Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Are good manners still of value?

“Yes ma’am”
“No sir”
“Thank you”
“Excuse me”
“May I…”
“It’s very nice to meet you”

Do you knock before you enter a room, office or family member’s home? Do you say “bless you” when someone sneezes, whether or not you know them? Do you smile courteously at others when your eyes connect? Do you hold the door open for people who have their hands full, are pushing a buggy or stroller, or just because you reached the door at the same time? Do you let people who have only a few items get in front of you in line at the grocery store if your basket is full? Do you walk in between or interrupt people who are having a conversation? What are good manners considered to be these days? Do parents consider manners an important value anymore?

I’ve thought about this topic for a long time now, but the question really hit me while sitting in the movie theater this weekend. I showed up about 30 minutes early for my show, sat in the far front (about 10 rows from the screen so I can cock back and relax) and started reading the first chapter of the book I just bought. A little while later a gaggle of teenage girls come bursting through the doors behind me, hollering and being rowdy and holding hands and skipping through the hallway. They take the stairs by two, going up towards the film booth, and each toddle down a different isle sounding off where the best place to see the 22 x 52 foot screen is. Once the final spot is agreed upon, they climb and hop over the backs of the chairs to reach the selected location. For the next 25 minutes, I am plunged into the life of these high school girls. Derek is apparently “a total a-hole” because he sex-texted Marisha last night after the house party, but he has been “talking to” Danielle for the past 3 weeks and she’s Marisha’s best friend. Titillating story as it was to listen to, I found it bizarre that a big part of their juvenile conversation was about how Derek’s parents must not have taught him any manners.    

My mind ran crazy with all kinds of silly thoughts about poor Derek and Marisha. While he shouldn’t be sexting his girlfriend’s best friend, that didn’t mean that he had bad manners in my mind. I started wondering if he opened the doors for her at school, or paid for her soda at the football game, or politely asked if Marisha was home when he called her house and her parents answered the phone. Just because the boy is testing the waters of love, doesn’t mean his parents didn’t teach him any good manners.

It got me thinking how I would teach my son manners and respect. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone Derek cheating on his girlfriend; however, I’m only hearing the story of the girls… and he is a boy in high school and will hopefully learn from this unfortunate event. But these 16-17 year old girls have no idea of manners, howling and climbing all over everything like 4 year old children (which I would expect, if they were 4). I began to question (giving them the benefit of the doubt) if they were only acting like this because they were void of parental supervision and were completely respectful in front of adults, and maybe just didn’t notice me… but that question was immediately answered as I turned around to see a half full theater.

I’m hoping I will teach my son respect and manners through my own actions. On the other hand, as admitted in my last post, my social filter is sometimes a little off and I come off the wrong way (either by being too honest or overly polite, which is taken as sarcastic most times). I want him to have fun and experience all the world has to offer, which includes being silly and making a fool of himself sometimes. But is it too much to ask that I want him to do it all with respect to others? Yeah, sure, climb over the seats in the movie theater, but make sure you say “excuse me” to the two old bittis that are sitting in the rows you trample over and kiss them each on the hand. *exaggeration*

I’m not saying I was the model of behavior as a child, I’ve had my fair share of dishing out disrespect in my years… and maybe some of my annoyance towards these bouncy little teenagers is because I did not experience those bubbly times in transferring to so many schools (that’s a topic for a whole other blog post). Nevertheless, I have always said “yes/no ma’am” and was on my best behavior when we visited friends and family and went out on the town. Still to this day, I say ma’am to any female figure I converse with… even my nieces and young children. It has become habit to me, through constant reinforcement as a child from my mother and father. They didn’t see eye-to-eye on most everything, but they were consistent in making sure I was respectful and courteous.  

This post sounds mostly like a rant, but I fantasize how my son will treat other people in the future. I imagine him being polite with a superlative sense of humor and always making people feel comfortable and safe, just like my husband does. *hands together praying*

 So the question is to you… Do you make a conscious effort to reinforce good manners? What do you consider good manners?