. I just told her no it does not work for us.

Posted by: shdd | July 16, 2007 3:23 PM | Report abuse

FourBoysInStafford mentions "when they are with other people, their manners are much more "on" than they are when they are with us, and that tells us that they understand the importance of good behavior."

I have certainly found this to be true. My husband I recently took 12 teens to a youth conference (Chicago to St. Louis and back). This was a complicated trip involving several modes of transportation (car, train, bus). Not once did any of the kids whine about how far we had to walk, or about carrying their stuff, or about the inevitable delays. Even after a sleep-deprived weekend, they did everything we asked them to without protest. I made a point of telling the parents how well everyone had behaved.

Teaching manners is about expectations, consistency, and setting a good example.

Posted by: Sappho | July 16, 2007 3:26 PM | Report abuse

God, I can't wait for the topic to change!

What a big yawn!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2007 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Manners, Schmanners: One person above commented that it is up to the adult being addressed to decide how they wish to be addressed. Right. I agree . . . except . . . try to get one of those stuffy folks who are into "Mrs. and Mr." to call me "Terry" instead of "Mrs. X." Nope, they don't like that at all. And if it doesn't cut both ways, then it is *not* courteous.

Posted by: Terry | July 16, 2007 3:38 PM | Report abuse

I will simply reiterate that adults were complaining about children's lack of manners back in ancient Greece, and that few things are as directly controlled by what the parents show in their own behavior and enforce as manners. It really is a direct cause and effect of what is shown and taught.

Sadly, this doesn't excuse a person growing up- they are still rude.

Posted by: Liz D | July 16, 2007 3:41 PM | Report abuse

For those folks who want to have children call them by their first names: Do your kids call you by your first name, too? Do they call their aunt/uncle only by their first name? If no, why not? Because of respect? Signifiying a specific relatinship?

Then how do you then justify needing other children to call you by your first name without the benefit of a stronger relationship?

I can see if a family friend is very close, then sure, familiarity is the norm. But please understand - you are NOT a close friend, just an aquaintance, and my kid will address you accordingly.

Posted by: NFLD | July 16, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

We each have our own history. This one is West Coast based.

I taught my children to use Mr/Mrs last name, unless the person was a close personal friend who was entitled to be "Uncle/Aunt" first name. First name alone was never acceptable. This choice was mine, not my child's and not the friend's. I never once had a close friend tell me that he/she objected to being called "Uncle/Aunt" by my children. In one case, a family became close friends after my children already knew them and were used to using Mr/Mrs. My children are in their thirties and still use Mr and Mrs, as do my friend's children to me. At one point, my son-in-law worked in the same firm as the wife. In the firm, first names are used, but my son-in-law still used Mrs. having learned it from my daughter. However, now that my daughter has children, my grandchildren call this particular Mr. and Mrs. by the names Grampy and Grammy while my children still use Mr and Mrs.

The name my children used was rarely the name that I used, but I was consistent with my chidren. If I called Mr. Smith John, I used the name Mr. Smith when speaking to my children about John. It is no different than with my parents, I call my father Dad and my children call him grandpa. In speaking to them, I refer to him as grandpa - they were never confused.

There was only one problem - my son had a good friend whose mother insisted on being called by her first name. At first, I insisted that he use Mrs., but eventually retreated to telling him to call her as she wished in her home, but in my home he had to call her Mrs. In return, I insisted that my son's friend call me Mr in my home.

On a slightly different topic, my four year-old granddaughter says "may I" instead of "can I." I was impressed and commented to my daughter about it. She said it was all my fault, as I had spent years drilling her when she was young. I don't remember that at all. The lessons you learn when you are young do last a lifetime.

I am sixty-one, the first of the baby boomers, and went to college during the sixties, not trusting anyone over 30 but still calling them Mr and Mrs.

Posted by: albert | July 16, 2007 4:01 PM | Report abuse

The folks here that want to be addressed by their first names by children remind me of my father ... he is in SUCH denial about being an adult that he didn't even want to be called "Grandpa" by my lil girl because it "makes him feel old." Uh, Dad, well, you ARE old. I told him to pick a grandpa-type name or I would pick the most geezerlike one for him that I could think of. This worked :)

Posted by: StudentMom | July 16, 2007 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Earlier today, I was driving to a drs appointment in Reston. As I was on my way down a secondary street, an animal ran out in front of my car, so I had to stop for about 5 seconds to let it cross (and no, I didn't stop suddenly). The person behind me leaned on his horn the entire time. I guess he thought I should have just run it over???

