Seeing children being rude to their parents or helpers might give one the impression that manners have gone out the window. Has it? HARINI CHARI finds out.

In the old days, a gentleman was expected to open doors and pull out chairs for women. Today, that’s considered silly, perhaps even stuffy by women themselves who say they can open their car doors themselves, thank you very much. While good manners were part of a cultured society in the past, one aspect still remains relevant today. Consideration was (and still is) the most important aspect of good manners. Thinking of another person and acting accordingly is important not because that’s what’s right but because it makes someone else feel good or bad.

Take a simple example. Recently I was at the supermarket with my children. A well-dressed middle-aged woman walked right into our trolley, scraping my three-year-old’s arm in the process. While it might have been an accident, what was galling was the woman hardly looked contrite, didn’t say sorry and simply walked off. It was easy to clean the scrap off my daughter’s arm but much harder to explain why grown-ups could be so rude.

Which leads us to the question of what we as parents want for our kids and the society they will live in? Do we want our children to walk into a crowded train and see petulant teenagers sitting in reserved seats oblivious to the old and pregnant? Do we want our children to walk hands-free while the domestic help is struggling with several heavy bags? Or not even glancing up to thank the cleaner who clears away plates at the food court? We may say we want a more gracious society but getting treated well starts with giving – and manners matter greatly in this regard. What can, or should parents be doing?

According to Dr Desikan, Educator & Learning Specialist, the following reasons could possibly be the root causes of bad manners in children.

Many Of Us Leave Our Children Under The Care Of Domestic Helpers.

However nice the helper is, we have to understand that she has her limitations and can never replace a parent. She has a list of chores to complete and taking care of the kids is one such. Expecting her to impart politeness and manners in our children is certainly beyond her scope of responsibilities.

Well-Mannered Parents Beget Well-Mannered kids.

Has your child seen you being rude to your friends, helper or spouse? How many times have you opened the door to the next person waiting behind you?  Have you ever thanked the waiter or the bus driver? Kids are always watching and you become the automatic role-model.

We Have To Set The Limits.

If we feel that it is alright for our kids to go to a friend’s home, mess the playroom and then ask the domestic helper to clean up then your child will follow suit. If we allow our children to behave in a brash and loud manner in a nice restaurant and shrug it off by saying ‘kids will be kids’, then we are to blame. Set the rules and make it clear as to what is acceptable and what is not.

Ms Sarita Gupta, a primary school teacher said that in her experience, younger children are much more amenable to learning to treat others with respect and kindness. Older children, due to peer pressure, might feel uncomfortable greeting teachers or friends or being “nice” for fear they will be labeled “childish”. It might appear more fashionable to call someone names or use vulgarities just to fit in.

“I am surprised that sometimes, when I meet a student outside school, they ignore me completely, no greeting, no hello and they definitely don’t tell their parents, and “this is my teacher”. I find that to be quite impolite,’’ says Ms Gupta.

Sometimes, when parents belittle a teacher in front of their children, it can also make it difficult for children to be polite says Ms Gupta. For particularly rude children, teachers usually reprimand and warn before having a chat with parents if the behavior doesn’t improve. Like most teachers however, Ms Gupta hopes that the teaching of manners comes as part of the parenting process instead of being left to teachers to deal with.


Taking Turns To Talk

Too many voices at the same time will only result in noise. Gently remind your child to raise her hands and wait her turn. Pushing her way into other people’s conversations is definitely not the right thing to do. Acknowledge her presence by giving her a gentle hug and let her know that you appreciate her patient wait.

Saying ‘Hello’

As simple as it may sound, many kids forget this basic courtesy. A proper, clear-sounding ‘hello’, ‘I’m fine, thank you’ can be wonderful to hear. Kids are usually too excited to remember these niceties and have to be prompted gently.

Minding The Ps And Qs

Asked your child to use the magic phrases ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ generously. As simple as it may sound, these basic niceties are often forgotten.

Taking Compliments Well

Most times, kids just grin or walk away without acknowledging the compliment. Accepting positive comments need as much practice as handling the negatives. Children can simply say a gracious ‘thank you’ when complimented.

Clean Up, Clean Up

If you pick up after the kids or command the maid to clean up, it can become a habit. Children can help out with simple tasks. If they take out a toy, remind her to put it back in its place. Soon such good habits will follow her even at a friend’s home.

Ms. Hummaira Aziz, mother of two preschoolers, shares her thoughts:

“For me, a well-mannered child is obedient inside and outside the home and is nice to everybody. I explain to my kids that good behaviour will get them rewards and bad behaviour will be punished. If one of them misbehaves, then I make them stand in a corner for a few minutes and ask them to apologize. This helps them understand that a particular behaviour is not acceptable and that it cannot be repeated. As little kids they do not know what is right and wrong and are still in the process of learning. Sometimes, my son refuses to say ‘hello’ to a visitor. Even if I request him to, at times, he just won’t. I think wishing somebody is basic manners and my son’s behaviour can sometimes irk me. But I can’t ‘make’ him wish someone. I can only try to explain why he needs to wish and the significance of it. I also have to understand the nature of my child- he’s basically shy and reserved. But with encouragement and a lot of explaining he is getting better. The idea is to constantly reinforce that being kind, helpful and polite makes a person so much more pleasant to be around.’’

The current generation is bright and very clued in. Parents want the best for them and strive to provide them with the finest education, facilities and resources. Should parents also ‘teach’ manners? Sustained success has to be a combination of talent, hard work and etiquette. Well-mannered children are not born but moulded. Young children are very receptive to learning. Take the opportunity to teach them good manners. You’ll be passing on ‘survival’ techniques that will benefit them a lifetime.