Not sure I agree with this list of 25 manners every kid should know.

The highest perfection of politeness is only a beautiful edifice, built, from the base to the dome, of graceful and gilded forms of charitable and unselfish lying.
– Mark Twain, On the Decay of the Art of Lying speech, 1880

I’d like to think that I’m a fairly well mannered person, but there’s a few items in this list of 25 Manners Every Kid Should Know By Age 9 that I’m not entirely sure I agree with.

Let’s break it down:

Manner #1

When asking for something, say “Please.”

Manner #2

When receiving something, say “Thank you.”

OK, no complaints with the first two. I try especially to do this when dealing with service folks who don’t often get a lot of appreciation such as waitresses, checkout workers, janitorial staff, etc.. Not only is it good manners, but it often makes their day a little better than it otherwise would be.

Manner #3Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are finished talking.

This one is more situational. I can recall being a kid and being ignored for irritatingly long periods of time while trying to obey this rule. This was especially true when time was of the essence but it wasn’t an emergency per se (that ice cream truck isn’t going to be around forever). There are polite ways to interrupt that can be used in such a situation…

Manner #4

If you do need to get somebody’s attention right away, the phrase “excuse me” is the most polite way for you to enter the conversation.

Manners are important even if you are a bad guy.

… such as the above example. Honestly, if there’s an emergency I wouldn’t expect anyone — child or adult — to stand around saying “excuse me” until someone paid attention to them. I’d expect a bit of yelling about it being an emergency. Because that’s what I’d do. In my case I’d probably add in a “STFU for a second as this is an emergency” just to make the point clear.

Manner #5

When you have any doubt about doing something, ask permission first. It can save you from many hours of grief later.

This one is reasonable enough, though it relies on the kid being smart enough to have doubts about doing something. There’s a lot of shit I did as a kid that I never had any doubts about that I probably should have.

Manner #6The world is not interested in what you dislike. Keep negative opinions to yourself, or between you and your friends, and out of earshot of adults.

My first reaction to this is a hearty “Fuck you, Dr. David Lowry who wrote this article.” To me you’re telling kids that their opinions on things don’t matter unless they’re positive opinions. Way to make them into second class human beings. Some of the more interesting conversations I’ve had were with kids who wanted to discuss what they liked and didn’t like and why.

Manner #7Do not comment on other people’s physical characteristics unless, of course, it’s to compliment them, which is always welcome.

I think this is dependent on the comment in question. If the child is just being cruel then, yeah, it’s probably best they STFU. If the child is ignorant or confused then it’s a different issue. Again, this smacks of making them into second class people in my mind.

Manner #8When people ask you how you are, tell them and then ask them how they are.

What if how you are is a negative opinion, which you told kids in #6 the world isn’t interested in hearing because they’re just a stupid kid? Should they lie and say they’re just hunky dory or should they STFU and break this rule in the process?

Manner #9

When you have spent time at your friend’s house, remember to thank his or her parents for having you over and for the good time you had.

I can recall growing up that I didn’t do this unless the parents were somehow involved in what we kids were doing. If they fed us or were throwing a party, then yeah, we’d often thank them for the hospitality. But if we were just playing in the backyard and didn’t interact with the parents at all then generally I didn’t make it a point to thank them.

Manner #10Knock on closed doors — and wait to see if there’s a response — before entering.

Forget kids, there are adults who need to learn this one.

Manner #11When you make a phone call, introduce yourself first and then ask if you can speak with the person you are calling.

It’s nice, but I don’t get upset if I have to ask who is calling. This isn’t a big issue in my book.

Manner #12Be appreciative and say “thank you” for any gift you receive. In the age of e-mail, a handwritten thank-you note can have a powerful effect.

This is a tough one because it seems to me to encourage dishonesty for the sake of someone’s feelings. While I don’t think that’s a great sin to commit — I’ve lied to spare someone’s feelings before — I do think it’s wrong to not admit that that’s what you’re encouraging people to do. On the one hand, you should try to be grateful anytime someone thinks enough of you to get you a gift, but at the same time some gifts are so inconsiderate or show no real thought on the part of the giver, that it’s very hard to be sincerely appreciative.

As for handwritten notes, personally I don’t really care if you take the time to write one for me. I’m just as good with a verbal thank you as a handwritten one.

