Underparented kids on a plane

After getting up at 4 am to catch a cross-country flight, Amy Alkon hoped to sleep on the plane. But a three-year-old in the next row was talking so loudly that noise-canceling headphones weren’t enough.

“Excuse me, could you please ask your little girl to be a little quieter?” Alkon whispered to the mother.

“No,” the woman said.

“Go-right-ahead!” mommying is spreading, writes Alkon in The Underparented Child Flies Again. “There’s no age that’s too young to start prepping the little nipper for Harvard,” she writes in the New York Observer. Yet many parents don’t teach empathy, the root of good manners.

. . . that mom on the plane could have both modeled empathy and asked her daughter to show it: “You know, sweetie, how you get cranky when you haven’t had your nap? Many people had to wake up really early for this flight and might want to sleep, so let’s pretend we’re mice and use our quietest voices.”

. . . getting in the habit of living as if other people matter makes you more likely to be employed by them, to be liked and respected by them, and even to be loved by them. Sure, it’s good to be king. But it’s ultimately far more satisfying to be kind.

Nobody likes a brat — on a plane, in the home or in the workplace.

Snakes on a plane? At least, they’re quiet. 

Parents, let your kids fail

Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail, writes Jessica Lahey in The Atlantic.

Thirteen years ago, when I was a relatively new teacher, stumbling around my classroom on wobbly legs, I had to call a students’ mother to inform her that I would be initiating disciplinary proceedings against her daughter for plagiarism, and that furthermore, her daughter would receive a zero for the plagiarized paper.

“You can’t do that. She didn’t do anything wrong,” the mother informed me, enraged.

“But she did. I was able to find entire paragraphs lifted off of web sites,” I stammered.

“No, I mean she didn’t do it. I did. I wrote her paper.”

Overprotective parents are raising their children without “the emotional resources they will need to cope with inevitable setback and failure,” writes Lahey.

It’s hard to teach children who’ve been shielded from frustration and failure. Kids can’t learn from their mistakes if their parents never let them make any.

. . . teachers don’t just teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. We teach responsibility, organization, manners, restraint, and foresight. These skills may not get assessed on standardized testing, but as children plot their journey into adulthood, they are, by far, the most important life skills I teach.

Her students who are “happiest and successful in their lives” are the ones  who were “allowed to fail, held responsible for missteps, and challenged to be the best people they could be in the face of their mistakes.”


Girls (not boys) take no-cursing pledge

A Catholic high school in New Jersey has asked girls to take a “no-cursing” pledge, reports NBC. Boys have been asked not to swear when girls are within earshot.

School officials want “ladies to act like ladies,” said Lori Flynn, a Queen of Peace High teacher who organized the campaign.

Brother Larry Lavallee, the school’s principal, says girls use the foulest language.

. . . Dana Cotter, 16, thought that male students should join the pledge because “boys should be more like gentlemen.”

Teachers said they hoped that if the girls focused on cleaning up their speech on campus for a month, their improved manners would take hold and rub off on the boys. They timed the initiative to Catholic Schools Week and the old-fashioned romance of Valentine’s Day, promising lollipops as rewards and handing out pins showing a red slash through a pair of pink lips.

Nicholas Recarte, 16, said, “It’s unattractive when girls have potty mouths.”  But Recarte, a pitcher on the school baseball team, said “he can’t help shouting obscenities” when things go wrong in a game.

Colleges teach workplace social skills

To help graduating seniors find jobs, colleges and universities are teaching the social skills of the workplace, reports the Hechinger Report.

After final exams are over, MIT students will return from their holiday break to experience something different from their usual studies—but almost as important.

It’s the university’s annual Charm School, offering instruction in everything from how to make a first impression to how to dress for work to which bread plate to use.

Other colleges have started teaching students how to make small talk, deal with conflict, show up on time, follow business etiquette, and communicate with co-workers.

