It’s only natural to start thinking more about manners and their importance when you’re responsible for shaping and guiding a young life. Now that my daughter is old enough to express herself verbally, as well as through body language and facial expressions, I find I’m becoming ever more aware of the differences between the way I was brought up, and the way my friends, peers and I are bringing up our children.
Some of what I’m noticing is a cultural difference, given that I was brought up in Australia and I am raising my daughter in Norway, but much of it is the inevitable generation gap; probably every generation feels that the next one is cruder, less considerate, with worse manners. But I can’t help wondering, in this age of obsessing about whether our children are well-adjusted, confident and happy above all else, are we actually ensuring they will be less polite?
I was brought up in an age of social change; it was the 70s and parents were, perhaps for the first time, beginning to be mindful of how their parenting impacted on the feelings of the child, rather than only how their child impacted on the lives of those around them. I probably felt some of this more acutely, given that my father is a psychologist and was then a guidance counselor in the education sector. He was also a very hands-on father, which was a fairly new attitude at the time. However, I was still taught to be considerate of others, to say “excuse me” when I was inconveniencing someone, whether it was my fault or not, and to say “please”, “thank you” and to call adults by their last name (Mrs Smith, Mr Jones, etc.).