You get what you pay for

There is a lot of internet discussion about kids having no manners, offspring who display a complete lack of civility towards adults in general and their own families in particular. I hear a lot of squawking from families how “they didn’t learn this from us!” which I find amusing. They learned it somewhere, so I’m guessing home is exactly where they learned it.

The way you treat your children, each other and the rest of the world is going to be exactly how your offspring will treat you.

Almost Dinner Time 1

When we were younger and on predictable schedules, our extended family had nightly (or nearly so) family meals. As we’ve all gotten older, I got tireder. I stopped being able or willing to cook for a crowd every night and figured there was no reason I should. I’ve been cooking family style for more than 40 years. I’ve served my time (yes, it’s punny). These days, I try to keep life and meals simple. Garry and I eat differently than the kids. My son hates fish, mushrooms and other stuff that Garry and I love. My granddaughter won’t eat anything with even a hint of hot spice. My daughter-in-law won’t eat steak. Bottom line? It’s easier and more fun to cook things Garry and I like. Nowadays, making us happy is my priority. The younger generations are welcome to do the same for themselves. It doesn’t exclude communal family occasions, but it shifts the responsibility for making it happen from me to them. Fair? I think so.

My husband and I eat together, mostly in front of the TV, because the tray tables are cozier than the big dining table. When the whole family sits down together about once a week, it’s pleasant but everyone is off in a different direction as soon as the last bite is chewed. It’s not so terrible. Everyone has their own schedule, especially “the baby” who at 16, is a young woman and wants to do her own thing. It would be odd if it were otherwise. I was much the same and I think I turned out alright.

Despite no longer dining together, we are reasonably nice to each other. We have our beefs, but “please”, “thank you”, “excuse me” and similar expressions are normal parts of conversation. Our ability to get along isn’t tied to the dinner table. If it were, we’d be in serious trouble.

Not having family dinners has not turned us into barbarians nor did having them make us civilized.

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I keep reading posts deploring the loss of family dinners. It’s apparently the clearest sign of the end of society, of civilization itself. I don’t agree. Society’s disintegration is a lot more complicated than that.

All over the Internet you hear it. The younger generation has no manners! Hot flash! The older generation is incredibly rude too. As far as I can see, out in the big wide world, parents talk to each other and their children without so much as a pretence of civility. They order the kids around like drill sergeants or ignore them except to complain about them. They threaten them with dire punishment, shout at them until they are hoarse. The kids don’t hear them and eventually ignore them. The shouting combined with toothless threats becomes background noise. This is true with kids and pets. If you always yell at the dog, the dog ignores you too.

And of course there are all those posts promoting spanking as the ultimate solution. Spanking teaches only one lesson: whoever is biggest and strongest wins.  What could possibly go wrong with that?

Eventually, all offspring rebel. It’s normal, natural, inevitable and healthy. They should rebel. However, if their entire upbringing consisted of being alternately yelled at, nagged, bullied and threatened, interspersed with an occasional hug, they aren’t going to rebel then come back. They’re gone. Mom and Dad figured a bit of hugging and an occasional “I love you” would fix everything and make it all better. They were wrong.

Kids become teenagers, so now their folks want civil behavior and (drumroll) respect, but it’s a bit late. Their children don’t respect them and don’t see any reason they should. Respect isn’t something you can demand. It was and remains something you earn. You can make them fear you, but not respect you. Why would anyone expect respect if they’ve never shown any?

“My kids never talk to me.” This classic is right up there with “I don’t get no respect.”

What are they supposed to talk about? If you have some interests in common with the young adults your kids have become, it would help. Most parents are only interested in what their kids are doing so they can stop them from doing it — something of which the kids are well aware. Their folks have no interest in their world. If they aren’t outright scornful of it, they are completely disinterested and ignorant . You don’t have to love everything the younger generation does, but it doesn’t hurt to know something about it and what it means. It is a very different world than the one in which you or I grew up. No need to be proud of ignorance.

They tell the entire world how much they don’t like their kids’ movies, music, games, personal habits and relationships. They announce with enthusiasm via Facebook, the modern intra-family bulletin board, how clueless the kids are.

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The kids may be clueless but so are their parents. To coin a phrase, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. I doubt most of them have made any effort to understand the world their kids live in. Why are they surprised the disinterest is reciprocal?

Kids learn by experience. They treat others as they have been treated. You can’t expect respect from kids who have never experienced it, nor good manners from youngsters whose parents wouldn’t know manners from a tree stump. Your children are unlikely to make an effort to understand you when you have never tried to understand them.

If you think you don’t need no stinkin’ manners when you talk to your children, husband, friends and strangers, your children probably agree. Why should they be nicer than you were to them?

