Adults love to complain about kids’ lack of manners—about kids’ rudeness, their selfishness, their refusal to think of anyone other than themselves. These complaints are sometimes valid. But from what I’ve seen lately, some adults need to think about the messages they’re sending to kids via their own behavior. In fact, I’ve discovered that my thirteen-year-old has better manners than many adults. (And that’s not a commentary on my son’s fantastic manners. This is the same kid whom I just scolded at the dinner table for grabbing his pancake with both hands and stuffing it into his mouth.)
Let’s take a few examples from our recent family vacation. We began a day at breakfast in a restaurant, where, upon exiting, a man twice let doors slam in my son’s face. Yes, this was a minor infraction. But we’ve taught our kids to hold doors open for people immediately behind them, so thirteen-year-old “Jack” found the behavior rude. As he should.
Then we moved on to mini-golf, which is something of a raison d’être for Jack. We were playing a few holes into the wilting hot course, ahead of two couples by a hole or two. I took my turn before my son, so I didn’t see what he noticed, which was a large leather purse sitting by itself at a hole adjacent to ours. He pointed it out to my husband, who recommended that my son take it to the course office. “Jack” picked up the purse and started walking with it toward the office.
I heard a high-pitched, wordless scream behind me. Then: “Stop, stop, stop! That’s mine! It’s mine! Stop! It’s mine!” One of the women who had been playing behind us ran at Jack full-speed, arms waving.