Green Room

Modern parents have discovered table manners & the NYT is on it!

posted at 12:47 pm on December 28, 2012 by

One of my favorite things about reading the New York Times and other liberal publications is how they frequently present age-old ideas we’ve all known about for centuries as new trends. For instance, sustainable eating? That’s what the rest of us call a garden. Co-parenting? That’s what the rest of us know as a two-parent family. Localvore charcuterie? Where I come from, that’s always been called bacon.

Now, the NYT presents the brave new world of…teaching your children table manners. I can’t decide if it’s encouraging that parents actually want to do this or depressing that they’ve just discovered it might be a good idea and are now outsourcing it because they’re too wimpy to do it on their own. An account from a San Francisco restaurant:

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.

Chenery Park has many allies in the fight to teach manners to a new generation of children. Around the country, there are classes taught by self-appointed etiquette counselors — Emily Posts for a new age — delivering a more decentralized and less formal approach to teaching manners than in years past. A few restaurants, like Chenery Park, and high-end hotels set aside space and time for families.

These etiquette experts say that new approaches are needed because parents no longer have the stomach, time or know-how to play bad cop and teach manners. Dinnertime has become a free-for-all in many households, with packed family schedules, the television on in the background and a modern-day belief of many parents that they should simply let children be children.

What I do know is I love the owner of this restaurant and I pray he doesn’t get some litigious parent suing him over taking a harsh tone with their little snowflakes:

During a recent family night at Chenery Park, Joseph Kowal, an owner, roamed among the regulars and newcomers, saying hello and occasionally playing parental ally. He’s got a twinkle in his eye but a steely commitment to having children — even if they’re not etiquette role models — at least sit politely and not scream or throw food.

“Some parents will say, ‘Uncle Joe’s going to come up here, and he’s going to be cross with you,’ ” Mr. Kowal said. “They use that to their advantage.” He recalled one child who wouldn’t settle down, and he threatened to tape the child’s mouth. The child told him to go ahead and try.

“I went to my office, got some blue painter’s tape, came back and ripped a piece off,” he said. The kid piped down. “The parents looked at me like, ‘We’re going to try that at home.’ ”

So, Uncle Joe is what used to be known as a normal parent. The NYT goes on to wrestle with what it is about Uncle Joe’s restaurant that helps children behave. The reporter settles on a version of the broken-window theory of criminology. Basically, because the place is nice and orderly, people are more likely to behave in that setting. I’ll buy some of that— my brothers and I were certainly more likely to behave when out in public or at a friend’s house than around our rough-and-tumble table at home. But what the paper misses is that Uncle Joe’s expectations for the children, which they never get from their good-cop parents, might have something to do with it.

I’m in favor of modern parents teaching their kids this stuff in pretty much any way they’re willing to do it, but if you’re unable to play bad cop long enough to teach your kid not to throw food at a public table, you’re gonna end up outsourcing pretty much all of parenting. The teenage and adult years for said snowflakes aren’t likely to be great for the rest of us who have to be around them.

At any rate, an etiquette class can run parents between $300 and $1,200. There, your children will learn that manners aren’t about decency and respect but about building one’s toddler “brand.”

“Say the words ‘manners’ or ‘etiquette’ to kids these days, and they run the other direction,” she said. She prefers teaching the children that they are “building the brand called ‘you.’ ”

“People don’t want to eat with someone whose plate looks like a science project,” she tells the children in her workshops. “If you want to be invited back on a play date,” she explains, be polite.

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parents no longer have the stomach, time or know-how to play bad cop and teach manners.

And people wonder why I am on Team Let It Burn.

BigGator5 on December 28, 2012 at 1:10 PM

…parents no longer have the stomach, time or know-how to play bad cop and teach manners.

Too many parents bought into the “Be your kids’ friend” school of parenting.

As Red Forman said to another parent on That 70s Show, “Why would you want to be friends with a 17 year old?”

Mitoch55 on December 28, 2012 at 1:31 PM

“I went to my office, got some blue painter’s tape, came back and ripped a piece off,” he said. The kid piped down. “The parents looked at me like, ‘We’re going to try that following through with actual consequences for bad behavior at home.’ ”

FIFH. Rome invited the barbarians in through the gates, Americans are raising them in their homes.

GWB on December 28, 2012 at 1:46 PM

My brother lived in Germany for three years, he said the Germans had become so adverse to enforcing behavior rules on their children (makes them feel like a Nazi, evidently) that poor manners had become the norm. He said it was more common to find a restaurant you could take your dog to than one that allowed children.

