No one will thank you for pointing it out, but manners are dead

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock Photo: iStock

Speaking these words aloud is guaranteed to make you sound, and feel, older than the Hills Hoist, but next time you're around other parents, try it anyway: "Whatever happened to kids having manners?"

I'm not talking about bowing, scraping or those magical-sounding days of yore when they were only seen and not heard. Nor am I even seeking the kind of deference to adults that was once a large part of the manners we were taught as kids.

Hell, I'm not even asking for much. Indeed, I'd be happy with the return of just one phrase: "Thank you" (yes, the word 'please' would make a nice couplet, but I don't expect the impossible).

He will not love me pointing this out, but almost none of my son's friends, as far as I can tell, have ever muttered the words "thank" and "you", in that or any order, even once.

They don't say it to me - indeed most of them seem to think it acceptable to enter my home, make it noisy and crumb covered for an hour or two, then leave without saying any words to me at all - and, perhaps even more alarmingly, they don't say it to their own parents, either.

Now look, I'm not a traditionalist and I consider myself about as old-fashioned as James Charles. I don't wear cardigans and I shun phrases like "the height of rudeness" or "in my day", but I consider it the height of rudeness to be taken on an expensive birthday adventure involving high-flying thrill rides and high-sucrose meals, and to leave without a single expression of thanks.

On a smaller, more intimate basis, when you feed a tween dinner, they could surely just utter those two little words before racing back upstairs to the Xbox. In my day, that kind of behaviour was not acceptable, and if your parents heard even a whisper that you'd been exhibiting such malfeasant manners, you'd have been banned from watching The Six Million Dollar Man for a month.

My son, who is obviously perfect in every way, has heard me banging on about this so much that I recently heard him warning his friends to thank me for staying over, in a bid to prevent a volcanic eruption of spleen after they'd left. He's also asked me why he considers it second nature to say thank you for things, and to make damn sure he does so at other people's houses. 

I can only put this down to the kind of repetition that often threatens to drive parents utterly batty. From the first moment we would hand him things as a baby, even before he could talk, we would insist on making the "Ta" sound. I would estimate that, through their toddling years, both he and his sister were told to say thank you when given something, roughly, 8.2 billion times. Now, at 12 and seven, they still forget sometimes, but they've reached a level of consistency I can live with, and which I truly hope they will pass on to their children.


In short, it is never, ever too soon to start teaching your children manners.

No one will thank you for pointing it out, but manners are deadStrict dad scolding son for bad marks at school, parent respect, upbringing

Obviously, yes, I've considered the option of forcing other people's kids to use manners in my house, but I think we all know how horribly uncool that would be, and how excruciatingly uncomfortable it would make my children.

It's not just that manners seem to be seen as uncool and passé these days, which is perhaps a reflection of the fact that, trained by text language, emojis and infuriating acronyms, it's also a reflection of the fact that adults just aren't scary any more.

My friends' fathers used to terrify me as much as Freddy Krueger, but then I would always have to address them as "Mr" and use their surnames, which added a certain frisson of fear. I truly think we, as parents, gave away the need for other people's children to respect us when we started letting them call us by our first names, a practice that now seems endemic.

And yet you wouldn't let your own children do that, would you? Nor would you let them abandon manners the way they've abandoned reading. Or would you?