Maybe it's because my son was restless the entire night and I ended up getting about 2 hours of sleep, or maybe I am bitter because the Universe could have sent me a two-hour delay today to make up for the aforementioned lack of sleep. Whatever the cause, I find myself wondering if manners have died completely.
Just this morning in my classroom, three students in a row walked up to my desk with questions/demands without a word of greeting: "Can I use a regular sheet of paper for my homework if I lost the handout?" "Where I can find so-and-so?" "What kind of coffee did you make?"
To each one of these students, I responded, "Good morning! How are you doing today? I am fine. Thank you so much for asking. Now, what can I help you with?"
I wish I could say this doesn't happen on a regular basis.
Here's the thing: these kids are not "bad kids" (whatever that means . . . I never use that phrase as a teacher, actually. That's a topic for another blog, though!). They aren't attempting to be rude on purpose. I honestly believe they don't know any better.
Which, of course, makes me wonder how that happened. Even last night in our home, I corrected Liam for interrupting Gene and me and made him do it again politely. I consistently reprimand my children when they forget their "nice words" or act in a selfish way. I often remind them, "It's not all about you all the time."
But, I have witnessed plenty of parents who do not tell their young children that the world does not revolve around them. Instead, they allow their children to run the house. Think about how often you hear parents say something along the lines of: "She won't go to bed when I tell her it's bedtime," or "He won't clean up his room, so I have to do it." Eventually, it ends with "It's just easier to do it myself (or let them have their own way) than to fight them on it."
Here's another thing: You have to fight them on it when they are young. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's exhausting. Yes, there will be days when you feel more like giving in. But, we are raising human beings who should join society as productive, respectful members who contribute to the greater good.
Another part of the problem is our self-centered society. There are plenty of adults who lack manners, who don't seem to know the words "please" or "thank you." We live in the age of the selfie, basking in the glow of the "Me Generation." The result can be young people who think only of themselves -- What's Mom making me for dinner? Does the teacher have my work graded yet? What can I get? instead of Mom's been at work all day. I should go help her with dinner. My teacher is a human being, too. Even though I'm only in her room for 45 minutes a day, she has 120 other people to take care of on a daily basis. How can I earn what I want? How can I give back to my community or my family without being told to do it?
Something has always irked me is the explanation that "they are teenagers; it's just how they are." Instead, I believe that kids will rise to the expectations we set for them, low or high. These are students who take college-level classes, who drive automobiles, who hold part-time jobs, who fill leadership roles in school teams. Why do we have such low expectations for them? Why should I simply respond to the students who walk in and start talking to me like I am a servant, waiting to meet their needs? I would fail as a mother and a teacher to remain silent.
After all, these young people will grow into the dreaded "Millennials" we hear so much about. People who expect to handed starting salaries that are higher than others with years of experience. People who expect upper management positions before they even learn the trade. People who think they have all the answers before they even know the questions.
So, are manners dead? Only if we allow them to die.