Raising kids is the ultimate example of “you get what you pay for.” Or less.



Categories: Education, Family, Food, Life, Marriage, Media, reflection, social media, Television

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

9 replies

  1. Great post, Mrs A!! Lots to chew on (pun intended). Family dinners are alone worth a post. One of the highlights of a currently favorite TV series “Bluebloods” is their family dinner scene. It’s used as a story catalyst for many things and a series staple for regular viewers. The warmth exuded by the three or four generations at the dinner table resonates with those of us who grew up with family dinners as a regular part of our lives. Warmth wasn’t always exuded at our dinner table but through the prism of time those evenings are fondly remembered. I have this reoccurring sense memory of Sunday evening dinners. Pot Roast, oven browned potatoes, veggies, gravy and those quick bake/brown and serve biscuits. Jack Benny on the radio and all was well!! Family dinners are now occasions, not an everyday affair, all of it, to borrow the title from Eric Sevareid’s memoir — “So Well Remembered”.

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  2. I love your comments about family dinners! Girl, I too have served my time. We have four daughters at home, and may I just say that they are perfectly happy to eat WHEN THEY ARE HUNGRY, and we aren’t all hungry at the same time. There is no NEED to all sit down together, although we still do this about twice a week. It is OKAY to feed your family in the manner in which it suits your collective season of life. I love that you eat with your husband on tv trays. That’s great!

    Food is not the focus of our family. We eat to live, not live to eat. I like it that way. 🙂 I don’t care what others do…not my concern. THANK YOU for reassuring me that it’s okay to have your own family eating thing going on.

    Hugs,
    joanne
    URtheMOM.com

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    • It took me years to get past my own programming. There’s so much pressure to run your family “the right way.” This really means the way it is on the Cosby Show or some other family sitcom. No one actually lives that way, though we all think we should.

      Relationships are not based on eating in a group. It’s nice to share a meal sometimes, but it isn’t mandatory. At some point, it becomes more like a punishment. Kids want to be off doing whatever kids do. Mom has cooked enough meals for the rest of her life and would be happy to never do it again. Dad, if on the scene, never cared in the first place. It’s difficult to admit to being a non-conformist … until you discover that most people don’t actually conform either. The “norm” isn’t normal and never was 😉

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  3. When I had a family I was considered “Uncle Buck”. I was compared to that John Candy character because of my no nonsense approach to social interaction. I always gave you enough rope to hang yourself. I’ve never been a “shouter”. I don’t need loud to make my point. If kids wanted to argue they had their say and if they could convince me why they should have their way instead of listening to my wife and me I’d take it under advisement. The worst thing you could do when speaking to me is whine. That would shut down all further communications. My kids became great debaters because of these policies.

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    • Shouting becomes a habit. Threats and yelling combined with neglect are the trifecta of child-rearing. Take a trip to any mall or Walmart to collect all the data you would need for a study. It’s frustrating watching so many people who should never have had children behaving so badly than blaming their kids for not knowing any better than they’ve been taught. Oof. And whining. Fingernails on a blackboard!

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      • I’ve touched on this on previous post but our last few generation were likely not raised by parents but daycare personnel or baby sitters. You lose control when you’ve never been in control.

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        • That’s not true and rather chauvinest. It’s harder to be a good parent when both parents work, but not impossible. I worked and when Owen was little, he was at day care for a few hours a day. But that was a small piece of his life. He never viewed his baby sitter or day care person as mom, nor did I. Mind you he liked Nancy, his baby sitter (she lived up the block) and so did I and she eventually became more a member of my family than her own, but we always had a very rich home life. Losing control is a choice parents make. You can lose control with the kids IN the house, too and mostly, that’s exactly the way it happens.

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          • I was speaking in too general language. There are lots of family members that take good care of our children and teach them good social values. I was referring to the bulk of society that drops of their children to daycare centers where its easy not to know the adults in charge of a large group of kids. I worked for 8 years in an office environment where men & women worked all day while their children were being raised by total strangers. That generation doesn’t have the same skill set to raise their children.

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            • It still isn’t true. For a start, the cost of day care precludes most normal people from using it. The vast majority of caretakers for the children of working parents are other family members, grandparents, cousins, aunts and so on. Day care is insanely expensive. Moreover, most people are wary of such places, not without reason. Our “day care” person was a local lady who lived a few blocks away and took care of the kids of neighborhood mommies who didn’t have a family to step up to the plate. Maybe in wealthier areas things are different, or maybe it’s a west coast thing, but there is not so much professional day care available. What is available costs far more than typical working parents could ever afford.

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