The highest perfection of politeness is only a beautiful edifice, built, from the base to the dome, of graceful and gilded forms of charitable and unselfish lying.
– Mark Twain, On the Decay of the Art of Lying speech, 1880
I’d like to think that I’m a fairly well mannered person, but there’s a few items in this list of 25 Manners Every Kid Should Know By Age 9 that I’m not entirely sure I agree with.
Let’s break it down:
When asking for something, say “Please.”
When receiving something, say “Thank you.”
OK, no complaints with the first two. I try especially to do this when dealing with service folks who don’t often get a lot of appreciation such as waitresses, checkout workers, janitorial staff, etc.. Not only is it good manners, but it often makes their day a little better than it otherwise would be.
Manner #3Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are finished talking.
This one is more situational. I can recall being a kid and being ignored for irritatingly long periods of time while trying to obey this rule. This was especially true when time was of the essence but it wasn’t an emergency per se (that ice cream truck isn’t going to be around forever). There are polite ways to interrupt that can be used in such a situation…
If you do need to get somebody’s attention right away, the phrase “excuse me” is the most polite way for you to enter the conversation.
… such as the above example. Honestly, if there’s an emergency I wouldn’t expect anyone — child or adult — to stand around saying “excuse me” until someone paid attention to them. I’d expect a bit of yelling about it being an emergency. Because that’s what I’d do. In my case I’d probably add in a “STFU for a second as this is an emergency” just to make the point clear.
When you have any doubt about doing something, ask permission first. It can save you from many hours of grief later.
This one is reasonable enough, though it relies on the kid being smart enough to have doubts about doing something. There’s a lot of shit I did as a kid that I never had any doubts about that I probably should have.
Manner #6The world is not interested in what you dislike. Keep negative opinions to yourself, or between you and your friends, and out of earshot of adults.
My first reaction to this is a hearty “Fuck you, Dr. David Lowry who wrote this article.” To me you’re telling kids that their opinions on things don’t matter unless they’re positive opinions. Way to make them into second class human beings. Some of the more interesting conversations I’ve had were with kids who wanted to discuss what they liked and didn’t like and why.
Manner #7Do not comment on other people’s physical characteristics unless, of course, it’s to compliment them, which is always welcome.
I think this is dependent on the comment in question. If the child is just being cruel then, yeah, it’s probably best they STFU. If the child is ignorant or confused then it’s a different issue. Again, this smacks of making them into second class people in my mind.
Manner #8When people ask you how you are, tell them and then ask them how they are.
What if how you are is a negative opinion, which you told kids in #6 the world isn’t interested in hearing because they’re just a stupid kid? Should they lie and say they’re just hunky dory or should they STFU and break this rule in the process?
When you have spent time at your friend’s house, remember to thank his or her parents for having you over and for the good time you had.
I can recall growing up that I didn’t do this unless the parents were somehow involved in what we kids were doing. If they fed us or were throwing a party, then yeah, we’d often thank them for the hospitality. But if we were just playing in the backyard and didn’t interact with the parents at all then generally I didn’t make it a point to thank them.
Manner #10Knock on closed doors — and wait to see if there’s a response — before entering.
Forget kids, there are adults who need to learn this one.
Manner #11When you make a phone call, introduce yourself first and then ask if you can speak with the person you are calling.
It’s nice, but I don’t get upset if I have to ask who is calling. This isn’t a big issue in my book.
Manner #12Be appreciative and say “thank you” for any gift you receive. In the age of e-mail, a handwritten thank-you note can have a powerful effect.
This is a tough one because it seems to me to encourage dishonesty for the sake of someone’s feelings. While I don’t think that’s a great sin to commit — I’ve lied to spare someone’s feelings before — I do think it’s wrong to not admit that that’s what you’re encouraging people to do. On the one hand, you should try to be grateful anytime someone thinks enough of you to get you a gift, but at the same time some gifts are so inconsiderate or show no real thought on the part of the giver, that it’s very hard to be sincerely appreciative.
As for handwritten notes, personally I don’t really care if you take the time to write one for me. I’m just as good with a verbal thank you as a handwritten one.
Manner #13Never use foul language in front of adults. Grown-ups already know all those words, and they find them boring and unpleasant.
The fuck I do.
Swearing is one of the very few vices I have and it doesn’t really bother me. I told my daughter that people will judge you by the language you use and it’s frowned upon for kids to swear so she should consider how she wants to be seen by others when choosing her language and there are places where it’ll get you in trouble (e.g. at school or work, etc.). But it would’ve been hypocritical for me to tell her she can’t swear when I swear almost all the damned time. As it turns out, she didn’t swear much at all until she got closer to her 20’s and what little she did swear was usually due to being angry, which I can understand.
Don’t call people mean names.
There are so many exceptions to this in my book that it’s hard to decide where to begin. I’m sorry, but there are some assholes in the world who really deserve to be told what assholes they are.
Manner #15Do not make fun of anyone for any reason. Teasing shows others you are weak, and ganging up on someone else is cruel.
I don’t know if there are many adults who can live up to that rule, let alone kids. I think it’s a good thing to encourage people — young and old — to strive to, but I don’t know that it’s possible given human nature.
Manner #16Even if a play or an assembly is boring, sit through it quietly and pretend that you are interested. The performers and presenters are doing their best.
This is a hard one. Again it seems to me it’s promoting dishonesty. This is part of why I’m reluctant, as an adult, to attend plays and concerts unless I’m pretty damned sure I’m going to enjoy it. I just don’t have the capacity to pretend to like something I don’t actually like. I don’t think it’s fair to teach kids they should lie about it either.
Manner #17If you bump into somebody, immediately say “Excuse me.”
Or at least don’t say, “Hey! Watch were you’re going, asshole!”
Manner #18Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and don’t pick your nose in public.
Fair enough. Though, again, this is something a lot of adults would do well to learn themselves.
As you walk through a door, look to see if you can hold it open for someone else.
Always nice, but I don’t think people should take it as a personal affront if someone doesn’t do that, kid or adult.
Manner #20If you come across a parent, a teacher, or a neighbor working on something, ask if you can help. If they say “yes,” do so — you may learn something new.
Eh, I’m iffy on this one. If it’s something the kid is genuinely interested in then it’s great advice, but if they aren’t then they’re likely to be as much of a problem than a help.
Manner #21When an adult asks you for a favor, do it without grumbling and with a smile.
Oh, the pedophiles must love this rule. “Hey little boy, could you do me a favor?”
Manner #22When someone helps you, say “thank you.” That person will likely want to help you again. This is especially true with teachers!
Not bad advice as anything that makes people feel good about helping you is likely to encourage them to help you again.
Manner #23Use eating utensils properly. If you are unsure how to do so, ask your parents to teach you or watch what adults do.
This seems like something responsible parents would ensure without having to rely on the kid to ask them for help.
Keep a napkin on your lap; use it to wipe your mouth when necessary.
Again, something a responsible parent will teach a child. Though I don’t know if it’s a huge affront to modern sensibilities if it doesn’t always happen.
Don’t reach for things at the table; ask to have them passed.
I’m OK with this one. Never fun to take a bit out of someone’s arm as they reach across to grab the salt or mashed potatoes.
So not a bad list of manners, but some of them I take issue with. How about you guys? Which ones do you disagree or agree with?