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Monday, April 16, 2007

"Tell Me You Would NEVER . . . "

The title of this post is something that I find myself saying to LG with rather alarming frequency. It's always after one of her little girlfriends has done something heinous. We were talking about this at the agency where I work the other day, and everyone there had stories to share of mean girls. Mean little girls, be they nieces, neighbors, what have you. Aren't parents teaching their kids the basics of politeness, courtesy, and such? This may be the post in which I reveal my hopelessly old-school, uncool true self.

This is a letter (mistakes intact, names disguised) that my daughter received last year from a friend (?):

To LG,
Because of my popularness, I cannot play with you and eat with you every day. I will be busy playing and eating on the following days with Erin and Andrea:
  • Mon.
  • Wed.
  • Fri.
So it will be far to all my friends that are close to me like best friends. So this is how it is going to be for now on. If you have any complaints please e-mail me as soon as you can.

Brigitte Bordello (aka a best friend maybe)

For the first few years of LG's school life, I invited every girl in the class to her birthday parties. I couldn't bear the thought of some little one feeling excluded. We were the only ones who did this. I realize it's not always practical, and perhaps not even reasonable, especially as kids get older and form groups of friends. (I miss the days of pre-school, when the entire class, and even Miss Betty and Miss Carole were "my friends" to LG.) We invited kids that did not invite her to their parties -- and they always came. I've tried not to encourage a tit-for-tat mentality; more Golden Ruley, whenever possible.

One thing that is practical and reasonable, though, is to teach children not to discuss a party in the presence of anyone whom you are not absolutely certain was invited to that party. This is a rule that I made up, I guess, but it seems kind to me. We are clearly the only ones who have this rule. And the corollary is, invitations are always mailed or hand-delivered to homes; NEVER taken into school where it becomes so obvious who is and is not invited. Until this year, we were the only ones who followed that rule. Interestingly, this year the school made it a policy that no written invitations could be distributed there. Not that everyone follows it, but it did feel good to point out to LG that someone other than I felt that was a bad idea. I can just picture a mean kid flamboyantly handing out little envelopes, and the little uninvited ones waiting, hoping, only to be disappointed. Grrrr! I know how it has affected LG to listen to some of her friends talk about going to so-and-so's upcoming soiree, when she has not been invited. I can only use these moments to reinforce "our" value system, "See, we're making a good decision by not doing that; it can be hurtful." And then I go into all the reasons why people must limit the number of guests, etc., but little Veronica is still your friend, etc.

At LG's recent birthday party, one of the young ladies (*cough*choke*) had a problem with the refreshments that we offered. I said to her, as I had to each of the other guests, "Would you like fruit punch or lemonade?" And she said to me, as no one else had, "What?! You mean you don't even have any sodas?!" Yet another occasion after which we got home, did the post-mortem on the day and I found myself saying to my daughter, "You must tell me that you would NEVER say a thing like that to your hostess . . . " And I hear her say, somewhat wearily, "No, Mom, I would never do that." Cheez!

Are kids getting meaner? Are parents neglecting to teach kindness, politeness? Am I an old fart?

25 heads are better than one . . .

Blogger Andrea said...

I have to blame the parents, sometimes for a bad example, but mostly for not taking the time to correct their children when they are young and don't know better.

Of course, there always are some mean girls, like the one that wrote your daughter that oh-so-thoughtful, humble note. Always. Always have been. And unfortunately, probably always will be.

Blogger Rayne said...

I would blame the parents, too. I've had a few doozies come over to the house myself and I'm never really too sure how to deal with the mouthiness.
There will always be mean little kids, girls or boys, and so many times it's really just thoughtlessness on their part. At thier ages they really don't have the concept down that what they are doing or saying hurts other people. Which is what the parents should be teaching. Believe it or not, some of these kids actually grow up to be very kind adults. Then again, some of them grow up to be those people we hate at Wal-Mart

Blogger Mr. Bloggerific Himself said...

Oh, man... As a a father, an uncle and a former employee of a children's psych. hospital, I have way too much input to offer on this topic.

Let me just say there are MANY examples exactly like what you describe that make me just really sadly confused. And I'm not just talking about the younger end of the children spectrum. I'm hearing more and more stories of how children of aging parents suddenly vanish from the picture, refusing to assist their parents in their "golden" years.

But SURELY it's not the child that demands a soda, or brags about a party invite in front of someone that didn't receive one, that goes on to be "too busy with work" to care for elderly parents. No, surely not.

