Mind Your Manners

Mind Your Manners 

Recently, I witnessed an exchange between a customer and a store clerk that was cringe worthy.  You are probably thinking that the store clerk was at fault.  That she was just another example of a disgruntled employee who would rather be anywhere else on the planet than in that store catering to customers.  All of us have been on the receiving end of poor customer service from people who, quite frankly, seem annoyed by the customers they are being paid to assist.  In defense of all of the retail clerks, wait staff, receptionists, and others on the front lines who smile and do their best to be helpful and accommodating, we have to acknowledge that customers are not always nice.  In fact, sometimes they can be downright rude!  There are some folks out there who feel entitled and have clearly forgotten their manners somewhere along the way.      

In this instance, the salesperson was as polite and patient as humanly possible in the face of what amounted to a mini teenage tirade.  From what I could gather, there was an issue with returning an item with no receipt that had clearly been worn.  The salesperson’s reasonable offer of an even exchange or store credit was just not acceptable to the teen, who would accept nothing less than a full refund.  Don’t get me wrong.  As a parent, I understand that teenagers can be highly emotional and irrational, so I was willing to cut the customer in this situation a little slack.  What really appalled me was the fact that the mother then stepped in, and instead of correcting her daughter for being so impolite, continued to berate the salesperson and make unreasonable demands.        

After that, I began to notice more and more examples of rude, disrespectful and borderline abusive behavior between strangers, acquaintances, colleagues, and even friends.  I started to wonder if I was just being overly sensitive, or if there really was more to this.  I may be old fashioned or out of the loop, but what happened to common courtesy, good manners, and basic respect?  

It occurred to me that we, as parents, have a responsibility to set a good example and model the behavior that we would like to see in our children.  We cannot expect our children to be polite, much less kind or compassionate towards others, unless we ourselves value those traits, and then make it a priority to teach and reinforce them. 

Some quick tips for teaching children courtesy, respect, empathy and kindness include: 

·         Set a good example and be a positive role model.  This is critical! 
·         Treat your child with common courtesy and respect.  Children learn what they live. 
·         Start teaching manners, empathy and concern for others at a young age, and provide gentle correction when needed.
·         Praise and encourage courteous, kind, and respectful behavior. 
·         Teach your child (and remind your teens) to say “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me”, even if it feels artificial.  Soon it will become a habit. 
·         Talk about courtesy, respect, kindness, respect and empathy in terms your child can understand. 
·         Help your child make the connection between actions/behaviors and feelings.  “How do you think that made your sister feel?”

I recognize that the leap from saying “please” and “thank you” to cultivating genuine empathy and compassion is a big one.  Maybe I am being too simplistic, but to me, it really comes down to helping our children to be decent human beings in the complicated world that we all have to share.          





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