Manner #13Never use foul language in front of adults. Grown-ups already know all those words, and they find them boring and unpleasant.

The fuck I do.

Swearing is one of the very few vices I have and it doesn’t really bother me. I told my daughter that people will judge you by the language you use and it’s frowned upon for kids to swear so she should consider how she wants to be seen by others when choosing her language and there are places where it’ll get you in trouble (e.g. at school or work, etc.). But it would’ve been hypocritical for me to tell her she can’t swear when I swear almost all the damned time. As it turns out, she didn’t swear much at all until she got closer to her 20’s and what little she did swear was usually due to being angry, which I can understand.

Manner #14

Don’t call people mean names.

There are so many exceptions to this in my book that it’s hard to decide where to begin. I’m sorry, but there are some assholes in the world who really deserve to be told what assholes they are.

Manner #15Do not make fun of anyone for any reason. Teasing shows others you are weak, and ganging up on someone else is cruel.

I don’t know if there are many adults who can live up to that rule, let alone kids. I think it’s a good thing to encourage people — young and old — to strive to, but I don’t know that it’s possible given human nature.

Manner #16Even if a play or an assembly is boring, sit through it quietly and pretend that you are interested. The performers and presenters are doing their best.

This is a hard one. Again it seems to me it’s promoting dishonesty. This is part of why I’m reluctant, as an adult, to attend plays and concerts unless I’m pretty damned sure I’m going to enjoy it. I just don’t have the capacity to pretend to like something I don’t actually like. I don’t think it’s fair to teach kids they should lie about it either.

Manner #17If you bump into somebody, immediately say “Excuse me.”

Or at least don’t say, “Hey! Watch were you’re going, asshole!”

Manner #18Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and don’t pick your nose in public.

Fair enough. Though, again, this is something a lot of adults would do well to learn themselves.

Manner #19

As you walk through a door, look to see if you can hold it open for someone else.

Always nice, but I don’t think people should take it as a personal affront if someone doesn’t do that, kid or adult.

Manner #20If you come across a parent, a teacher, or a neighbor working on something, ask if you can help. If they say “yes,” do so — you may learn something new.

Eh, I’m iffy on this one. If it’s something the kid is genuinely interested in then it’s great advice, but if they aren’t then they’re likely to be as much of a problem than a help.

Manner #21When an adult asks you for a favor, do it without grumbling and with a smile.

Oh, the pedophiles must love this rule. “Hey little boy, could you do me a favor?”

Manner #22When someone helps you, say “thank you.” That person will likely want to help you again. This is especially true with teachers!

Not bad advice as anything that makes people feel good about helping you is likely to encourage them to help you again.

Manner #23Use eating utensils properly. If you are unsure how to do so, ask your parents to teach you or watch what adults do.

This seems like something responsible parents would ensure without having to rely on the kid to ask them for help.

Manner #24

Keep a napkin on your lap; use it to wipe your mouth when necessary.

Again, something a responsible parent will teach a child. Though I don’t know if it’s a huge affront to modern sensibilities if it doesn’t always happen.

Manner #25

Don’t reach for things at the table; ask to have them passed.

I’m OK with this one. Never fun to take a bit out of someone’s arm as they reach across to grab the salt or mashed potatoes.

So not a bad list of manners, but some of them I take issue with. How about you guys? Which ones do you disagree or agree with?

24 thoughts on “Not sure I agree with this list of 25 manners every kid should know.

  1. Re #16: Being able to politely tolerate something that doesn’t interest you is an essential skill to learn. As an adult you might not be dragged to a play you don’t want to watch (or maybe you might, maybe your kid is in it) but you may have to sit through meetings/presentations at work that bore the crap out of you. It’s just as rude for an adult to start drumming on the table or run up and down the aisle because they’re bored as it is for a kid. 😉

  2. Regarding Rule #16. Cassie is right and you are wrong. If you don’t like the concert, play, MOVIE, recital or whatever, then either learn to keep your yap shut or learn to discreetly leave and rant on your blog or yell on a street corner.

    #20 Your assessment is accurate, but not appreciating the rule as stated: “If the adult says ‘Yes'”. The rule is encouraging the kids to ask. It does not require the adult to accept the help. If the adult agrees, then presumably the adult is willing to take on the mentor role in the chore.

