“Kids Have No Manners Today”

Kids running around the mall food court, kicking and screaming in the grocery store, or running laps in the church hall during coffee hour.  "Kids have no manners today," we say.  Though that statement clearly reflects some selective memory at work – as if kids were entirely well-behaved 30 or 60 years ago – there may be an ounce of truth to it.  Po Bronson, in a recent interview on NPR's Tell Me More, says that the poor behavior of 4-5 year-olds is, for many kids, the expected side effect of a very good parenting strategy that will pay dividends in years to come.

I think there's this fear that kids today have no manners. And I don't know that they understand the scientific context of this, which is that we don't hit kids anymore, and that is great. And we don't demand strict obedience. We reason with our kids. We try to get them to think it through. But when they're 3, and they're 4, and they're 5, and they're 6, they're not really good at that. So the short term is that they maybe are going to be a little more restless around the table at dinnertime.

They might have a little more behavior issues than in – kids in the past, when they're 5 and 6 years old. But the long-term outcomes are clear. Kids are more independent-minded and more autonomous, and handle problems for themselves down the road. But American society is looking at the way our 4- and 5- and 6-year-olds behave and going, oh, my gosh, it's terrible the way that they're behaving – and not realizing this is perhaps the side effect of what is really, fundamentally, a good thing.

About Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. National Guardsman. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.
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3 Responses to “Kids Have No Manners Today”

  1. melito says:

    There are a lot of people that feel that the younger generation is lacking in their manners and etiquette. As times have changed, I think there has been less of an emphasis on manners and etiquette and we are seeing the results.
    I came across a page that talks about teaching kids manners. I thought it contained some helpful ideas: http://www.modern-manners-and-etiquette.com/teaching-kids-manners.html

  2. Brent says:

    I have a six year old daughter. I know to expect general crankiness after 6:30 PM and that she’ll be the first kid running around the fellowship hall after the 8:30 service lets out. I’m also sure she gets it from me.
    For me, though, it’s as much a function of the situations parents place their kids in as it is the kids’ behavior. Expecting a four or five year old to demonstrate the self-control of a ten or twelve year old is pretty unreasonable. But I’ve seen parents not thinking twice about including an infant or toddler on a late night movie or a trip to the corner pub. Seriously?
    I usually smile at the food court antics or shrug in sympathy with the dad dealing with a melt-down in Target. But don’t expect me to think that someone’s kid going on safari and pulling the table cloth off of my table at the shwankiest restaurant in town is the unintended consequence of a good parenting strategy.

  3. Well, for me, i think it still depends on how they are brought up.. It still depends on how the parents, the school and other significant others handle situations in which kids could learn..

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