I saw this link shared on facebook recently:
25 Manners Every Kid Should Know by Age 9
I thought oh cool, someone out there saying that our kids should actually have manners! My husband and I both are regularly upset by the rudeness that we see among young people toward their teachers, parents, and friends. It's disgusting.
But then I went and actually read the list at the link.
And I was not happy folks.
Some of the manners are good:
When asking for something, say "Please." (#1)
When receiving something, say "Thank you." (#2)
Knock on closed doors -- and wait to see if there's a response -- before entering (#10) (I have a couple of kids who need to work on this one...then again, daddy and mommy need to work on this one too, so it's no wonder is it?!)
Others of the manners were also good in theory, but were a little overdone, such as #19 (As you walk through a door, look to see if you can hold it open for someone else.) Sure, that's nice, but is it essential? I don't really think so.
Or #16 (Even if a play or an assembly is boring, sit through it quietly and pretend that you are interested. The performers and presenters are doing their best.) I would have said that you should sit still and quiet and not be disruptive of others, but if you're bored, I honestly don't care if you pretend to pay attention. Just don't distract anyone else, and don't say anything rude afterward.
And how about #24 (Keep a napkin on your lap; use it to wipe your mouth when necessary.) Um, I don't put a napkin in my lap unless I'm at a restaurant. Actually, I keep a damp washcloth at the table--I use it for the baby, and anyone else is welcome to use it for messy fingers too. At the end of dinner, we wash our hands in the sink when we clear our plates. Honestly? Napkins in laps for children under 9? Who wrote this?!
Finally, though, were a few items on the list that I found deeply troubling. It's not because the advice was bad per se, but it was either patronizing to the child, or didn't give the child respect equal to an adult. As my readers know, I have a real problem with both of those things. Here are the two that most particularly bothered me:
#3 Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are finished talking.
Do I like interrupting? No. But this is something that needs to be taught by example. The wording of "do not interrupt grown-ups" makes it very clear that grown-ups conversations get precedent over young people's conversations. They should not. They should be equal. I think it's appropriate for an adult to say "just a minute" and I think it's appropriate for a child to wait a minute for the adult to finish what they are saying...but it is plain old rude for an adult to ramble on and ignore a child who is standing there clearly wanting to say something. AND, it's equally appropriate for an adult to wait a minute for a child to finish what they are saying, and so on.
#6 The world is not interested in what you dislike. Keep negative opinions to yourself, or between you and your friends, and out of earshot of adults.
Pardon me, I just threw up a little bit. (Oh, wait, was that a negative opinion?!) Just that first sentence gives one message loud and clear "the world is not interested in you or what you think." I find that deeply offensive. Do we or do we not want to teach our children to respect others? Do we or do we not want our children to develop confidence in themselves? Trust of their own abilities and feelings? Don't ever tell my kid that the world is not interested in him! Go ahead and tell him that you have different preferences, or even that you're not interested in a specific topic. That's ok. That's opinion. But don't tell him that his interests and opinions are invalid! And as for the negativity, I always start by telling my kids that you can't have an opinion about a thing unless you are educated about it. If it's a food, you can't dislike it until you've eaten some. If it's a book, you can't be uninterested until you've read a few chapters. If it's an activity, try it before you decide to hate it. I don't generally force them to try things, incidentally (I do encourage, but not force), they're just not allowed to voice an opinion if they haven't tried it. I also ask my kids to not speak negative opinions in front of siblings who might be influenced by it (ie, Bear learns to hate tomatoes because Wolf says they're gross). But if my son wants to come to me privately and express his frustration or dislike about something, he is entitled to do that. Everyone is entitled to an (informed) opinion, and if my kids can't share with me, who can they share with?!
To end on a better note, I also read a great parenting blog post this week: Ten Ways to Confuse a Child. Go check it out. ☺
Also, I've added a section to my "my parenting philosophy" index page, so now as well as linking to the many posts that I have written, it also has links to outside posts and articles that I thought were particularly good.