    Your comments on a couple of rules that adults need to learn this behaviour is dead on. However, that is probably the point of this list. Get ’em trained not to hork and pick in their formative years and we’ll have fewer adults doing it next generation.

    Some of these need to be fine-tuned. It’s not that negative comments should never hit and adult’s sensitive ears. It should be more, keep these opinions for Mommy and Daddy where they can be discussed in private. Don’t yell them out in the world where Daddy may get a fist in the beezer for his kid’s smart mouth.

  3. Do not comment on other people’s physical characteristics unless, of course, it’s to compliment them, which is always welcome.

    “Oh baby, I just want to say your tits are awesome!”

    (Rules are simplistic. Sometimes even a comment that seems positive to you can be perceived as threatening depending on the context.)

  4. Some of these rules are imperative for a child to learn. If they didn’t learn them as a child they are the adults who are pissing you off by being rude, impatient and self-important. “May I” is missing from this list. Please, thank you, excuse me are vital. Most everyone swears when they are angry, but no one particularly enjoys listening to someone who can’t form a sentence without four-letter words.

    If you are bored learn to suck it up, it will help you to survive meetings when you are an adult. I work with a 60 year old man who acts worse than a four-year-old at meetings and it’s gotten him in trouble with management more than once. There is nothing wrong with telling co-workers the meeting was a bore, but to sigh, fidget, face-palm and roll your eyes during the meeting is going to annoy the person sitting next to you and piss off the person running the meeting.

    I work with handicapped persons and they don’t mind honest questions, especially from children. Kids need to be taught not to say mean things or be deliberately cruel. Causing another person pain for your amusement is not only not acceptable it’s resulting in some of the teen suicides that have been in the news lately.

    Holding the door for someone shows good manners and concern for the person coming after you whether you know them or not. Simple courtesies like this are important for keeping you connected to caring about others. Pretty much everyone gets pissed if the person ahead of them doesn’t hold the door for at least a second or two. If someone lets the door slam in your face you are pretty much guaranteed to violate the swearing and calling bad names rule.

    I’d add smile at people when you pass them and say something nice if you get a chance. It makes them feel good – it makes you feel good. 🙂

  5. Ah, manners. Society’s way of creating docile little sheep, when taken too far.

    Anyway. Can’t give enough of a toss to critique the list, but wanted to beg you to let me use “STFU for a second as this is an emergency” someday in one of my stories. That made me howl. May I please put your words in one of my characters’ mouths?

    (There? See how full o’ manners that was? I even said “please”!)

  6. Star Trek STNG episode: Wesley Crusher is at Starfleet with a friend and this huge guy bumps into him in the hallway. He says to the guy: “Watch what you are doing! Do you want this to become violent?!” Guy smiles, puts enormous hand on Wesley’s shoulder, says; “I like you, friend!” and walks off.

    His friend says to him: “Are you nuts? That guy could have squashed you!” Crusher explains he recognized he was from a society that regarded “manners” as deception and thus unforgivably rude. The interaction was an unannounced cadet test. Interesting concept I have not forgotten it obviously.

  7. No time to say much more, but I’d be honored to have my words come out of one of your character’s mouths, Dana.

  8. So I’m surprised by the support for rule #16. Apparently the dishonesty of feigning interest isn’t a problem for most folks. Also I’m not sure I’d agree that it’s applicable to meetings as those are (mostly) a necessary evil to get business done and not something you attend as a possible source of enjoyment. It seems to me that a lot of parents drag their kids to events that most kids would find boring simply so they don’t have to hire a babysitter. In my mind the rudeness there is on the part of the parents and not the kids. Which isn’t to say that you should let your kids run rampant if they’re bored, but at the same time some consideration for what your kids are likely to find interesting is something that you should take into account. Also I think it’s possible to acknowledge a child’s boredom and encourage them to try and tough it out without using the “because I’m the fucking parent, that’s why” approach, but then I’m a sissy liberal. My problem with the rule, as presented, is that it says (to me) that you should teach your kids to shut the hell up and sit the fuck down because they have no right to complain about being bored. That just seems wrong to me.

    I think a lot of these could be covered more easily by teaching the good old Golden Rule and encouraging empathy generally. You can get a lot of mileage out of the age-old question of: How would you feel if someone did that to you?

