Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Civility Wars

On the topic of innocuous and annoying problems, primarily the breakdown of American etiquette and manners, I turn your attention again to the seething discontent over the behavior of American children, and how some American adults are saying: enough!

I know we've gone over it before, but that was a while back. The fact that the article is out again in the same year tells me that there are deeper factors here, and we are starting to face one of those things that may go hand in hand with the AlieNation factor I wrote about earlier this week.

From the article:
"Charlton, who doesn’t have children but describes herself as an adoring godmother of two, says too many parents act as if the earth revolves around their children, and the general public should treat them as such. Yet kids are more out of control than ever, she says.

Is it true? Are children these days allowed to run amok like never before? Has public etiquette gone to hell in a hand basket or — er — a Dora The Explorer backpack? Or is society simply becoming more intolerant of little tikes?
You can vote for yourselves.

I don't think society is becoming more intolerant of little tykes, I think society is becoming more intolerant of irresponsible parents. I have many good friends with small children, family with small children, and I have driven from Florida to Colorado with some friends who had a 16 month old. These kids are all a joy to be around, but -much like their parents- they tend to behave very well in appropriate company. Their parents set a good example, is what I'm saying; playtime is playtime, dinner at a restaurant is dinner at a restaurant. Strange that when the parents know the difference, the kids know the difference.

And I can tell you that when I see an adult who acts like this:
Besides, kids aren't the only ones misbehaving, says Wasmund. "I see more adults behaving badly in public than children,” she says, noting they leave messes around the tables at bookstores, they speak too loudly on their cell phones and they’re more likely than children to be pushy and rude.
no one bets against my gamblin' boat money that derre kids are going to be unholy terrors, too.


GP said...

Thank you for this excellent post. Parents no longer take responsibility for keeping their kids in check in public. I would gladly pay a surcharge to eat in a kid-free restaurant, take a child-free flight, or see a kid-free movie.

Dante said...

Personally, I'd rather have teen-free movies than kid-free ones but that's neither here nor there.

Pat is right though by stating that rudeness and inappropriate social behavior is not something children have a monopoly on. My daughter for example is an excellent flier. She's never cried on the plane and she's never been a bother to those around her. Yet I have still overheard* fellow passenger complaining about having to sit near us on a flight before we're even off the ground on more than one occasion. These pompous a-holes are being just as rude, if not more, than any whiny kid could ever be by belittling my child for no reason right in front of her.

Parenting is a big factor in a child's behavior but the child is also a big factor. Some children are just better about some things. My daughter is good on flights but my son is terrible on car trips and I expect no less if I were to take him on an airplane. My repsonse to that is to try to avoid the situation but that's not always possible.

"Charlton, who doesn’t have children but describes herself as an adoring godmother of two, says too many parents act as if the earth revolves around their children"

These parents typically turn into Helicopter Parents. If you think they're bad now, just wait until their kids are trying to get into college.

* I'm not a nosy person and I can't hear especially well. If I overheard something then it was something I was meant to overhear.

Buzzzbee said...

I totally agree with Dante on the Movies. I would love to see age-segregation at movie theaters.

When I went to see X3 at the movies in Glynnplace last spring, I saw another solution to this sort of problem.

During the previews, a group of teenagers were being loud talking about B***hes and hoes and gangstas and such. I expected them to stop when the movie actually started. The opening credits began but they didn't stop. Before I could even think of saying anything, I heard a woman's voice tell them to be quiet. The response from the kids was along the lines of "shut-up B##ch". No sooner had the kid got the words out of his mouth than I heard the following:

"That's my f***king wife you're talking to. I'm a Marine and I just got back from Iraq. If you don't shut the F**k up, I'll break your F**king neck!!!"

Needless to say, I got to enjoy the rest of the movie in silence. So, my alternative solution is to pay marines to sit in movie theaters and silence potential noise-makers.

Dante said...

So does anyone else see R Lee Ermey playing the part of "Marine" in buzzzbee's scanrio? I was even envisioning a "H***, I like you, you can come over to my house and f*** my sister!" before punching them in the gut if they got out of line again.

petallic said...

I am also finding that adults are much more out-of-control than children. My kids at school, who are roughly 16-17 years of age, are predominantly well-trained. Most are polite, friendly, and horrified by unruly behavior. Even the drug dealers are fairly pleasant. After the Ron Clark movie aired Sunday night, all they could talk about all day was the horrible behavior of the children in his classes and what would happen to them if they behaved in kind.