Employers complain new hires don’t know how to act professionally. “This is a generation with an average of 241 social media ‘friends,’ but they have trouble communicating in person,” said Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

“Students don’t really know what’s meant by professional dress,” says MIT’s Hamlett. “Most students just roll out of bed in whatever it is they want to wear. There’s this ‘come as you are’ about being a college student.”

At Wake Forest University’s business school, master’s candidates are required to wear business attire to class, and be in the building from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

. . . MBA and law students at the University of Iowa learn table manners at an annual “etiquette dinner”—where to rest their silverware between courses and on which side of their settings to return their water glasses.

“Helicopter parents” haven’t taught their entitled children what the real world demands, says Aaron McDaniel, author of The Young Professional’s Guide to the Working World. He also blames universities for letting students slide by without working hard. In the workplace, McDaniel says, many graduates “expect that, just for showing up, they’ll get credit, just like they used to get at school.”

Eat, drink and behave

San Francisco parents are outsourcing table manners, reports the New York Times. Well-to-do parents like to eat out, but they’re not good at teaching their children how to behave in public.

It’s dinnertime, and 6-year-old Joaquin Hurtado is staying in his seat. He hasn’t stood up, run around the table or wrestled with his little brother. Good thing. It wouldn’t take much unruly behavior to shatter the dishware or the mood in this upscale restaurant.

“This is a place where you come to eat,” the boy says softly, explaining nice manners. “It’s not a place to play.”

The place is Chenery Park, a restaurant with low lights, cloth napkins, $24 grilled salmon and “family night” every Tuesday. Children are welcome, with a catch: They are expected to behave — and to watch their manners, or learn them. Think upscale dining with training wheels.

Some parents pay for etiquette classes. Robin Wells, the founder of Etiquette Manor in Coral Gables, Fla., teaches children to use forks and look the waiter in the eye.  She charges $285 for five one-hour lessons.

She often exhorts her young students: be polite to your mother because she’ll be happier, and if she’s happier, you’re happier.

I did this with my daughter when she was two, explaining that if she whined, nagged or sulked, she’d have a mean, crabby mother, but if she refrained from whining, nagging and sulking, she’d have a nice, cheerful mother.  It worked — and lasted through her teen years. Didn’t cost a dime either.

Many families eat with the TV blaring in the background. Parents and kids are checking social media instead of talking to each other at the table.

Modern children don’t want to hear about “manners” or “etiquette,” says Faye de Muyshondt, the founder of Socialsklz, which teaches workshops in New York City on etiquette and social skills. She teaches children that they are “building the brand called ‘you,’ ” reports the Times.

Hmmm. Well, I did tell my daughter that I wanted her to behave well at her friends’ homes so their parents would say, “What a well-behaved child. She must have a wonderful mother to raise her to be so well behaved.” This worked too. I

Teaching ‘sensitivity’ to teachers

Boston teachers need training in cultural sensitivity, says Sociedad Latina, a local advocacy group. Insensitive teachers create an unwelcoming climate for students, “potentially contributing to their loss of classroom focus, poor test performance, or a higher dropout rate,” advocates tell the Boston Globe.

“The kids are right in demanding more training for teachers,’’ said Carroll Blake, executive director for the School Department’s Office of the Achievement Gap.  “It’s not just valuing an individual student’s culture, but acknowledging it and integrating it into classroom lessons.’’

On Flypaper, Liam Julian scoffs.

Fifteen-year-old Shantal Solomon told the newspaper that she can “vividly recall the day two years ago . . . when she observed her teacher scolding her friends for speaking Spanish.” “I felt offended,” she said. “I don’t even speak Spanish. But it’s a free country. We should be able to speak the language we want.”

Bien sûr, reply school leaders, who reportedly think that “more comprehensive cultural training” for educators is right and good, and that such instruction “could provide a critical link in closing an alarming achievement gap between students of different races and ethnicities.”

. . . It is not a free country, especially not for fifteen-year-olds, and public-school pupils do not have the right to take tests in Tagalog.

Also on Flypaper, Jamie Davies O’Leary disagrees. Cultural sensitivity won’t lift test scores but students and teachers should treat each other with respect. As a kindergarten teacher, she witnessed five-year-olds trading ethnic slurs and spit.