  9. Hmm, a very anglo-saxon list. Other cultures would have other items and even prioritize them differently.

    Five examples :
    Cover your head in a synagogue even if a goy yourself.
    Do not touch food with your left hand.
    Back away from the throne when leaving.
    Bargain with your palms facing up.
    Don’t ogle the hosts spouse.

    My point is that manners are arbitrary, being culture-dependent.

  10. My point is that manners are arbitrary, being culture-dependent.

    And manners are not an external marker of trustworthiness.

  11. Don’t ogle the hosts spouse.

    Unless you are in an igloo.

    Like Stu said, manners are culture-dependent.

    The riots in Los Angeles in 1969 showed the disconnect between the culture of the black customers and the culture of the Korean store owners.


  12. So the SEB doesn’t have the emotional intelligence of a third grader. No real surprise there.

  13. I’m not sure, Dan, what do you expect the average third grader to have in the way of emotional intelligence? I certainly don’t claim to be the best mannered person in the world, but I’m a bit biased so you’d probably do better to ask people who know me in real life.

    All I can say is I’m comfortable with who I am though I strive to improve in those areas I feel I’m not quite done growing in.

  14. These are fantastic and should be posted everywhere in every language. I would add “no spitting” and “don’t blow your nose directly onto the sidewalk” (a Flushing specialty).

    Hardly anyone has manners anymore. At least not in vibrant and diverse NYC. Seattle is lovely though.

  15. Manner #16 Even if a play or an assembly is boring, sit through it quietly and pretend that you are interested.

    I think the questionable part is the “interested”. Be polite, but I find feigning interest to be dishonest. I really don’t like it when someone acts interested in what I’m talking about (because it just encourages me to keep talking ) then as soon as they find a way out of the conversation, they’re gone. I feel embarrassed since it makes me look like some guy with boring ass stories, when the truth is I would never have bored you with it had you shown disinterest to begin with.

    Manner #19 As you walk through a door, look to see if you can hold it open for someone else.

    I usually overdo this one myself, but I don’t have issue with someone not holding the door if I’m not right behind them. If I’m close enough to touch you and you jump through the door like you’re Indiana Jones and the Electrified Door of Death, yeah, you’re a rude fuck. For me the dividing line is, do you have to stop walking in order to hold the door? If you have to stop walking to hold the door, you’re being very polite and it’s optional. Otherwise, hold the door open as you are walking through if someone’s right behind you, since they are most likely expecting you to hold it open for yourself.

    Manner #23Use eating utensils properly.

    Define properly. Are we talking Miss Manners’ and not confusing the salad and dinner forks so as to not give anyone the vapors? Or are we talking not stabbing your brother in the arm? Personally I don’t care for the difference between forks (one stabs just as well as the other 😉 ), but if you have to bring your kid to the table ala the Young Prince in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”, then you should follow the rule.

  16. I agree that the questionable part of #16 is the “pretend that you are interested” part. I think it is important that kids, and adults, learn to sit politely through things that may not interest them without demonstrating their boredom or lack of interest. There will be many times in life where you must attend something that is boring or not interesting to you – a wedding, a funeral, a church service, a business meeting, a college lecture, etc. When you have kids, you are often called upon to attend school concerts, plays, recitals, athletic events, conferences and other such functions that may not specifically interest you. But you suck it up and deal with it. I wouldn’t expect a child attending such a function with their parent to be especially interested, and certainly wouldn’t want them to fake interest, but I would expect them to behave and not act out. When my daughter was little, I often took a “busy bag” full of quiet activities with us almost everywhere. She could quietly entertain herself with her books and toys, while still attending a function with me and learning proper public behavior.

  17. Most of it made me wonder if kids are being raised by wolves if they needed to be told this. As for the “can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” premise…. well this guy can go fuck himself. Funny stuff, man.

  18. I can’t really add anything here, except to corroborate that Les is a well-mannered person in the only important sense: not in the particular, culturally influenced etiquette he practices, but in that he makes one feel that one is respected and welcomed.

  19. I keep forgetting you slept on my couch for at least one night, Zilch. It almost seems like a memory from a different reality at times.

  20. These rules sound like they were made by a parent in the 50’s. As for rule #6. I don’t disagree that children’s opinions should be respected. But children and adults alike WHINE too much. I’ll go with any rule that cuts that down!

  21. A couple of nights, Les, and you took me out to dinner too. I had a great time meeting you, Anne, and your parents.

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