Socratease on December 28, 2012 at 1:49 PM

Socratease on December 28, 2012 at 1:49 PM

That’s a shame. In Bavaria, in the mid-90s, at least it hadn’t gotten that far yet. I have fond memories of well-behaved kids everywhere there. We didn’t get outside Bayern much, though – it was too pretty and nice to leave.

GWB on December 28, 2012 at 1:57 PM

And people wonder why I am on Team Let It Burn.

BigGator5 on December 28, 2012 at 1:10 PM

There’s no wonder about that here and the sooner the better.

kim roy on December 28, 2012 at 1:57 PM

My mom had to raise 5 kids by herself, dad deciding to bug out after #5 came around. This was back in the 50s and 60s.

Taking us kids out to dinner was always an interesting exercise for mom. She had rules, and we all knew the price to be paid if we broke those rules. I don’t know how many times eating out dinners were cut short or the misbehaving one would be sent out to the car to wait until the others were done. And then it would be long time before mom would venture forth to try us again.

One night, she took us to this Italian place. For some reason, all of us kids had our table manners and etiquette down pat. We used the correct utensil at the correct time. We were polite to everyone, including each other. You could see mom’s pride in her brood as we went through the courses with no mishaps.

Then came dessert: slices of ice cream on a saucer. Everything seemed to be going fine, and we all finished without a problem. I really thought we were going to get out of this place just fine, and mom would be more willing to take us places without fear. Then, for some reason, my brother decided to pick up his saucer and started licking it clean.

We ALL paid the price. It was not a fun night after that.

My mom and my offending brother have both passed away. If they’re in the same place, I hope his table manners have improved.

Kraken on December 28, 2012 at 2:08 PM

I know kids are kids and I don’t mind it. What does bug me is when the parents ignore bad behavior. If they at least try to control the little darlings, I can empathize. I decided to treat myself to a good steak dinner and there were 4 kids playing tag, running up and down the aisles between the tables and squealing and yelling. Parents acted like they didn’t even notice. Finally, I complained to the waitress and she did something about it. I was really expecting the parents to throw a scene but they didn’t.

Blake on December 28, 2012 at 2:29 PM

‘At least the Trains ran on time’, yes, unfortunately, they were carrying dead bodies.

Observation on December 28, 2012 at 2:44 PM

These etiquette experts say that new approaches are needed because parents no longer have the stomach, time or know-how to play bad cop and teach manners.

Why are they parents, again?

ConservativeLA on December 28, 2012 at 2:49 PM

These etiquette experts say that new approaches are needed because parents no longer have the stomach, time or know-how to play bad cop and teach manners.

Outsource table manners, moral education, sex education, daycare, intellectual development, entertainment…and mock home schoolers. Awesome worldview, NYT.

ConservativeLA on December 28, 2012 at 2:54 PM

At any rate, an etiquette class can run parents between $300 and $1,200.

I hope Democrat lawmakers don’t notice that point. It’ll just lead to endless “news” reports on how Republicans are evil for not supporting something called an Etiquette Training Affordability Act.

86 on December 28, 2012 at 3:01 PM

Etiquette Training Affordability Act.

86 on December 28, 2012 at 3:01 PM

FTW!

ConservativeLA on December 28, 2012 at 3:04 PM

If simple values like good manners, respect for others, and hard work skip a generation, it has most certainly skipped the current generation of breeders.

UltimateBob on December 28, 2012 at 3:06 PM

“We invented this thingy, it’s round and has spokes”

- NYT

NapaConservative on December 28, 2012 at 3:14 PM

Mary Katharine, help me out here. When my wife and I were raising our (now 30-ish) daughter and instilling things like manners, consideration of others, proper table manners, and general courtesy we were mocked by many. When we insisted that her friends observe the same standards when they visited our home, one of them accused me of wanting her to “act white”. I said, no, but I do expect you to act civilized.

Did I doze off and miss something? Did society come back to my way of thinking? Is there really a glimmer of hope?

oldleprechaun on December 28, 2012 at 3:25 PM

Parents who throw in the towel and abandon their duty to instill and promote positive conduct in their offspring deserve what they get. Unfortunately, society at large also gets saddled with the loutish behavior of such progeny.

Children learn what they live. Parents with manners teach their children manners by having standards themselves and setting an example of civilized behavior at home.

jix on December 28, 2012 at 4:32 PM

Children learn what they live. Parents with manners teach their children manners by having standards themselves and setting an example of civilized behavior at home.

jix on December 28, 2012 at 4:32 PM

That’s what it boils down to. Having standards and expectations and holding people accountable to them.

Mitoch55 on December 28, 2012 at 4:41 PM

The Marxist hive mind must reject all things old no matter how sensible or tried and true, so that’s why we get this repackaging. It must be something “new” before they will allow themselves to embrace it.

