Do Kids These Days Have Any Manners? – Kveller
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bar/bat mitzvahs

Do Kids These Days Have Any Manners?

Oy. Did I cringe reading the piece in the Sunday’s New York Times about the bad behavior at bar and bat mitzvahs! A shanda!

(Although why the Times thought that article was worthy of publication has me bewildered.)

I’ve been to those affairs–and seen the disrespectful behavior. On the other hand, the speeches are long and boring.

The Torah portion being read drags. So the kids fidget and talk throughout. The behavior is deplorable because the kids are not engaged, only want to have fun…and have not been taught that sometimes you just have to eat it, shut up, and behave.

When my sons had their bar mitzvahs, I had approval and veto rights over each kid who was invited. At the beginning of the event, I sat the group down and put the fear of God (me) into them.

I can be one tough cookie.

They behaved as gentlemen.

Most Kveller readers are not up to the bar/bat mitzvah stage. So what I wanted to address were two quotes in the article which said, “Today’s kids are just over programmed. Their focus isn’t there. Many of their parents are also part of this younger generation, so it’s not their fault. It’s the way they were raised.” And, “Stressed-out parents have less time to raise their children.”


What the heck does that even mean?

By now, those of you with children over the age of 2 know that pregnancy, birth, nursing, and weaning are the easy parts of parenting. Disciplining is the main challenge with young kids. How to deal with the intransigence, the tantrums, the “I want that right now!”

(Mother to child: “What’s the magic word? I want it……” Child to mom: “NOW!”)

Well, in my opinion, since having children is a real choice today, if someone doesn’t have enough time (and I might add, energy) to do the heavy-lifting of raising a child, they should not have one. If one cannot assume the responsibility of being actively engaged in the moral development of one’s child, which includes hiring people who support one’s own values and choosing places (like daycare and school) which do the same, they should think long and hard about when, and even whether, to become a parent.

A parent’s main goal should be to raise a mentsch.

They need to impose the limits that children so desperately need. They need to demand, and model, kindness, integrity, tolerance, respect, and basic decency.

Children need to be taught manners. It’s not just “please” and “thank you.” It’s also, “I’m sorry,” and, “excuse me.”

It’s giving up the swing so that the kid who’s been waiting for 15 minutes can have a chance. It’s passing the red crayon after you’re finished, not holding onto it in case you might need it again. It’s not saying “no!” to your caregiver. It’s clearing the bed sheets after a sleepover and putting them in a neat pile next to the blanket you’ve folded and pillows you’ve stacked. It’s introducing yourself with a “mazal tov” to the bar/bat mitzvah’s mom and dad. It’s filling the gas tank in the car after you’ve used it. It’s bringing flowers to your host. It’s writing thank you cards within a month after receiving a gift. It’s paying a
visit or writing a condolence card.

Another quote in the article accurately says that, “Schools are increasingly being asked to take on roles that years ago would have been considered the realm of parents.” Even when I was a young mother, I knew parents who were very happy to abdicate parental responsibility to schools. Were they lazy? Did they think it was not their job to teach discipline? And then, when the school acted in loco parentis and the parents didn’t like what happened, did they have a right to complain? Because complain they did.

In our home, my husband and I were the benevolent despots who made the rules and enforced them, whose values were inculcated into our kids. The school had as its primary role teaching math, history, Bible, and other academic subjects. And if the kids were taught values by teachers which conflicted with those of our family’s, it was ours that they were to follow. And they knew it because every night, during private cuddle time, I was debriefed about the school day and we had the opportunity to discuss and engage.

And by the way, how your kid behaves is a reflection not only on the school, which the article points out, but on you as a parent. And if your kid is a nasty little vilde chaya (wild animal), people are talking about you and they are not inviting your kid over for a play date.

Worse, those kids will grow up into selfish little pricks who’ll still be talking during the speeches and the Torah portion.

And worse. Much worse.

For more on child behavior, check out Wendy Mogel’s advice on manners, respect, and hospitality. And if you need help finding the perfect nanny or babysitter, Kveller readers now get 20% off subscriptions to

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