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Every generation reaches a point where it starts to grumble about “the kids today” and how things were different back in their day.
One of the casualties of the younger generation that is most obvious is common courtesy, which isn’t very common anymore.
Gone are the days of saying, “excuse me,” “pardon me,” “may I?” or simply “please” and “thank you.” And whatever happened to holding the door for someone, respecting elders, allowing an adult to speak without interrupting, or writing a thank-you note after receiving a gift?
These words and actions are practically extinct for anyone under 40. Take a look and listen to old television shows like Leave it to Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show. The young people addressed adults as sir or ma’am, and never left the dinner table without asking to be excused.
Why have manners become a thing of the past?
Professional etiquette expert Melissa Leonard believes it is a result of modern television, video games and two parents working. “Our society puts more emphasis on making kids happy than on giving them the skills they will need later on in life,” she said.
Add to that being tethered to technology devices and the behavior of celebrity role models, and you will have the answer.
Recently, educators have been prompted to add lessons on good manners and proper etiquette to their curricula. This begs the question—is it the teacher’s responsibility to teach a child good manners, or the parent’s? Will adding lessons on etiquette to the class day detract from teaching academic skills? Are there enough hours in the school day?
Manhattan-based etiquette expert Samantha von Sperling said that today’s kids are not learning correct behavior because their parents do not practice good manners. They too are tethered to their electronic devices, working multiple jobs, or simply not making good manners a parenting priority.
According to a recent national survey of preschool teachers, 80 percent felt that parents are emphasizing or overemphasizing scholastic skills over social development.
Both experts Leonard and von Sperling agree that teaching children good manners in their formative years, when they are learning basic skills to listen and form speech, is the time to start teaching good manners at home. It is too late by the time they get into grade school.
So, parents and grandparents – PLEASE heed the advice of the experts and start teaching your children to have good manners when they are young. Turn off the computer. Put the cell phones and TV remotes aside for a while. Show them the value of proper etiquette. Teach them to wait their turn to speak or to get something they want, and to respect others.
And most importantly, don’t expect a teacher to do your job as a parent.
The Inside Scoop
By John J. Tassoni, Jr.