Where Have Our Manners Gone?


Manners! Where have they gone? There was a time when people demonstrated basic manners and respect for others. Young men grew up believing it was appropriate to hold the door, especially for women. Most of ...

Print Email

Manners! Where have they gone? There was a time when people demonstrated basic manners and respect for others. Young men grew up believing it was appropriate to hold the door, especially for women. Most of us who are older would never disrespect an adult, even if the adult were disrespectful to us.

What happened to saying please and thank you? What about saying excuse me when trying to get the attention of another who is already engaged in conversation? How about using a reasonable tone of voice with a civil vocabulary for expressing a concern that is troubling?

For many, being polite and respectful has gone by the wayside. Think about the last little league, high school football or even professional baseball game you attended. How did the people in the stands act? How did the adults who were present behave?

If the truth be told, the behavior of many spectators, young and old alike, at best is borderline. The colorful expletives used by some parents watching their children compete borders on scandalous. And we wonder why, at times our children are less than respectful of those in authority. Cursing at referees and/or at other parents is reprehensible behavior, no matter what the circumstance.

When a fight breaks out on the basketball court or football field and adults from the stands start cheering, there's something wrong with that picture. What is even more disturbing is what occurs when you, as a spectator, try to intervene and suggest that kind of behavior is not appropriate. You are shouted down, which only gives our children a mixed message about what is appropriate social behavior.

Recently, there were a series of articles from around the country that spoke of the growing violence among parents towards other parents while watching their children compete. In one case, a father's violence and rage caused the death of another father. Two families were totally destroyed forever because of foolishness.

A group of junior high school coeds were waiting on line for a movie at a local multiplex theater. The film being shown was very popular, so the line was extremely long. They didn't want to wait, so they started cutting, pushing and shoving. Their aggressive behaviors almost caused a full-blown fight among more than a hundred students. The yelling, screaming and cursing were disgraceful.

When some adults on the line tried to calm them down, other students cursed at the adults and told them to mind their own business. Needless to say, tensions were intensifying rapidly. Finally, a theater security guard came over and defused the brewing brawl.

The obnoxious group of teenagers finally got into the theater, but because it was crowded, they had to split up from one another. As soon as the film began, the cell phones started ringing. Instead of shutting them off, they answered them and carried on rather loud and oftentimes crude conversations. All in the vicinity were able to hear their exchanges.

After more than a half hour of this, an adult in their presence asked them politely to shut off their phones or leave the theater if they intended to carry on extensive conversations. A couple of teenagers were respectful and shut off their phones. Two other teenagers were belligerent. One told the adult in very colorful language, to shut up.

The adult was shocked and appalled by the teenager's response. He got up from his seat, found a theater attendant and explained what had just taken place. The attendant went up to the teenager, told him to leave and said he would receive a refund.

The teenager responded with a string of expletives that everyone in the theater could hear and refused to move. The attendant warned him that if he did not move, the police would be called and they would remove him. He dared the attendant to call the cops.

Within five minutes, three police officers entered the theater and physically removed the obnoxious teenager. The adults who were present applauded because they were so frustrated with the teenager's defiance.

Before the cell phone craze, we seemed able to navigate life's landscape quite adequately. As parents, we had a network of communication strategies to keep ourselves connected to our children and to keep our children connected to us. Now it seems that everyone is in a panic. Children in elementary school supposedly need cell phones.

In junior high school, cell phones are portrayed as mandatory lifelines for social survival. Text messaging is more important than taking notes and paying attention to the teacher. More and more teachers are putting signs on their classroom doors directing students to turn off their cell phones before entering class.

Students that ignore that directive and are caught text messaging during class feel like their civil rights have been violated when they receive consequences for non-compliance.

A growing number of parents are treating cell phones like they are a dire necessity and are supporting their children's inappropriate use of them. They seem to think that it's okay for their children to have limitless access to their phones and all the toys that are attached to them. Text messaging, e-mailing and taking pictures during class should not be such a big deal.

One parent was apparently shocked and appalled that her fourteen-year-old son had his cell phone confiscated. The teacher took it from him after he was asked not to text message his friends during class. He continued anyway. When the teacher confiscated the phone and read the content of the message, he was deeply disturbed. The dialogue that was going on between the student and another student was obscene, to say the least.

When the principal read the content of the text message, he decided to have a conference with the parents, before he would return the phone. The parents came the next day for a meeting. They made it very clear to the principal that they were really put out. They felt he was overreacting and that what had happened was no big deal. The parents did not see the seriousness of the two issues before them. First, it was their son's deliberate defiance when told not to do something. Second, it was the troubling content of the text message between a fourteen-year-old teenage boy and a fourteen-year-old teenage girl that was clearly inappropriate. After the conference with the parents, the principal understood why the student just didn't get it and does what he pleases.

We need to slow down and remember that the cell phone is a social tool and not a necessity. We also need to revive the old, simple practice of being mannerly and respectful. There is no need, in our excitement, to curse and bully others when we disagree or don't get our way. As adults, we should not accept vulgar language from our children. We should not tolerate their disrespectful manner with some adults, even if the adults might be wrong.

As adults, we need to lead by example. We need to be more conscious of our own social behavior and how we speak to others. The best way to teach manners is to be mannerly. The best way we can teach respect is by being respectful. We would do well to strengthen that mutual partnership between school, family and community and collectively reinforce those simple values that are so basic to our daily lives.