The idea the manners are a problem only for children is quite ridiculous.

Posted by: reston, va | July 16, 2007 5:11 PM | Report abuse

"I have my kids use Miss or Mr. in front of an adult's first name, but some folks think this sounds Southern."

So what?

I'm proud that speaking respectfully to my elders equates with sounding Southern.

Posted by: Proud of Dixie | July 16, 2007 5:17 PM | Report abuse

"By starting early, a parent can practice this with their child in the home and with other family members. Have conversations with your children when they are little, to talk about what is expected."

"You can talk to a child and be perfectly reasonable and then the child could be cranky, hungry,tired, mad etc etc when you meet someone and try to introduce them"


My 2 yr. old daughter is very shy. We practiced introductions before a recent vacation where she was introduced to family and friends every day, around 50 in all. Her behavior ranged from smiling and saying "hello" to looking away and not saying a word. In those instances, I helped her say "hello".

My daughter may not always say "hello", but that doesn't mean she is rude, or that I am not teaching her manners. It just means that we keep working on introductions together until she gets it.

Posted by: fred | July 16, 2007 6:05 PM | Report abuse

I grew up in NOVA but currently reside in Louisiana. I find in general, children in the south are much more polite and respectful than children I encounter when I come home. I have a 4 year old son and a 6 year old daughter. They are consistently complimented on their manners, whether at a restaraunt, airplane, business establishment. They refer to adults as Mr/Ms/Mrs. First Name if they are family friends or Last name if they are not familiar. I love it and as a black woman, do not associate it with a slave mentality. Personally, I don't like children calling me by my first name, because I was not raised to do that.

I have heard children tell their parents to shut up (!), call each other stupid. The words stupid, shut up, dummy and hate are not allowed at all in my house.

Posted by: Kimberly | July 16, 2007 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Of course the children follow the examples we set. What surprises me, though, is the degree of outright laziness on the part of some parents when the kids are with them in public. The parents get very absorbed in themselves or their conversations or their Blackberries or whatever, and the kids behave as if no one else is around. Moreover, they don't seem to have expectations for the kids' behavior, so the kids live up to the expectations. A few simple rules are all that's needed, with some privilege being taken away if the rules aren't followed, or if you have two parents with you, one can walk the misbehaving one(s) to a private area until they calm down and are ready to be respectful. It's never been too difficult for us, and our kids behave well in public -- because they know it is what we expect.

Posted by: Harry Bosch | July 16, 2007 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Viking--"I was taught (and taught my children) that dis-respect is earned. You start with the assumption that everyone that you meet is deserving of respect and that, through their actions and/or words they have the power to throw that away, but one should always assume at the start an attitude of respect for others as well as yourself."

I was taught that you treat everyone with respect, regardless of their actions and that by showing someone disrespect when they act in ways you don't like or agree with is bringing yourself down to their level. Rather than relying on our children to make difficult judgements about who deserves respect and who has "thrown it away" why not model and teach them to treat everyone politely and with respect. It's alot easier that way.

Posted by: citydock | July 16, 2007 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Today kids are mostly ignored by parents/adults...no one is home...that is, whenever the kids do see their parents, the few "minutes" they are together, they are certainly not taught any manners--they are so starved for their parents love/attention, they'll do anything to garner more! Civil courtesy is a thing of the past, sadly--everyone is too busy working or spending money! no one is minding the children.

Posted by: joe | July 16, 2007 9:50 PM | Report abuse

sure Joe, whatever you say Joe.

My friend Dave's father was a lawyer and would travel 5 days a week and come home, work Saturday at the office and have only Sunday with the kids before he was back on a midwestern case. that was, I believe, 1975. My grandfather worked two shifts from 1942-1945 and was proud he never missed a say in those years- even if it wasn't a solid 16 hours a day for the entire war, I know it was MOSTLY 16 hour days.
My "uncle" (friend of the family) was in the Hanoi Hilton for I think as much as 4 years while his kids had no Dad around.
My own uncle ran a small farm with no employees. he was up at 5am and got in at 6pm all the time I ever visited. If we didn't run out when the tractor motor started, I would never have seen him.

So yeah, in the 1940s and 1970s people were too busy working to take care of the kids.

Posted by: DCer | July 17, 2007 12:45 AM | Report abuse

To WDC at 12:41 p.m. -- My loudest applause.

There is a story that there was once a man who bought a newspaper every day from the same newsstand and greeted the owner with a cheery, "Good morning." Each day, the owner replied with a sour look and a grunt.

