Tuning in with Our Children
By James Samuel Lacy
Are American children the most discourteous in the world? I don’t think so. But I had dinner recently with a European hotel proprietor who challenged our teaching of courtesy with the statement that “We dread to see Americans with children come to our hotel. The children do as they please, consider no one’s right but their own. They behave so badly that we consider them nuisances.” I am inclined to think that, in part, this idea was prompted by national differences in the concept of what constitutes freedom for youth. It takes very little foreign travel to convince one that what is courteous in one country may be quite the opposite in another.
Sorry for Timid Children
What we style “self-reliance in free play,” may be mistaken for impudence or lack of obedience in countries permitting less freedom of choice to children. However, if a few of our children have gone abroad running up and down flights of stairs, playing hide-and-seek when other guests were trying to sleep, we can still say that generally children are as courteous as they are trained to be. I have often felt as sorry for their timid, thumb-screwed children who were afraid to make any decisions for themselves as they could possibly have felt shocked at our unrestrained youth.
Need Training in Country
But all argument aside, there is no asset in life so highly productive of social dividends as excellent training in courtesy. And observation of the current code in one’s surroundings ought to be a part of a child’s preparation for living. Our children, must live with other people. They will invariably get farther in life and be happier if they know the rules of etiquette that will provide the least friction and give the greatest pleasure to their associates. A charming, gracious manner is an irresistible asset that we can afford to cultivate, but to do so successfully, we must begin by being courteous with our children and insisting upon their practice of courtesy and consideration in their association with each other. –From the Journal of the National Education Association, 1932
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