written by Meredith Barth
We were having a nice, relaxing morning at the library yesterday when I made the mistake of picking up a parenting mag and stumbled across this gem called “25 Manners Kids Should Know.” I started scoffing out loud, visibly twitching, and I'm pretty sure I felt the beginnings of a rage-induced coronary coming on.
Some of the highlights:
"Do 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."
Translation: The things that matter to you are unimportant. Your needs are unimportant. Unless you are dying or in need of a ride to the hospital, you are utterly unimportant. After all, you're just a child.
"When you have any doubt about doing something, ask permission first. It can save you from many hours of grief later."
Translation: You are void of discernment, incapable of making safe, respectful choices. Acting on your own judgment will end in disaster. After all, you're just a child.
"The 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."
Translation: No one cares what you care about; the things that matter to you are trivial. Your opinions are unimportant. Negative feelings and opinions, warranted or not, are unacceptable. Bottle them up and don't bother anyone with them, especially not a superior adult. No one cares about your real feelings, only how you make them feel. After all, you're just a child.
"Even 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."
Translation: Don't be authentic. There's no kind way to genuinely express yourself; it’s better to be fake and “nice.” What you think and feel is only okay if it's in line with what everyone around you says is okay. After all, you're just a child.
"If 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."
Translation: No matter what you're doing, it's unimportant compared to what an adult is doing. Any and all adults' priorities overrule your priorities at all times. You have nothing to offer, only something to learn. After all, you're just a child.
"When an adult asks you for a favor, do it without grumbling and with a smile."
Translation: No one cares about what you want or how you feel. You are not capable or worthy of choosing what you do with your time or how you respond to a request. If you are anything other than blindly obedient, you are an inconvenience. After all, you're just a child.
"When someone helps you, say "thank you." That person will likely want to help you again. This is especially true with teachers!"
Translation: Manners are a tool for manipulation. Don't express genuine feelings, express expected feelings, and only for the purpose of getting a desired result. Hey, at least this one isn't exclusive to children.
The fact that this list of “manners” was written by a Ph.D. (in clinical psychology no less) shouldn’t surprise me, I suppose. It seems our most educated on all things children are often our most clueless. But that the editors of Parents magazine published this is quite disturbing. These magazines aren’t in the business of advising people or challenging them to improve as parents. They are strictly out to publish pieces that will resonate with their readership and the parenting population at large in order to sell more magazines. And this is what resonates with parents today.
Our culture’s utter lack of respect for children is astonishing, and so widespread that Parents magazine felt no need to sugarcoat it. We treat them as property, talk down to them, and teach them they’re not worthy of simple human dignity, then expect them to magically transform into respectful and dignified adults. How can they offer the world something they’ve never experienced? How can they give respect to others when we’ve deprived them of the ability to respect themselves?
We’ve got it all wrong. Our children don’t owe us; we owe them. It isn’t their responsibility to show us respect; it’s our responsibility to teach them respect. And the only way to teach them is to show them.
A respected child is a respectful child, and a respectful child becomes a respectful adult. If we want to change the world, we’ve got to start by changing the way our world sees children.
About the author
Thursday, March 17, 2011
written by Meredith Barth