Leadership Parenting

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Why Are We Tolerating Rude Behavior?

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Written by Sharon Lamberth


Comments: 0

Rudeness is rampant today with children and youth following suit. One only needs to listen to educators to realize that common courtesies are no longer common. Classroom teachers report that students openly use foul language, do not clean up after themselves (classroom, cafeteria), keep their desks in disarray, and even must be instructed to take their coats up off the floor. School bathrooms can be found with paper towels strewn, toilets not flushed, and graffiti on the walls. Etiquette, the rules and conventions that regulate social behaviors, has literally gone by the wayside.

So important was etiquette in George Washington’s day that, at age 16, he penned 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, originally composed by French Jesuits in 1595. With a focus on others rather than self, the rules outlined standards for behavior that served society well (i.e., be considerate of and do not embarrass others, think before you speak, avoid staring at those who have a physical malady, be attentive to those in your company…). Sadly, civil behavior has been in decline for years. In our current cultural climate, saying please, thank you, and excuse me are no longer a given; nor are applying basic table manners, holding the door for others, respecting elders, making eye contact, responding in a timely manner, or refraining from interrupting. Behaviors that were once the norm appear to be headed down a road to extinction.

Our children and youth cannot be expected to display common courtesies if they have never been taught or held accountable. Simply stated, children don’t do what they don’t know to do. Reasons for failing to instill respectful behavior in children vary. Some parents claim that they don’t think about teaching manners because they simply don’t have time. Others say they try to teach common courtesies but admit to being inconsistent in their enforcement. Still others rely on alternate sources (teachers, coaches, sitters, community leaders …) to provide instruction. All are excuses that fall flat. A foremost parental responsibility is to teach children behaviors and ideals that support optimal daily living - critical to maintaining a civil society.

Though we often think of parenting as raising children, it is actually an 18-21-year process of raising adults. When parents model, teach, and hold their children accountable for common sense courtesies during their formative years, they lay the foundation for considerate, compassionate, respectful behavior to become second nature. Positive behaviors that become second nature early in life continue to serve one well throughout adulthood.

A society is defined by the degree to which its citizens demonstrate behaviors considered appropriate and acceptable. That which is tolerated will continue to be tolerated. In order to reestablish a more cultured, polite society, parents must lead the charge. The farther removed parents become from accepting and embracing their role of primary teachers for their children, the more dysfunctional society becomes. Insisting on respectful, responsible behaviors uplifts every individual and are essential hallmarks of a civil society.

[Civility: The act of showing regard for others; courtesy, politeness]

Sharon Lamberth
Certified Leadership Parenting Coach

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