The children may need training in behavior and manners, but do teachers really need a course in cultural sensitivity?  Common sense and common courtesy should be enough, I’d think.

On Fox, Amber Winkler of Fordham and Melissa Luna of Sociedad Latina discuss sensitivity training. Note the fair and unbiased intro.

A lesson in manners

When a student walked in an hour late for the first class, NYU Business Professor Scott Galloway told him to go away.  The student e-mailed to complain that he’d been trying out other classes that meet at the same time and didn’t know the professor’s code of conduct.  Galloway’s reply (with the student’s name removed) has gone viral. Via Deadspin:

For the record, we also have no stated policy against bursting into show tunes in the middle of class, urinating on desks or taking that revolutionary hair removal system for a spin. However, xxxx, there is a baseline level of decorum (i.e., manners) that we expect of grown men and women who the admissions department have deemed tomorrow’s business leaders.

Galloway advised: “Get your shit together.”

Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a live/work balance…these are all really hard, xxxx. In contrast, respecting institutions, having manners, demonstrating a level of humility…these are all (relatively) easy. Get the easy stuff right xxxx.

Good advice, I think.

Instapundit, a law professor, sides with Galloway.

Raising rude kids?

Gen X parents are devoted to their kids. But their children are growing up rude, complains Susan Gregory Thomas on MSNBC.

(Gen Xers) are champions of “attachment parenting,” the school of child-rearing that calls for a high level of closeness between parents and children, Many Gen-X parents co-sleep with their children, hold them back from entering kindergarten if they feel their children’s emotional maturity is at stake and volunteer at their kids’ schools at record rates. Gen-X moms have been famously criticized by early feminists for dropping out of the workforce to care for their young children.

Yet, their kids are, well, rude. It may be that today’s parents are so fixated on their children’s emotional well-being that they’re teaching them that the well-being of others is comparatively unimportant, says Dr. Philippa Gordon, a long-time pediatrician in Park Slope, Brooklyn, an urban New York neighborhood famous for its dense Gen-X parent population.

Some researchers say Generation X missed out on nurturing as children. Half came from what used to be called “broken homes.”

“They are trying to heal the wounds from their own childhoods through their children,” says Dr. Michael Brody, a child psychiatrist and chair of the Television and Media Committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Are today’s whippersnappers really worse now than past generations? We baby boomers were awfully full of ourselves. Still are, goldurn it. But our parents couldn’t hover and smother because they had too many kids.

My mother, who raised four children, is celebrating her birthday and Mother’s Day today. (We always thought it was exceptionally nice of her to be born near Mother’s Day and to let us combine the celebrations.)  The family ranges from one years old to . . . old enough.

Parents, mind your kids’ manners

Parents must take on the “age-old parental job” of teaching manners to their children, writes Perri Klass, a New York Times health columnist.

And that job is to start with a being who has no thought for the feelings of others, no code of behavior beyond its own needs and comforts — and, guided by love and duty, to do your best to transform that being into what your grandmother (or Socrates) might call a mensch. To use a term that has fallen out of favor, your assignment is to “civilize” the object of your affections.

Socrates spoke Yiddish? Who knew?

She talks to Judith Martin, author of  Miss Manners’ Guide to Rearing Perfect Children.

“Every infant is born adorable but selfish and the center of the universe,” she replied. It’s a parent’s job to teach that “there are other people, and other people have feelings.”

I agree totally with Klass on the wisdom of Miss Manners’ approach:

I’m not telling you to like your teacher; I’m telling you to treat her with courtesy. I’m not telling you that you can’t hate Tommy; I’m telling you that you can’t hit Tommy. Your feelings are your own private business; your behavior is public.

Feel as you wish. Act like a civilized human being.

When my daughter went to birthday parties, I’d tell her my goal was to have the birthday girl’s parents say: “What a polite child. She must have a wonderful mother.” Those good manners have stood her in very good stead over the years.