One day, a friend asked the polite man, "Why do you wish him good morning when he treats you that way?"

Said the man, "Why should I let him determine how I behave?"

Posted by: DL7 | July 17, 2007 2:10 AM | Report abuse

Courteous actions and words may sometimes be from force of habit, but that does not cheapen them. Many worthwhile behaviors are habits, including safe driving and brushing one's teeth.

Courtesy is occasionally mindless, but it is still preferable to thoughtless selfishness and intentional malice.

Once good manners become second nature, using them is not the hassle those who have not acquired them sometimes scorn them as. If one's default tendency is to be polite, one is spared the trouble of constant social improvisation.

Posted by: DL7 | July 17, 2007 2:21 AM | Report abuse

My children are far from perfect, but they were raised to have excellent manners. When they blow it, I correct them. And the poster who said, "Do unto others as you...." has it correct. We parents must start showing compassion for the feelings of others and TEACH it to our children by role-modeling the behavior. My children have one big flaw; I never bought into the southern way of "Miss" or "Mr" and now I have having to backtrack because some people have been offended. Sadly, habits start and are hard to break, so my kids often slip and do not use a title when addressing an adult. Friends laugh and credit it to my yankee upbringing (we yankees aren't appreciated in the south:). HOPEFULLY, people will judge my children on the compassionate, bright, productive adults they become instead of the minor flaws I have helped them develop.

Posted by: Nonny | July 17, 2007 9:32 AM | Report abuse

I'm a little amused how everyone here is lamenting the death of manners while simultaneously insisting that manners are alive and well in THEIR home.

My godmother was a beauty queen who trained me in ettiquette (which is different than manners). I can choose the correct fork at any function, curtsy properly, I know order of seating at tables, etc. My mother taught me since I could talk to say please, thank you, I apologize, etc. The entire situation with non-academic honorifics was more or less passed over through my childhood because, after a few awkward incidents with uncomfortable adults, I just stopped using people's names altogether if I could avoid it. Sometimes I revert to "Yes'm", but mostly only if I know it will annoy people who don't like me to talk like a slave.

When I started dating my husband, we started discussing what his daughter should call me when she was old enough to talk. I shot down Ms. _______, Miss Kat, and Aunty Kat because if we were dating under the pretense of intending to marry, I didn't want my stepdaughter to feel any more alienated from me than she would already be from watching so many "wicked stepmother" movies at her mother's house.

She calls me by my first name, which is not ideal, but she calls all of her father's friends (after similar arguments, I'm sure) "Aunty" or "Uncle". On one hand, this is Pacific Islander tradition, but on the other hand, she's being taught to count people she's only met once as family.

My husband insists that when we have a child together, he will call his elders by their proper honorifics. We'll see. It's not a popular form in my city. Kids who talk like that tend to be seen as dress-up dolls for their trophy wife mothers.

Posted by: Kat | July 17, 2007 10:18 AM | Report abuse

RAISED IN THE SOUTH AND HAS RETURNED TO THE SOUTH TO LIVE. RAISING 2 NIECES AND I EXPECT NOTHING LESS GOOD MANNERS. I FEEL THAT IS SO IMPORTANT IN TODAY'S SOCIETY. I WAS RAISED TO RESPECT MY ELDERS AND I WILL NOT LET MY CHILDREN DISREPECT ME BY CALLING ME BY MY FIRST NAME OR ANYONE ELSE.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Good manners don't breed submissiveness. People with good manners (like my parents, for example) know how to stand up for themselves. They just do it without being obnoxious. Moreover, a foundation of good manners gives children a framework for appropriate interaction with adults. Consequently (I think) good manners may help kids recognize and resist improper (i.e., rude) conduct by adults who might harm them or lead them astray.

Similarly, I believe good manners breed self-confidence. Adults react better to polite kids, which gives those kids the confidence to interact on an equal footing with adults, teachers, bosses, etc. Good manners get kids accustomed to being listened to and taken seriously.

Posted by: new dad | July 17, 2007 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Kat, that's not so unusual. People lament things in general but their specific situations are fine.

Ex. Politicians are crooks who should be tossed from office -- but let's give our good ol' Congressman Smith a ninth term.

The Phi Delta Kappan has done an annual survey of American attitudes about education. The general pattern over the decades is parents think schools are terrible -- but their own little munchkins attend a just marvelous school with delightful teachers.

Perhaps the same approach applies to attitudes about manners.

Posted by: Auxo | July 17, 2007 10:42 PM | Report abuse

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