Mind Your Manners: Is teaching kids how to be polite a dying art?

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It’s a rude awakening, but a fair assumption to make that traditional morals and manners are in danger of dying out, especially when it comes to kids being polite. In our fast paced lives in the city, it seems that politeness is slowly being forgotten, and there are very few people that are up in arms about it. Today’s goal-oriented society has made it a point to achieve success by any means that consideration for others often falls by the wayside.

The result? Kids who don’t say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.

Then and Now: Teaching kids to be polite

polite kids kristine hermosa
Photography: Kristine Hermosa Sotto

Not more than fifty years ago, kids were still being taught the proper way to sit, and to stand in attention when a lady entered or left the room. You made eye contact when meeting a person, extended a hand as a greeting, and asked to be excused if you wished to leave the dining table. Manners and politeness were viewed with such importance that children were shipped off to finishing school, and GMRC (Good Manners and Right Conduct) was a main subject taught in elementary.

Courtesy, or the lack thereof, has become such an issue in the metro, that reminders need to be posted up for adults to consider. Offer disabled, elderly, or pregnant women your seat. Stand to the right to make way for others who are in a hurry. Fall in line, wait behind the designated area, and allow passengers to get out before making your way in.

All things we should have learned and mastered in grade school, yet some grown-ups still have trouble with.

Endangered etiquette

polite kids feliz lucas children
Photography: Feliz Lucas

When was the last time you had a meal without a smartphone in sight? Do you still meet friends who give 100% of their attention to you, eye contact and all, without checking their phone more than 2-3 times? Are your children familiar with making mano, when meeting their elders? Are your kids polite with their elders? Do hats come off when you enter an establishment? All of these things are taught, and in turn, learned to form a habit. 

Even the simplest of manners- please, thank you, and you’re welcome are commonly left out when people are in a hurry. I have opened doors for strangers without hearing so much as a “Thanks!”, and we typically only ever hear it if it’s part of someone’s job (exceptional etiquette courtesy of your Starbucks barista). 

Not only are we supposed to teach our kids how to be polite, we are, more importantly than anything else, meant to lead by example. The world we create for them, and the actions that we do, essentially become the foundation for the habits they take with them for the long haul. How often are we aware that these little eyes are watching everything we do so closely? 

Keeping with the times but still raising polite kids

polite kids lj reyes and son
Photography: LJ Reyes

Kids are given a considerable amount of freedom these days, you wonder, where do you draw the line between assertiveness and entitlement? Has old-fashioned courtesy become nothing more than an afterthought? In a time where independence is highly encouraged, and children are taught the mechanics of do-for-self, the value placed on manners continues to drop down the ranks of the priority list.

Times are definitely changing. We don’t open our front doors for just anyone anymore, and we for sure would think twice before following a lady crying for help into a dark alley. While being cautious is an obvious must in today’s world, being courteous is something we could all do well to have more of. Wouldn’t you agree? 

Teaching the next generation the importance of respect and manners only benefits the society as a whole. Promoting kindness in a world that’s spiralling into disarray will only make things better, and at the least, make a difference to someone’s day. It’s cool to be polite. Let’s bring that back.