Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Plain Rude

I get the impression that to expect a child to act considerately, whether or not they are schooled or unschooled is becoming a thing of the past. Quite a few kids that are friends of my children are often impolite in that they don't acknowledge adults. They don't smile or show courtesy. I or my kids have to remind them to pick up after themselves.

And now I sound like a cranky old lady because maybe it is awkwardness on their part that drives this behavior; but I am really tired of badly behaved kids.

As to those unschoolers who think that since they are practicing 'radical unschooling,' their children should not have to be 'called on' if they are behaving rudely because that would mean conforming to society's expectations-my response is,"Why is conforming to good manners so bad?"

Not everything about conforming to society's expectations is wrong. There are many good things about conventional society-being respectful to and acknowledging the person who just fed you dinner, being one. Really, is that too much to ask?

The idea that you, as a the parent,  model good behavior and that is enough for the child to eventually learn good manners is a good one.

Children do learn from watching how people treat one another but I have also observed parents being extra polite- making up for their kids sucky behavior instead of calling them on it.
On the other hand, we parents don't have to go overboard to ensure politeness (the "what do you say? Say thank you," over and over).
So in my opinion, what is needed is a sensitivity to the situation. If you kid is developing her singing talent and practicing in a public library, then the thing to do is ask her to stop; explaining that she is disturbing people. If she doesn't stop- you can be sure she and you-will be thrown out. And rightly so. Common courtesy.


Christina said...

It's interesting that you bring this up. I am an unschooling mom of 3 and have wrestled with this very idea. I have read other moms' comments on a couple of unschooling yahoo groups that said they NEVER coached their kids on manners.  They just tried to model polite behavior.   One mom in particular has grown kids whom I actually  met at a conference and they seemed perfectly polite and pleasant to be around. So it obviously worked for her family but I can't speak for any of the other posters. 
My dilemma is that my middle child is autistic. He is 3 and beginning to grasp language so it's not like he will be non-verbal and mostly isolated from others. I imagine that he will eventually have a good enough command of language that people will expect "normal" behavior from him. The trouble is that social relationships are definitely more of a challenge for him so simply modeling behavior will not be enough for him to "get it". He's going to need specific, overt instruction on what to say/do and when. The little bit of "manners instruction" I've done with my oldest (10) has already given me a taste of what makes me uncomfortable about "teaching" manners. It always seems to boil down to this: "we do/say x,y,z in this situation because it helps others around you feel more comfortable." This presents a conflict for me since one of the main things I'm trying to instill in my children is the we are all responsible for our own feelings. YOU don't make ME feel a certain way... I am the only one who can decide how I feel or how I will react to others. It seems hypocritical to then say "we do these things so others won't feel uncomfortable" because that in essence make them responsible for someone else's feelings too. 
When someone else feels uncomfortable as a result of my behavior isn't it just be cause they are judging me by the 
standards of what they were taught? Their culture? Which can be pretty subjective. I was raised in the South and I remember many occasions when I heard "Yankees" (as my grandmother called them) being judged as having bad manners just because they didn't do things the way most southerners expected them to. It wasn't that their parents didn't teach them manners it was just that they were taught a DIFFERENT set of manners than I was.  
I guess my question boils down to this: not all kids will just learn how to be polite by watching a parent's example. (my autistic child being an extreme example of that) So when we do set about teaching manners, which manners do we teach? Who decides the curriculum? Isn't that the whole point of unschooling?  That each child establishes (either consciously or by life experience) what is important for them to learn?
Wouldn't it be more productive to simply model/teach non-judgement and responsibility for one's own feelings?  As 
soon as I train my child to behave in a way that makes one 
set of people happy, he will certainly offend another group 
with the exact same behavior that the first group deemed as acceptable.  No matter how many ettiquite lessons we've had, there are moments for all of us when our "home trainin" can go out the window just because we've had a hard day or lost our temper or any other myriad of reasons.  I don't always remember to drop my judgement of someone whom I perceive as rude, but when I do, it makes for a much more pleasant day both for me and the "rude" person (and for my children who are learning from observing my interactions with others).  That is, after all, one of the reasons I choose for them to be out of school and "in the real world" every day. 
And by the way . . . If a kid comes to my house and doesn't pick up their own mess, I ask them POLITELY ;) to help me clean it up. Is that rude??? :)

rfs said...

@Christina. Thanks very much for your response. It's definitely something we all struggle with as unschooling families. Modeling decent behaviour, treating people correctly as we ourselves would like to be treated is what I tend to advocate.I don't think we can teach manners. Rather, I think kids learn manners. They learn what is considered socially unacceptable and it doesn't have to be horrible experience. Instead, with my kid when they were younger, making thank you cards for grandma and grandpa when they were given b-day gifts, offering chocolates to the piano teacher, encouraging them to think about the comfort of others if they are playing their cd s too loudly etc etc.That is guiding them in what is expected when it comes to relating to others.
I think that if kids come over and don't think about picking up after themselves, one should not feel they are being rude to ask them to do so. It's the expectation in YOUR home.
Also, i don't think there is any thing wrong with helping to make someone feel appreciated or more comfortable-it's being considerate and tactful of another- as long as you're feeling comfortable yourself.

Anonymous said...

I think it is the genuinely authentic response that a child expresses that needs to be respected. If he hasn't said please or thank you in conjunction with something we'd expect, and it bothers us, then being bothered is our issue. It is our up bringing, and what was expected of us that causes us to have a reaction. I know sometimes that my children don't say "thank you" but I know they're plenty thankful and greatful for life in general. We conform plenty in our society without needing to smile or be polite on demand. Saying "thank you" isn't a true indication of gratitude anyway. Of course, this is just my take on it, and I dooooo sometimes cave and ask my kids to say thank you to whom ever is waiting expectantly for a thank you.
- Jackie

rfs said...

@Jackie- thanks for the comments. I agree that just because we say thank you' doesn't mean we are actually grateful.
Still, i think it is important to be sensitive to others. And I mean this at all ages-I see so many adults being really rude to one another as well. Thanks!

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