NotCoach on December 28, 2012 at 5:21 PM

My kids are now adults but when they were younger, a friend insisted that my kids call him by his first name. They were raised to use proper honorifics for adults. So when he was a guest, they called him “Michael”, but when he wasn’t there it was “Is Mr. Steinberg coming to dinner?”.

They were also the only kids in their school who didn’t call the school janitor by his first name.

rokemronnie on December 28, 2012 at 7:15 PM

Look who invented charm school.

Allahs vulva on December 28, 2012 at 7:29 PM

I think we can all thank Dr. Spock for this. No threats allowed (other than that “time-out” thing) and we have progressed to the point where dialing 911 in the event of a slap is taught.

I don’t know about everybody else but that slap was much more effective on me than a library full of parenting books. Cool-hand Luke “You run one time, you got yourself a set of chains. You run twice you got yourself two sets. You ain’t gonna need no third set, ’cause you gonna get your mind right”.

teejk on December 28, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Filter issue?

cane_loader on December 28, 2012 at 10:09 PM

Oh well. something caught in the filter.

Can’t figure out what.

cane_loader on December 28, 2012 at 10:10 PM

Ivory tower syndrome strikes again. If all the cities of the us were destroyed, I’m convinced liberalism would disappear in a decades time.

nobar on December 28, 2012 at 11:47 PM

I know why this is coming up now. The way things are done in France (from this article and book from last year) has finally arrived in the USA. And these Americans could have discovered the same things from their own grandparents–that is, if they weren’t such snobs.

JimC on December 29, 2012 at 2:03 AM

“I went to my office, got some blue painter’s tape, came back and ripped a piece off,” he said. The kid piped down. “The parents looked at me like, ‘We’re going to try that at home.’ ”

So he didn’t follow through. Go ahead, touch the kid, I dare ya… LAWSUIT FOLLOWED BY BANKRUPTCY!

It’s the American Way!

Marcola on December 29, 2012 at 2:51 AM

My parents enforced rules at the dinner table.

1. Hold your knife and fork correctly.
2. No slurping.
3. Finish your plate, even if it takes you all evening.
4. You can ask for a second helping, but you had better eat it all.
5. When adults and others are talking, do not interrupt.
6. Do not play with your food.
7. You will eat what your Mother cooked.
8. Do not lick your plate.
9. When you are finished eating, ask to be excused.

Both my parents were born during the Depression and remembered war time rationing, so food was not to be wasted, and manners were expected to be practiced both at home and on the rare occasion when we would go out to eat. I enforced those rules on my daughter, and she in turn has enforced those rules on her daughters.

And as I used to tell my daughter when was little, especially when she was a teen, that

“I am your Father, not your friend”.

We will become friends when you are an adult, but always remember, I will always be your Father first and foremost.

Gothguy on December 29, 2012 at 12:41 PM

rokemronnie on December 28, 2012 at 7:15 PM

Spawn was raised to address adults appropriately-that said…I’m one of those adults who would rather that kids call me by my first name.
‘Mrs. Twerp’ crosses me as too old and too formal for my personality.
My nieces and nephews all may call me by just my first name if they choose to/are allowed to-and any future grandchildren that I might have, will be allowed the same privilege. I will never be ‘Gramma’. Gramma is an old person’s title. Age is an attitude-not a number.
As Spawn(who may not call me by my first name) will attest,I’m fully capable of laying-down-the law. A push-over-I ain’t. Being formal doesn’t a grown-up make. Being informal-as I am-doesn’t make one a child.

annoyinglittletwerp on December 29, 2012 at 7:10 PM

I was always pleased – and puzzled – by the number of people who have complimented on the politeness and good manners of my children. What did they expect?

Apparently a good deal less than I did.

ss396 on December 29, 2012 at 8:00 PM

Thats not a glimmer of hope. When table manners are treated like a typically post-modern, trendy but exotic oddity, a sample of the liberal xenophilia-tick, it says quite a lot about the state of our society and none of it good.

Valkyriepundit on December 29, 2012 at 8:05 PM

My four year old granddaughter was complimented on her manners as we were leaving our favorite breakfast cafe. I was a little taken aback that our table neighbor would take the time to comment. Now I understand. What my generation was taught as essential for a civilized society, this generation thinks is trendy and cutting edge. What next, a patron saying “thank you” at the McCounter?

Ufdaubet on December 30, 2012 at 7:43 AM

Gothguy on December 29, 2012 at 12:41 PM

Missed one:

10. Don’t talk with your mouth full.

Mitoch55 on December 30, 2012 at 8:45 AM

Too many young couples decide to have a child with the same thought process that they would use when they decide to get a pet.
The difference is; they wouldn’t let a pet get away with the same things that they let their child get away with.

oldernwiser on December 30, 2012 at 9:15 AM

Truly amazing. We have four, and no matter how much we didn’t need to spend the money, we always took them to restaurants when they were 1-3 years old specifically to teach them not to turn around and stare at the other diners, not to run around, what to do when, what level voice, etc. we were always complimented, even here in flyover country, on their manners, which pleased but confused me as well.