Throw the boomerang of child-rearing and wait for the ricochet. (don't quote me on that last line, the members of Deep Purple might not appreciate the end of it)

Anonymous LadyBug said...

Gah. My daughters have some rude (and some downright mean) friends, too. I have to remind myself over and over that other folks just don't have the same rules (or values) as we do.

Blogger Von Krankipantzen said...

I don't think you are old school at all. Not one little bit. Kids are increasingly rude and far more entitled than ever. Here is my question. Can you teach a child empathy or is it something they are born with? Not having kids I have no idea.

Sadly, mean kids often turn into mean adults so it becomes just a part of life that good people have to deal with.

Blogger Karen said...

This post just reminds me of how worried I get when my "outspoken" son goes to people's houses. It's not that we didn't teach him how to behave, and it's not that he isn't a very kind and (usually) thoughtful person; it's just that it's hard to anticipate every situation. Specific to your example, my son does not like carbonated beverages, so I had to teach him to ask politely for a glass of water if all he was offered was pop. However, it took me a long time to figure out that he would sit in a corner and grumble at parties if he didn't like the games they were playing. Grown-up hosts were often too polite to mention this behaviour to me. If you don't know it's happening, how can you correct it?

Maybe that girl's mother would be as horrified to learn of her daughter's behaviour as you were to encounter it. It doesn't excuse poor behaviour -- and you'd certainly think at that age she would know better -- but everyone is so quick to blame the parents, without giving the parents the information they need. (I know, how do you say, "Your child is a spoiled brat who doesn't know how to behave" without being impolite yourself? I don't have an answer for that.)

Oh, and as for that letter LG received, that's just truly mind-boggling.

Sorry to ramble.

Anonymous lawbrat said...

You are NOT so old school. In many cases it is the parents to blame. I see it many times. Children NEED boundaries, to be corrected with manners, and know compassion. These are LEARNED!! They are not just born with good manners, common sense, and cooth. (if that is misspelled, I'm sorry).

We've always invited everyone also if invitations were given at school. No, we don't provide soda. If the turn out is large, we grill hot dogs- b-days are in May and July- juice, lemonade, chips. If lower, we'll do more.

I did get your email, sent a short one back and will write more later, and also tell you about my sister and her kids. They are usually not invited, and they are my nieces and nephew. And yes, it is the parenting.

Anonymous peaches said...

First, it took me 3! times to publish my comment! I kept getting the word veri wrong.

Second, I put lawbrat and not Peaches!! That is just wrong.

Love you!

Blogger WILLIAM said...

Yes. Yes. Yes. :)

Blogger Effie said...

every time i hear something like that i tell katrina what is right and wrong--hopefully it'll stick...

-typing with one hand, sorry-

katrina's starting to vocalize a lot now and i encourage it whole-heartedly, except yesterday in church--there was a young girl sitting behind us and katrina started rinning and babbling to her as loud as possible...very cute, but still i shushed her a couple of times!

hugs, love and prayers and hoping you don't have to go through that needly shocky kind of test again!

Blogger Squirl said...

I think that a lot of people are getting too lazy to discipline kids properly. It can be done without killing their spirit. It just takes time and work.

I'm sorry LG got hurt. I know what it's like to have a friend who'll hang out with you after school, but in school she doesn't even know you. So sad, but it doesn't seem to be getting any better.

Good for you for sticking to your guns and providing a good example to your daughter.

Blogger Ern said...

First, I think that children are getting much more rude and disrespectful. In the last 5-10 years I have noticed kids being so snotty to adults/me, more so than I ever would have dreamed of being when I was a kid.

Second, it is so important that you are teaching LG to hold people's feelings gently. I still have traumatic memories of one particularly big party that I was not invited to, in 5th grade I believe it was.

So no, you are NOT old-fashioned, just a kind person. And that never goes out of style.


Anonymous Michelle said...

I don't have kids but I completley know and agree with what you are saying. We had a rule at our house growing up - you never EVER asked if your friend could eat over if the friend was standing right there - we had 100 other rules too - I honestly think that today kids (in general) don't have enough rules and are being allowed to act like adults long before they are adults - and they are not even acting like the polite ones.

Blogger eclectic said...

Having just been at Disney World with 70,000 of our closest friends, and having a 7th-grade daughter as well, I can tell you that I believe people (and consequently their children) generally are more often rude than otherwise. It grieves me.

It angers me when my daughter gets the least appealing project assigned at school, or ends up at the end of the lunch line, for the simple reason that she was willing to wait her turn as per the rules which were unenforced with the "me-firster" kids.

