I have one son – and he’s under two years old. So, I’m obviously a wise and seasoned parent with lots of experience. I know what I’m talking about – you should listen to me. My knowledge is vast.
Wow – do you hate me? Or, perhaps my audacity has caught your attention? Either way, the above paragraph is complete sarcasm. The only actual fact in that paragraph is that I have a son under two. I don’t have any parenting experience beyond an almost-two-year-old boy. In comparison to others, I really don’t know what I’m talking about. You certainly do not have to listen to me! But, you can – if you want to.
The truth is, I do have something that is heavy on my heart as a Mom – really, as a human. Though only a Mom for roughly two years, I have been around others – adults, children, and in-betweens – for much longer than that. Again and again I’ve been astounded, caught off guard, and saddened by the lack of manners people seem to possess. I’m certainly not a perfect picture of manners. In fact, if you’re reading this, and my manners (or lack of) have offended you at some point in the past, please, PLEASE forgive me! I know, though, that my parents raised me to respect others and to say please and thank you. Always. No exceptions.
So, as an adult, when I hear someone being rude – and let’s face it, a lack of manners is just plain rude – I shudder. Why is this person acting and talking this way? Why isn’t he saying thank you? Where is her please? How is it that so many people aren’t using common manners to interact with fellow humans?
Then, later as an adult, I became a Mom. My husband, true to his nature, sought to make life as easy as possible for me. He bought the (overpriced) baby swing they used in the hospital nursery because Will slept peacefully in that swing while we were in the hospital. He installed a baby monitor we could control with our phones. My husband even equipped our house with smart devices that could play music, answer questions, and turn lights on and off on demand. How convenient, right? Well, yes and no.
You see, Will now follows Sean and I around the house, copying everything we do. He’s at that stage where he’s learning so many new words and practicing his speech through nonstop series of jumbled sounds (with a few decipherable words thrown in the mix). What he sees, he does. What he hears, he says (kind of). At some point it hit me that if I continued to tell these smart devices to do things for me, Will was going to learn to do the same. Oh, you need the lights on? Tell someone to do it. Do you want music playing? Tell the device! Also, why bother saying “thank you” because it isn’t listening anymore anyway (debatable, I know). How is my Alpha Generation toddler supposed to understand the difference between AI and actual real-life humans? If Mom and Dad can find out the weather, play music, control lights, and set timers without saying please or thank you, why would he need to say those words as he begins to communicate? Why can’t he just tell someone to do something? Why say thank you? It’s just a device – or maybe a person – it must be rather confusing for a child, actually.
Please don’t misunderstand me – I enjoy, appreciate, and benefit from technology. I am not blaming smart devices for a generational lack of good manners. What I’m saying, though, is our children are watching us. They are watching, copying, repeating, and all of the other scary things that happen as we raise these miniature versions of ourselves. As parents, if we don’t say please to the waiter or thank you to the cashier – if we don’t treat our fellow humans with respect – why would our children? I know they have minds of their own but they are so, so moldable. They do what they see and they say what they hear. We are responsible for teaching our children manners. They represent the generation that comes after us. We cannot grow lazy! It is up to us to instill a respect for others in our children. Do you want children that love others, show respect to all people, and make the world a better place? I do! That means that I have to live that way. My lifestyle must reflect those manners, and, my friend, so does yours.
Please, please lead by example and raise mannerly children, even in the midst of a smart home world. I can do it. You can do it. We can do it together!