“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.”N. G. Lipson, The Boston Globe
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
“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.’
Have they ever. Three-quarters of Americans think manners have deteriorated in the United States over the past several decades, according to a 2016 survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The problem isn’t that parents no longer value politeness. Being well-mannered is among the top four virtues they say they wish to instill, up there with responsibility, hard work, and helping others, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report.
Yet what parents say and what they actually do aren’t always the same, and many families are falling short — including my own. No matter how much my husband and I emphasize courtesy, our children still shout at restaurants and answer grown-ups’ questions by mumbling at their shoes, if they say anything at all.
My husband and I sense we’d need to make major shifts in our parenting to raise more polite kids. But at a time when care and concern are often expressed through emojis, and even our political leaders don’t show basic signs of civility, is this investment worth it? What if we can’t even teach good manners in today’s world? Would that matter?
Rude kids may be everywhere, but it’s also true that complaining about the younger generation is an age-old rite of passage. David Finkelhor, a sociology professor at the University of New Hampshire, coined the term ‘juvenoia’ — ’the exaggerated fear of the influence of social change on youth’ — to explain this phenomenon. He attributes it to factors including older people’s investment in the status quo and nostalgia for their own experiences. ‘Adults also tend to forget what childhood was like,’ he says.
But plenty of things make our era unique. Take the growing amount of time kids spend using screens…We know that technology lures children away from in-person social exposure. What’s less known is their difficulty regulating behavior once they’ve unplugged. My kids turn into crabby so I was relieved to learn this isn’t a personality flaw, but neurology. ‘There are social skills parents want to cultivate that technology can disrupt,’ says Catherine Steiner-Adair, a Cambridge-based psychologist…
Then there’s our culture to think about. Steiner-Adair says that a third of the time when she speaks to students at school assemblies, one will raise a hand to ask: ‘Could you please help us understand why every single thing you’re telling us not to do, the president of the United States does every day?’
This question highlights the increasingly indecorous behavior of public role models… The frenzied pace of modern life adds to this challenge, making it harder to find room for imparting lessons… Many modern parents have just one or two hours with their children between work and bedtime. ‘The last thing I want to do is come home and immediately get on my kids’ case,’ says Phoebe Segal, an art curator in Boston…
Parents’ stress has a trickle-down effect that affects kids’ ability to be considerate.
‘We can say whatever we want to our children about manners, but more importantly, they’re following our lead,’ says Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert…Even when trying to do what’s best, parents can unwittingly teach bad manners…
Parents think protecting their children from upset will boost their self-esteem, says Weissbourd. But the opposite is true: ‘It’s like the story The Giving Tree. Parents give and give, and their kids just get ruder and more entitled.’
Manners will always have a vital place in our world — and I am fully committed to moving them up my priority list. But sometimes, the goodness we want to see in our kids takes a different form — and it’s already, impeccably, right there in front of us. At least most of the time.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer
Directions: Havestudents to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have themexamine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- 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.
- The kid’s chairs were fixed in an alternating pattern.
- The little girl was 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.
- At one practice, the kids pelted him with soccer balls.
- Three-quarters of Americans think manners have deteriorated in the United States.
- This question highlights the increasingly indecorous behavior of public role models.
- The frenzied pace of modern life adds to this challenge, making it harder to find room for imparting lessons.
- children skip the most basic acts of courtesy.
Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.
Some Prepositions: at, as, across, around, by, during, for, from, in, into, of, on, to, over, off, through, up, with,
Additional Prepositions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_prepositions
- Our children still shout ___restaurants.
- We’d need ___make major shifts ___our parenting ___raise more polite kids.
- Children have contempt ___authority; they show disrespect ___elders.
- Those are words attributed ___Socrates, recorded ___two millennia ago.
- Take the growing amount ____time kids spend using screens.
- The question hints ___society’s growing casualness.
- The last thing I want ___do is come home and get___mykids’ case.
- I don’t want ___lose my whole time ___the kids ___arguing.
Directions: Place students in groups. Hand out the following quotes from speakers in the article. Members are to identify the speakers from the article. The first group to correctlyidentify all of the speakers wins.
- “There are social skills parents want to cultivate that technology can disrupt…”
- “I can get overwhelmed and exhausted by the minutiae of making dinner and schedules and attending to immediate needs.”
- “The last thing I want to do is come home and immediately get on my kids’ case…”
- “Even more than through observation, children learn empathy by receiving empathy.”
- “We can say whatever we want to our children about manners, but more importantly, they’re following our lead…”
- “Likewise, before judging our children’s technology-related rudeness, we must examine our own. Kids watch adults all the time, so when we’re constantly interrupting discussions to check our phone and then losing track of the conversation, they pick up on that.”
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- In your opinion, are children (teens) rude today? If yes, why do you think they are this way?
- If you have children of your own, or know someone who does, are the children polite? Explain why or why not.
- The author tells the story of her neighbor’s son 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. What would have been your response to the little girl?
- According to the article, “The problem isn’t that parents no longer value politeness. Being well-mannered is among the top four virtues they say they wish to instill, up there with responsibility, hard work, and helping others.” If parents still value manners, what seems to be the problem?
- The article states, ‘Then there’s our culture to think about. Steiner-Adair says that a third of the time when she speaks to students at school assemblies, one will raise a hand to ask: ‘Could you please help us understand why every single thing you’re telling us not to do, the president of the United States does every day?’ How would you answer this student?
- Have you read an article or a story heard about a situation where a child was rude? Share the story with your group.
Directions: In groups have students create a role play based on the article they just read. Some can play teens, parents, teachers etc. This exercise will provide students with a higher level of thinking skills as they dramatize their interpretations for the class.
Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.