Mean girls are everywhere, but if your child can bring home her heartbreak, knowing that even if you can't fix it, you'll listen and not think she's going crazy, she'll be alright. Also, when you see her gracefully, but firmly, stand for something she believes in, against the prevailing group-think of her rude peers, you will know what my proudest parenting moment has been.

Finally, when confronted by the rude aggression of the ungrateful juvenile guest, my standard response is: "No, we don't have soda. Isn't that funny? Now, would you prefer punch or lemonade?" I've found that if I refuse to be embarrassed by their bad behavior, it very often stops the rudeness in its tracks. That said however, as your sister I volunteer to politely kick the ass of anyone, man, woman or child who is unnecessarily rude to you.

Blogger whfropera said...

oh boy - everyone has said it all before me, but I'll throw my tidbit into the proverbial pot:

I was the RECIPIENT of one of those *lovely* letters, about 30 years ago. It hurt then, and I have never forgotten it, or all the days afterwards I spent alone during school.

Whoopi G. does a GREAT comedy routine about this very subject, and why kids have ended up so rude obnoxious fill-in-the-blank here.
She chalks it up to lack of rules too!

Anonymous RzDrms said...

ugh. you are right on the money with your teachings. some (many?) parents aren't though.

on a much much much less serious topic, is it wrong that i'm wondering how your peee-peee pot is coming along? ;) prolly so.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you an old fart??? hehehe...there are so many openings here...but I am restraining myself!

I've had kids like that come to my house before. Here's what I do...for better or worse...I stop whatever it is I'm doing, call them by name and request their presence in my kitchen (or whatever room is people free). Then I look them in the eye and tell them they are always welcome in my house and I want them to have a good time. While they are here, there are certain ground rules that are set in stone and one of them is no rudeness...EVER. I let them know what rudeness sounds like and looks like and then we talk about appropriate ways to get our needs met without any rudeness. I know, I know, it drives some of them nuts and they don't come back. BUT, the majority of my daughter's friends know this is a safe place for them to be and that we will provide for them as we do the girls and they are always welcome here etc etc etc. There was one girl who needed the attention apparently and she did get reminded in front of the entire group about rudeness but she is the only one ever. Of course, she doesn't come to our house anymore either but my girlie is ok with that. My girl's friends know that I love them and that I will do whatever it is I can to help them whenever they need it. In return they are always respectful and fun and when they're not, they apologize before I ever have to say a word.

Blogger Nina said...

Mean girls grow up to be mean women. I know this for a fact. Parents have a vital role in teaching their children kindness, empathy, caring for others. Disappointment never killed any of us. If you don't know what disappointment feels like or the longing to do something you can't. You will never know how to have empathy for the feelings of others.
My three kids were always told "you would never" all the time.
I do believe that LG is blessed to have you. If you are an old fart, then that would make me one too. So you are definitely not. :)

Blogger lawyerchik said...

1) Yes.
2) Yes.
3) No.


The problem is usually the parents. Many of them have grown up always getting what they want. Clothes, car, better grades - whatever.

And God forbid they had to put up with anyone's company that they DIDN'T want. There was no one there to make them, and they got everything they wanted, so they have no concept of what it feels like to be excluded or hurt.

Of course, the main part of their raising that they AREN'T getting is having to include everyone and to be kind and gracious hosts to even those children whom they don't happen to care much for....

That is why I have a dog. :)

Anonymous Richard said...

I still think that all the rudeness and disrespect today can be traced back to Dr. Spock. Instead of correcting their kids when then did something wrong, parents started to take time outs or just accepted their rotten kids as normal. Two generations later, look at the world we have made for ourselves.

Blogger Susie said...

andrea, I think you have a point about taking the time. People may be too busy to attend to the "little" things like common courtesy.

rayne, when I have a rude one, and no parents around, I try to gently redirect them, like, "Oh, Natasha, I'm sure you didn't mean it this way, but that sounded unkind. You probably meant to say ...." And they always agree that yes, they meant to say the alternative I offer. Even though we both know better.

mrB, we are a very self-centered culture now. "It's all about me" isn't a joke for everyone; it's really a way of life.

ladybug, yea, that's something that LG has heard since pre-school, and will hear through college, I guess: "Our rules are different than some of your friends' families' rules. I hope some day you will appreciate that, but even if you never do, that's how it is."

kranki, the entitlement thing gets to me, with both kids and adults. It's rampant. I think some people are naturally empathic, but I also think it is a learned (by example, mostly) way of being. I think there are very, very few people who can't learn it; those with certain brain disorders, or who suffered certain serious trauma early in life.