But the point is not to teach them manners at a restaurant. It is to always, always be teaching them manners. Manners is not a party trick you teach your kids so they get invited back to wedding receptions. It is the total way of conducting oneself: your “manner” is your “way of being.” How hard would it be to have to turn you on and the other you off constantly? Yes, it is exhausting to tell them over and over, day after day. You signed up for it and if you neglect it, all the straight A’s in the world won’t get your open-mouth chewer who couldn’t set a table if his life depended on it to be asked to the next rush party or table of interested girls in campus. It starts there and gets worse. It is a disservice to kids to not teach them the social graces. Many who do not read this column will have no idea what those are. Their parents left them to discover them as adults which is a painful and embarrassing process. Worse, it is a sorter of class, and an unfair barometer of intelligence and work ethic. Can those who allow rap obscenities to blare from their pockets in a public waiting room ever be thought to function in the same work echelons as those who have discovered “vibrate” and “Won’t you excuse me, please?”

Manners are a very American necessary value. They allow Horatio Alger to rise and us to recognize our countrymen no matter the latitude or speed limit.

winoceros on December 30, 2012 at 9:51 AM

One thing is you can’t spank your kids in public anymore. I remember my cousins misbehaving once at a packed restaurant and my uncle spanked them right there on the spot. Not to hurt (and it didn’t from their shocked looks), but to show them that it doesn’t matter if they’re in public, they will be consequences to their actions. That was the end of that, but the people in the restaurant started badmouthing my uncle. He stood up and told them, “Shut the hell up. You’re saying it’s ok to misbehave and are undoing what I’m trying to teach them. You all deserve a spanking for misbehaving as well. Step right up for a spanking if you want to disagree with me because it seems your parents didn’t raise you properly.” They all shut up and continued eating. And it’s funny how people will go up to my uncle afterwards and agree with him. If it’s used rarely, it can work where other methods don’t.

Nowadays, social services comes to you for doing something like that. BTW, never give social workers the time of day. Never let them in your house. They are there to find evidence against you. Never to help. And they can’t take your children. If they could, they’d have the police there already. Social services are the favorite weapon of jealous ex’s or people who disagree with you. I’ve seen this happen too often and the social worker takes sides and will lie about it too. So just avoid them at all costs.

MrX on December 30, 2012 at 10:05 AM

A big one in our house was no elbows on the table. I sat nest to dad and an elbow on the table was met with a sharp rap with the handle of this fork. He ALWAYS managed to hit the funny bone too!

Stephen Macklin on December 30, 2012 at 10:56 AM

Why are they parents, again?

ConservativeLA on December 28, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Trophy kids, another acquisition. Being perceived as parents help the adults build their brand.

obladioblada on December 30, 2012 at 10:35 PM

The Left can’t tell the difference between building character and abuse. Let’s make them the ultimate arbiters of culture. #winning

ConservativeLA on December 30, 2012 at 11:26 PM

2 points: single parents and children/friends

FWIW, my husband’s mother raised five kids from the ’40-s-70′s by herself – daddy (only one daddy) was gone. All five got themselves educated, working and raising families. All have manners to the latest generation. I was a single mom and raised my son with manners b/c of my upbringing. This was in the
’80′s and ’90′s. I never was his friend – as someone mentioned earlier. He was home for Christmas this year (as others) and he, my second husband and I had the most wonderful time – he’s now a full-functioning adult and we can say, yes, he’s NOW a friend.

MN J on December 31, 2012 at 9:24 AM

I’m a Southerner, my parents used the carrot and the stick method. As in, “Either shut up and eat your carrots or go outside and fetch me back a hickory.”

Knott Buyinit on December 31, 2012 at 10:42 PM

These etiquette experts say that new approaches are needed because parents no longer have the stomach, time or know-how to play bad cop and teach manners.

Why are they parents, again?

ConservativeLA on December 28, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Well that comment got right straight to the point!

Dr.Dobson actually wrote a book entitled “Parenting is not for cowards”…which disqualifies a good many modern Americans. And he was right. The time to be friends is AFTER they’re out of the house.

I’d go him one better and add “Parenting is not for cowards or the sexually irresponsible.” Meaning if you’re only a parent because you forgot to take your pill before screwing your boyfriend-of-the-week blind, you aren’t at all worthy of raising the next generation.

MelonCollie on January 1, 2013 at 9:55 PM