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Is It Me, Or Have Kids' Manners Gotten Worse?

(Gerald Herbert/AP)
(Gerald Herbert/AP)

Kids, manners and the holidays. We have expert advice on how to expect and encourage behavior that makes for great family memories.


Katherine Reynolds Lewis, author of “ The Good News About Bad Behavior: Why Kids Are Less Disciplined Than Ever-And What to Do About It.” Certified parent educator and award-winning journalist. ( @KatherineLewis)

Richard Weissbourd, faculty director of human development and psychology program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. Co-director of Making Caring Common program. ( @MCCHarvardEd)

From The Reading List

Excerpt From “The Good News About Bad Behavior” by Katherine Reynolds Lewis

Excerpted from THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT BAD BEHAVIOR by Katherine Reynolds Lewis. Copyright © 2019. Available from PublicAffairs, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

The Boston Globe: “ Why kids today are so rude — and why a little bad behavior might sometimes be a good thing” — “My daughter, who’s 9, recently had a new friend over to play. I gave them a snack and was in the kitchen pouring juice when our visitor bellowed from the next room, ‘More chips!’ I bristled, but I wasn’t surprised. As a mother of three, I’ve long had a front-row seat to children’s declining manners.

“It’s not mislaid soup spoons or white shoes after Labor Day unsettling me. It’s the waning of the most basic acts of courtesy — saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ keeping a door from slamming on the person behind you — and the waxing of rudeness extreme enough to shock. That is, if it weren’t so common.

“There’s my neighbor’s tale from her son’s 10th birthday party, when she placed favors — two versions of a detective kit — at the kids’ chairs in an alternating pattern. A girl approached her, indignant, wanting to know why she didn’t get the kit she wanted. My neighbor assured her that the kits were basically the same, but the girl was unappeased. ‘Can you order the other one for me?’ she said.

“Then there’s the dad who volunteered to coach his daughter’s coed soccer team. A few players refused to participate in scrimmages if placed on a different side than their buddies. At one practice, some, laughing, pelted him with soccer balls. ‘They see little difference between their parents, coaches, and friends,’ he told me. ‘My biggest take-away? Wow, kids have changed.’ ”

NPR: “ Why Children Aren’t Behaving, And What You Can Do About It” — “Childhood — and parenting — have radically changed in the past few decades, to the point where far more children today struggle to manage their behavior.

“That’s the argument Katherine Reynolds Lewis makes in her new parenting book, The Good News About Bad Behavior.

“‘We face a crisis of self-regulation,’ Lewis writes. And by ‘we,’ she means parents and teachers who struggle daily with difficult behavior from the children in their lives.

“Lewis, a journalist, certified parent educator and mother of three, asks why so many kids today are having trouble managing their behavior and emotions.

“Three factors, she says, have contributed mightily to this crisis.

“First: Where, how and how much kids are allowed to play has changed. Second, their access to technology and social media has exploded.

“Finally, Lewis suggests, children today are too ‘unemployed.’ She doesn’t simply mean the occasional summer job for a high school teen. The term is a big tent, and she uses it to include household jobs that can help even toddlers build confidence and a sense of community.”

Mother Jones: “ What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?” — “Leigh Robinson was out for a lunchtime walk one brisk day during the spring of 2013 when a call came from the principal at her school. Will, a third-grader with a history of acting up in class, was flipping out on the playground. He’d taken off his belt and was flailing it around and grunting. The recess staff was worried he might hurt someone. Robinson, who was Will’s educational aide, raced back to the schoolyard.

“Will was ‘that kid.’ Every school has a few of them: that kid who’s always getting into trouble, if not causing it. That kid who can’t stay in his seat and has angry outbursts and can make a teacher’s life hell. That kid the other kids blame for a recess tussle. Will knew he was that kid too. Ever since first grade, he’d been coming to school anxious, defensive, and braced for the next confrontation with a classmate or teacher.

“The expression ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ was coined to describe how America’s public schools fail kids like Will. A first-grader whose unruly behavior goes uncorrected can become the fifth-grader with multiple suspensions, the eighth-grader who self-medicates, the high school dropout, and the 17-year-old convict. Yet even though today’s teachers are trained to be sensitive to ‘social-emotional development’ and schools are committed to mainstreaming children with cognitive or developmental issues into regular classrooms, those advances in psychology often go out the window once a difficult kid starts acting out. Teachers and administrators still rely overwhelmingly on outdated systems of reward and punishment, using everything from red-yellow-green cards, behavior charts, and prizes to suspensions and expulsions.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.