Recently, I read this question posed on a social media site, “Does there seem to be a lack of manners and respect in our youth? And, if so, why?” The responses were overwhelmingly “yes.” It gave me pause to compare the lessons taught to my sister and me by our parents, rules to be observed and followed, respect to be shown to others and what is expected of children today.
A lot has changed since I was a child – some things for the better and others not so much. Certainly, the formality of my younger years has changed, and it was even relaxed some then. I am referring to a dress code. After school, I came home and changed into play clothes unless there were after-school plans that required me to stay in my dress. As dinner time approached, the table was set, my mother, my sister and I dressed for dinner waiting for my father to get home from work. We all sat down together, said the blessing, we talked about our day, the TV was never on unless there was an important news event, we ate what was served, asked to be excused before leaving the table and thanked Mom for dinner. It was like a scene from the “Donna Reed” or “Father Know Best” show – you have to be older to appreciate that.
Today, our society has become much less formal. I appreciate a lot of the change, but wish some aspects had stayed in place. Families are so busy now with all their comings and goings, it’s sometimes hard to sit down as a family to enjoy a meal. TVs are on, and conversation is at a minimum; no one asks to be excused and a “thank you” is rare. So, who is at fault? Our reliance on technology has a lot to do with it, but we can only blame it for so much. We have to hold ourselves responsible as parents and even grandparents for not setting boundaries and teaching our children and grandchildren to be mannerly and respectful. This goes to many more facets of life besides table manners.
Respondents to the question cited several manners that seem to have gotten lost with the passage of time. I remember my grandmother’s take on the golden rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Her saying was, “be ye kind one to another.” This is one we should all embrace and instill in our grandchildren.
Other comments included saying “please” and “thank you.” It’s so easy to ask for something and forgetting to include a “please” and “thank you” in your request. My mother used to just look at me waiting to hear those words before acting on them. As a young child, it didn’t take long to realize what words she was waiting for me to add. Speaking when spoken to, proper use of a knife and fork, not talking with your mouth full and “thank you” letters were all mentioned.
Other signs of manners and respect to be taught don’t need words. For example, holding the door open for the person coming in front or behind you; taking off your hat or cap for many different reasons – such as the singing of our National Anthem at a sporting event; giving up your seat to someone elderly or disabled; helping out without needing to be told or expecting something in return.
As this is the beginning of a new year, we should resolve to show and teach our grandchildren, and remind ourselves, to respect others. Good manners never go out of style, we just forget to use them at times. Even something as simple as a smile, a “thank you” or a simple compliment could make someone’s day and doesn’t cost a thing! What a great lesson for our grandchildren and easy examples we can set for them.