There is a lot of social media discussion about kids having no manners. Offspring who display a 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.
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 stopped wanting to cook for a crowd every night and figured there was no reason I should.
This doesn’t exclude communal family occasions, but it shifts the responsibility for making it happen from me to them. I figure that’s fair. In all the old movies, Granny is eager to spend every blessed moment of her life cooking for the crowd who she eagerly welcomes any time of the day or night. I suspect that was the Hollywood version because most of us have other stuff we’d like to do. Blogging. Reading. Writing. Painting. Sculpting. Gardening. Even watching television!
As a youngster, it was almost shocking to imagine grandparents having a life of their own. I assumed older people would naturally want to move in with the kids. It never crossed my mind that I was going to ever be one of those older people.
My husband and I eat together, mostly in front of the television because the tray tables are cozier than the big dining room. If we are celebrating an “eating” holiday — Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, a birthday, whatever — the dining table makes sense. These days, mostly it holds my cameras. So I can take pictures of squirrels hogging the bird feeders.
Despite no longer dining together, we are reasonably nice anyway. We have our disagreements, but “please”, “thank you”, “excuse me” and similar expressions are normal parts of regular conversation. Our ability to get along isn’t linked to eating together. If it were, we’d be in trouble. Not having family dinners has not turned us into barbarians nor did having them make us civilized.
I keep reading posts deploring the loss of family dinners. It’s apparently the sign of the end of society. It is the equivalent of the end of human civilization itself. I don’t agree. Society’s disintegration is a lot more complicated than that.
All over social media, you hear the same story. The younger generation has no manners! Hot flash! The older generation is astonishingly rude too. You only need to take a look at our president and his cronies to get a solid sense of just how bad our manners have “officially” become. As far as I can see, out in the big wide world, parents talk to each other and their children without as much as a pretense of civility.
They order kids around or ignore them except to complain or punish them. They threaten them and shout at them until they are hoarse. The kids don’t hear 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 will ignore you too.
Then there are all the posts promoting spanking as the ultimate solution. Spanking teaches only one lesson. The biggest and strongest always wins. What could possibly go wrong with that?
Eventually, all offspring rebel. It’s normal, natural, inevitable, and healthy. They should rebel. Kids need to break away and build their own lives. If their entire upbringing consisted of being alternately yelled at, nagged, bullied and threatened, interspersed with an occasional hug, they aren’t going to come back. They’re just gone. Mom and Dad figured a bit of hugging and an occasional “I love you” would make it all better. It didn’t. It was much too little and a lot too late.
You don’t have to love everything the younger generation does, but it doesn’t hurt to know something about them and what their lives are like. It is a very different place than the one in which we grew up. We had silly drills to hide under our desks in case of a nuclear attack. We didn’t have to worry about real people with automatic guns coming in and mowing us down in our classrooms.
Kids learn by experience. They treat others as they have been treated. You can’t expect respect from kids who have never experienced respect, nor require good manners from youngsters whose parents wouldn’t know manners from a tree stump. Moreover, your children won’t try to understand you when you haven’t 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 are?
Raising kids is the ultimate example of “you get what you pay for.” Or less.