Ugh, here we go again: It appears grandparents do not approve of the job parents are doing these days. In a survey of 100 grandparents on the website Grannynet (really, only 100 respondents?), today's kids are rude and our lazy parenting is to blame. Well I never! In my day ...
Children are not asking to be excused before leaving the table. They're putting their elbows on the table. Half of the time they're not even eating at a table at all! No one writes thank-you notes anymore. Things were SO different when you were young, right Grandma?
If you ask this group of grandparents, YES, yes they were. According to their recollection, 92 percent of those grandparents ate dinner around the table with their families; 89 percent of them asked to leave the table before leaving; 86 percent of these elderly were writing thank-you notes; and 86 percent said "excuse me" before interrupting.
Okay. There's no question that our idea of what's polite has changed over the years. I don't think anyone gets that bent out of shape over leaving elbows on the table. But what's at the core of polite behavior? Making other people feel valued and respected. And I think this is still a value for parents today. We just show it differently.
Maybe kids aren't always writing thank-you notes, but they're thanking people via phone call, text message, or email. From what I can tell, parents are still teaching kids to say "please" and "thank you." We're teaching our kids to listen to everyone (not just elders) with respect.
My mom raised us kids to say "yes, ma'am" and "no, ma'am." Guess where that got us? When my sister accidentally said "yes, ma'am" to her second-grade teacher, she was sent to the principal's office for being sarcastic. Some forms of politeness can actually backfire.
If anything, we're going deeper. It's not about following rules of etiquette, it's about treating people with kindness and consideration. Nowadays you don't say "excuse me" before interrupting -- you just shut up and listen while someone finishes talking and then you have your say. So yeah, do we care about being "polite"? Not as much as we care about being thoughtful.
As for eating around the table, it is sad that this tradition is struggling. But I just don't buy that it's about lazy parenting. It's about the pace of our lives -- both parents working, kids with loads of extracurricular activities. It's gotten harder! But I think most of us still see eating dinner together around the table is still an ideal we try to make happen at least once a week.
So lighten up, grandparents! As Billy Joel (your generation?) once said, "The good old days weren't always good and tomorrow ain't bad as it seems." I don't buy that you were so danged polite in your day. And anyway, who raised these "lazy" parents to be so "lazy" in the first place? Harrumph!
Do you think parents are lazier and kids are ruder than they were two generations ago?
Image via Podknox/Flickr