Children without etiquette or parents who don't know the difference?
It's there in the young man on the bus a few inches away, who coughs in your direction without covering his mouth, in the woman in the taxi speaking loudly into her cell phone for the entire ride, and in the group of high-school girls laughing and gossiping loudly and making everyone's heads turn. It's there in the guy who breezes through the heavy door, leaving it to swing back in your direction, and in the woman who says nothing in recognition as you politely hold the door open for her.
We all encounter such bad behavior in our daily lives. Indeed, common courtesy doesn't seem to be so common anymore because the perpetrators are missing the vital link: They never learned the proper ways to behave at the most important time when they were children.
Why the lack of manners?
Why have modern manners taken such a noted nosedive? "It's the result of TV, video games, and two parents working," Melissa Leonard, who is a professional etiquette expert, believes.
"Our society puts moreemphasis on making kids happy than on giving them the skills they will need later on in life."
Many parents are at work, and their children are being cared for by someone else, a caregiver who might be lacking a degree of polish. Those children are not, by and large, being prepared to function well in the grownup world that, like it or not, does require certain levels of social skills.
What's the big deal?
So what if your child doesn't say 'please' or 'thank you' every time? Isn't it more important to get her on an academic track early, to encourage hard work and education in order for her to emerge ready to compete in an increasingly global world?
Not according to a recent national survey of preschool teachers, 80 percent of who believe parents are overemphasizing scholastic skills over social development.
According to the 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct, it's crucial that children learn to connect civility with strength and determination rather than weakness. It is up to the adults in their lives to show them the competitive advantages of being known as trustworthy, considerate and kind.
• Michelle Parkes is a certified etiquette consultant. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org