Where Did All The Manners Go?

I think it's especially strange to witness in my own lifetime such a contrast in upbringing regarding respect, manners, general behavior that is acceptable. Or the gross lack of all three. I'm quite baffled how we've arrived at the point where it's such an issue actually. Like we are all just waking up, pulling our hair out saying "how did this happen?" Freedom of expression verbally and physically was Chapter 1 with them in utero. Is this healthy? Don't children still need parents to... um, parent?

No mother out there wants to have everyone's eyes turned on her in public while her sweet angel is wailing on the floor of the bread isle. It's only slightly less unnerving to have people watch as you calmly wait out the tantrum and gently comfort your child. Regardless, all eyes will be on you. So we can't use our own discomfort as an out. We can't bargain internally and think, I'll just let it go this once so I can get such-n-such done and over with. We can't make empty warnings. We certainly can't financially afford, nor our kiddos psychologically afford, the amount of bribery it would take to keep everyone composed ALL THE TIME. They will test your resolve. Each instance though will reinforce something to your child of how people treat each other... question is: what will it reinforce? I don't know a single mom out there that doesn't agree that what kids see they mimic. They'll out you to anyone and everyone your true behaviors behind closed doors.

You may be thinking that our grandparent's generation of "Yes, Ma'am" and "Pardon me Sir" is antiquated. However, more and more I'm thinking they were doing something right. We all claim that we are teaching our own children these principles however I have yet to see much evidence of this when out and about. I constantly see children not only disrespecting their parents but everyone in a 10 foot radius. No, I'm not just pointing the finger and leaving myself out. Thankfully I only have a 20 month old right now and I've yet to hit the tantrum phase. I know you are all thinking, "oh just you wait." That's partly why I'm exploring this topic now. What do I want our family's standard of respect to be?

When I sit back and examine this I see a lot of hard working parents who feel spread thin in life. The small amount of time they have each day with their children they do not want to spend arguing let alone having to deal with punishments and behavior modification. They are too tired to argue back. They have already acquiesced so many times, they just seem to say the mandatory sentences "don't hit your sister or we won't get your favorite cereal." Then the kid hits her sister again, deep sigh from mom while throwing the box of cereal in the cart.

Even the example I made up seems too long for my liking. There is something to be said for the over stereotyped line of "because I said so". You know what? You are the parent and this truly is all they need to hear in order to sit down in the cart and behave at the level you know they are perfectly capable of. Yet we are a different generation with the knowledge that "because I said so" doesn't benefit the child in the long run. They may accept it and do as they are told by they haven't integrated an intrinsic value as to why they should do it. So many parents now are more educated in how to teach children, how to speak to them, how to make a learning moment from all the developmental milestone that we are overwhelmed in making each one of these "teachable" moments perfect.

We feel guilty at taking the short route of "I'm the parent and what I say goes"... instead we must explain in detail the full measure of our words. And this IS good, it does really help children to learn to express themselves better in moments where they feel out of sorts, tired, scared, etc. rather than just express it with a physical tantrum or backtalk. Again though, I wonder how many parents are really doing this? Why don't we feel worthy of demanding respect this instant, especially if we know that all these important lessons really benefit our child in the long run? I think in trying to reach this balance perhaps we are overdoing it. There is either not enough engagement or too much. 

If you say "I will turn this car around"... yes, super inconvenient, but DO it! If we get to the point where Supernanny needs to come set us all straight... oy vay! I heard the other day a woman say "your child has a ripple effect on society" and boy, I believe it. No I wouldn't want to have grown up in the 1800's but I don't think that negates some lessons we as parents can draw on from our collective past. There is nothing wrong with discipline, hard work, chores, honest dialogue, consequences, rewards, teachable moments. There is something to be said for doing it right the first time. If we make the effort early on and lay the groundwork within our own families for how people are to be treated then the ripple effect of our children interacting with the outside world will bring nothing but smiles to the faces of others.

We haven't even touched on the topics of disciplining other parent's children and all the fringe angles of this issue. Just in learning what is age appropriate discipline is important for each parent. Breaking down respect into simple ways for your child to understand is helpful too. I personally am vowing to step back and reflect on the principles of the past that seem so wise to me now and timeless. I hope to gather around my family other such like-minded moms. I'm encouraged every time I see another mom stop, give adequate explanation of expectations and then follow through. Not to mention the next time we are at the play-date together and I see her child respond instantly and politely to her requests.



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