As to helicopter parents, I don't think it's going to get any better. My county has just switched to an online grading system that allows parents to go online and check their child's grades. Every single grade. So for every daily work grade or test grade, Mom and Dad can hover as much as they please, leaving no room for personal responsibility for the child himself. I only see this type of behavior growing worse.

My only hope is that as these kids I have now get older, they will fix this problem by forcing their children to be a bit more autonomous.

petallic said...

Oh, and as for the bookshop clerk, or any other chump who tries to shame a mother, I have nothing but ire for him.

I think I've said this before as well, but here goes again. America is becoming a country disdainful of children. We want them seen but not heard, and if possible not even seen. Children are part of the larger community, and personally I see "child-free zones" no different than "Whites Only" zones. It's wrong to exclude a large part of the human race simply because they aren't your cuppa tea.

It relates to the AlieNation thread. Our comfort has become more important than the needs and rights of others.

Patrick Armstrong said...

I think that America is becoming a country disdainful of rude and classless behavior. People are figuring out that being polite to rude people only enables those people being rude.

Patrick Armstrong said...

Then again, I could be wrong.

hillary said...

People are figuring out that being polite to rude people only enables those people being rude.

I don't know about that. More rudeness is generally a bad thing.

Buzzzbee said...

"Children are part of the larger community, and personally I see "child-free zones" no different than "Whites Only" zones. It's wrong to exclude a large part of the human race simply because they aren't your cuppa tea."

Would that include strip clubs and "R" and "X" rated movie theaters?

I don't think comparing age segregation to racial segregation is fair. I'd compare it to Smokers and NonSmokers. I used to smoke, but out of courtesy, I would make a point not to do it around kids or in the presence of those it bothered. Now, as a NonSmoker(with severe allergies that coincidentally I didn't have before I started smoking)I expect the same courtesy. Noisy youth, especially teens who are more interested in socializing than watching a movie are taking away from my experience. So, why should their right to sit in a theater for a movie they aren't even watching override my right to enjoy the movie?

petallic said...

I agree that the Smokers/NonSmokers comparison is probably better, but I do think the kids have a right to see a movie. You could easily invert the scenario and say, "Why should the kids have to tolerate our stuffy presence, insisting they be quiet, and ruining their good time?" Because we're the adults? That seems insufficient justification.

Don't get me wrong. I want to enjoy my movie, but I choose movies that won't have many children in them. If I want to see a kiddie movie, I go in fully expecting the noise of children, and I only go to matinees, where there are generally fewer children. I haven't been to a Friday night/Saturday night movie of my own choice in years, because I respect that children need safe places to hang out together, and a movie theater provides that. If children, then noise. That's part of the human experience.

Buzzzbee said...

ahh, but couldn't these kids just as easily be loud and obnoxious in the lobby? They don't need the movie playing to do that. Wouldn't you agree?

Also, I don't think expecting someone not to carry on a conversation during a movie is being stuffy. If you're going to let people talk during a movie, why not let them have their cellphones on? Or talk at the top of their lungs on a cellphone? If we're going to let disrupt our enjoyment of the movie's audio, why not let people stand up in front of the screen? What's the point of even screening the movie in a dark room, quiet room? Let's just show movies in the parking lot.

I'm sorry. I have no pity on the issue. I'm a pretty calm guy and I'm certainly not prone to violence. But if you want to see me lose my temper, get someone to start being loud in a movie theater while I'm trying to watch a movie. That's just the epitome of rudeness and disrespect.

Btw. I'm talking about teenagers. When I go to a kiddy movie(usually with my cousin), say Curious George or Nanny McPhee, I go in fully expecting children's laughter and other noise. When I go to watch Star Wars or Spiderman or whatever, I expect people to be reasonable.

petallic said...

I don't disagree with you on any particular point, Buzzzbee, but I think a teenager's idea of quiet is very different from ours.

It took me a long time to realize that just because my students are making noise or chatting during a movie in class, it doesn't mean they aren't paying attention. Noise that bothers us doesn't bother them. And to be honest, I find myself shushing adults as often these days as I shush kids. During staff meetings, grown folks will carry on full conversations while someone is speaking or presenting. These kids aren't doing anything some grown-ups don't do.

Obviously we don't want teenagers being jerks in public places, but I also hate to see adults be jerks in public places when it comes to the matter of children. Children, including teenagers, need some room to breathe.