karen, I think with my soda example, what bugged me was the entitlement tone. If the kid had said, politely, "I'd like a soda, please," I could have politely replied, "I'm sorry, we just have the drink boxes today . . . " But because she went all, "WHAT?! You don't even have..!?" then I had to slap her (not really).
The telling the parents thing . . . that can go very well or very, very badly. Not all parents want to hear anything that they would consider less than complimentary about their kids.
I don't have any problem at all with kids being kids, or making errors in etiquette judgment because they're in a situation with which they don't have much experience. Mostly the "ME ME ME" tone of all this stuff that saddens and annoys me. And even that, at two, three, is developmentally appropriate. By 10, 11, 45, not so much ;)

peaches, I have long been an admirer of how you have raised such thoughtful, compassionate little guys.
I will say, I think it's harder for those of us who are parenting "onlies," because there's not as much opportunity for teaching consideration, give-and-take, etc.

william, you got one wrong on our little quiz. Lawyerchik is available to tutor you. :p

effie, I do think we start the teaching when they're babies. Mostly by modelling. I also think that babies will be babies, in church and everywhere else. I am one who enjoys baby sounds in church. It's part of life. I know some people freak out about them, though.

squirl, I think it is a failure of parental effort, either laziness or busy-ness. I've been thinking a lot about kids being unkind to other kids, have been trying to write something about it, from my own school memories.

ern, thanks for that. This "tween" age is SO vulnerable, I find. Maybe even the most vulnerable time of childhood.

michelle, I agree with all of that. What I considered basic manners, very few people seem to be passing on to their kids.

eclectic, your comment reminds me of your baseball post, I think of last year. LG sometimes seems to "lose" because she's trying to do the "right" thing.

operagirl, I did see Whoopi over the weekend, on TV, talking about a kid running wild on a train. It's tough, those memories of being hurt as a kid. Sometimes on talk shows, I have seen people confront their bullies from school days. The bully usually has no memory of the incidents.

razz, I filled it halfway and turned it in last week. It was just a 24-hour thing. Cheez! Stay on topic, wouldja?! ;)

traci, I'm glad your house is a place like that. I will speak to kids alone, too, if their parents aren't around. I do consider it being helpful to them. If the parents are right there, and let it happen, though . . . then you know nothing is likely to change.

nina, well that's good to know we're not old farts. Handling disappointment graciously, productively, healthily, is something we all do need to learn. Not an easy thing.

lawyerchik you get 100%. Please help William, he's in danger of flunking. I'll bet your dog is very polite ;)

richard, even Dr. Spock backtracked on some of his pronouncements. I've always wondered why people put so much stock in his advice (not all bad, though, in my opinion), when there are so many other outstanding parenting experts/writers, too.

Blogger The other me said...

When faced with rudeness of any kind my normally normal English voice becomes incredibly plummy and exceptionally loud and I bellow " I BEG your pardon?" it is a show stopper, even my kids who are used to it, stop in their tracks and immediately rethink whatever it is the meant to say.
My rimary school teacher used to start each lesson with " Manners maketh man" and we all learned how far good manners could take us..hoorah for the school of old farts, where did those teachers go?
If my child had ever received such a letter as LG did I suspect I would have helped pen a reply stating how busy I was sure to be on the proffered days. Snotty little madam, may she find herself with much time to wonder where her popularness went!

Blogger secret lady said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger secret lady said...

OMG!!!! it is simply amazing to me how many people come up to me & tell me that my 4 year old is the most polite they have ever met & i am shocked bc my only response is i simply do not allow ill manners...i ask myself this same question everyday...WHY DONT PARENTS TEACH MANNERS ANYMORE?!?!?

Blogger Just Me said...

I was one of those kids that never fit in all that well. I was beyond a "nerd"; other girls were into boys, I was into biology. My family was unstable and this was well known throughout my town and many parents didn't want their kids around my father. I was clumsy. I have a birthmark, so I looked different. Etc.

I was picked on plenty. Some of it I deserved, some I did not. But one of the most outstandingly painful moments of growing up was a Girl Scout meeting where we had our meeting at the leader's house as usual, except that everyone else stayed and my mom picked me up to go home. How that mother thought this was remotely appropriate is beyond me. It's been over 20 years and it still hurts.

Needless to say I never went back to Girl Scouts, and to be honest I don't think I ever talked to those girls again in the remaining 9 years of our education.

This is precisely why I have never been back for a reunion, despite not having been to the town I grew up in for more than a few days since I left for college.


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