Two weeks ago, my son was enjoying a scoot at the local park. It was a sunny winter’s day and the blue skies had drawn out a number of young pre-school aged children.
A small boy, around the age of two, tumbled from his bike. Knee scratched, and tears running, he wobbled to his feet, eyes searching for his mum. Instead, he faced a group of older high school students. They laughed, pointed, made fun. They took the opportunity to make this innocent little boy feel smaller than he already was.
His worried mother made the decision to speak up on behalf of her child: “Please don’t laugh at him. He’s only a little boy.”
The teenagers unleashed, spewing ugly words at this poor woman.
“Shut up you fat cow.” Their words were hurtful and unwarranted. It calls into question, what are we teaching our children?
Where has common courtesy and kindness gone? Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but in our house we encourage the use of manners. Sure, kids will be kids, and as a family we have our ups and downs. But, we talk about kindness and self-worth daily.
I am not an authoritative figure on politeness, nor do I claim to be. I am also realistic, and know that we will never live in Pleasantville – who would actually want to?
This is simply the observation of a woman who wants her child to grow up in a positive environment. And, of a woman who misses manners.
What happened to letting someone with fewer groceries in front of you in the checkout line? Or, helping a struggling mother get her pram up some stairs? When was the last time you offered your chair to someone, or offered a sincere thank you to the teacher who watches over, and educates, your child?
So, what’s the cause in the decline of courtesy? I can hazard a guess. Life is busy, bringing with it impatience and frustration. We are constantly rushing – to work, to school, to sports practice. The list goes on.
We are self-focused and those traits reflect onto our children. Technology has its role too. Smartphones have instilled a sense of urgency – everything we need is in the palm of our hand. Anonymous keyboard warriors dish out hatred via social media.
Our choice of media has also changed – clickbait is front and centre, reality television basically celebrates nastiness.
All of these things drive our thought patterns. According to Time magazine, studies show rudeness spreads virally, almost like a common cold. If you witness it, you are more likely to be rude later on. Scientists have described rudeness as a neurotoxin, and once infected we become more aggressive.
What we can do is take control and make a conscious decision to be kind, yet assertive. Call it out – if you witness rudeness, speak up. Together as a community, we can make a difference.