"Parents are a child's first teachers." Over the years, I have thought about this saying many times. As an educator, I often wondered why a great number of children came to school lacking so many social skills that are generally taken as norms by society; or at least they were when I was growing up.
I would like to think that as a parent I did a good job in this area. Listening to my children as adults and my grandchildren now, I believe I largely succeeded in this area of parenthood.
I recently went to dinner at a local restaurant. Entering directly behind me were four individuals. Having been taught to do so, I stopped to hold the door open. I noticed these individuals appeared to be four generations of the same family.
The first person was a woman, who I assumed was the great-grandmother. As she passed by she said to me, "Thank you very much young man." I really liked the young man part. Next came a woman my age. As she passed by me, she said, "Thank you." Next came a man around 40, who simply nodded his head toward me.
Last to enter was a teenage girl. She was so engrossed in texting on her cell phone that I am positive she didn't even notice someone was holding the door open for her or that there even was a door there in the first place. I am equally sure she was texting a friend about global warming or the national debt or some other major concern that will affect her life in the future. At the same time, she also had ear buds in, listening to her iPod. To her, I was nonexistent.
This event really struck a nerve with me. Why such a disparity of responses to the same situation? Were these responses a result of generational teachings? Have manners left the younger generation all together? Are parents still their child's first teachers? Are today's youth really as rude as they appear to be? Am I simply an old fuddy-duddy?
Since that time I have become very aware of how manners, or lack thereof, are displayed in our society. I am concerned that we are becoming a nation where manners are not a priority anymore. Few people ever hold doors open anymore. The words "please" and "thank you" or "no thank you" are almost nonexistent in a large segment of our population. The wearing of hats anywhere is universally accepted. Thank you notes for gifts rarely find their way to the giver.
How many people these days willingly give up their seat on public transportation or anywhere else so that a senior citizen can sit down? How many times a day do you hear "yes sir" or "no ma'am"? The words "excuse me" or "pardon me" are rarely heard; and, except for salespeople, who asks, "may I help you?" I won't even start on the topic of appropriate dress for certain occasions. I could go on, but I need to get off my soapbox.
I know that many of today's parents are trying to work with their children in this area. This is good. This is what being a parent is all about. It might not be the fun thing to do, but it is necessary if we are to continue to be a civilized society. Unfortunately, all too often this is not a priority in our instant-gratification, self-absorbed, electronic world. What a shame it would be if simple manners left us completely.
Michael Hall, a retired school superintendent who lives in Lake View, sees many children who lack ocial skills.