Brats in the Pool

Jacob had his swim lesson today, and generally did very well, if I do say so myself. The class comprises of about 6 kids, and the teacher does what he can to give them all individual attention. Most days, the 6 kids line up along the wall of the pool, and the teacher takes them out, one by one, doing whatever it is he's trying to show them. Today he was teaching them the rather complicated concept of side breathing while trying to do the free-style stroke. Never mind that my 3 year old hasn't a clue what "alternate" or "left hand" or probably even "breathing" means, he hung in there like a champ. A clueless champ, but a champ, nevertheless. Still, the complicated explanation paired with too long just hanging out on the wall in a not-so warm pool got the kids wiggling, talking, dunking, laughing, anything but really listening to the teacher. The teacher did what all teachers do: gave a little "Hey, I'm talkin' heeyah!" and told the kids to shhh. One kid refused to shh, and kept trying to engage Jacob in more general silliness. The teacher gave him a stern look and said, "Zip it", and then mimed zipping his mouth. That kid then got back into the teacher's face (the teacher is A LOT bigger than this kid, mind you) and said, "No, YOU zip it!" Yes folks, this is a kid who is probably not yet 6 years old, sassing a man who literally holds that kid's life in his hands. Not the smartest little booger, I would say. To the teacher's immense credit, he kept his cool, and simply told this brat that he could continue to swim and listen quietly, or he could sit on the edge of the pool for the rest of the lesson. He had to repeat the threat twice, but the kid eventually calmed down, and I didn't hear any other major snottiness. After the lesson was over, the teacher and I were chatting, and he said, "I've been doing this stuff for 30 years, and kids used to call me "sir". The attitude from kids this days...", and he just shook his head. "There are a few exceptions, of course, but on the whole, kids are just don't respect anybody anymore." Is that true, do you think? Are kids just brattier than they were 30 years ago? If so, what caused the shift? Are we, the parents of the future generation, raising a bunch of snot nosed, selfish little pricks who think it's ok to tell a man 12 times their age to "zip it!"? How do we stop this wave of total brat-o-rama? As for me, as Jacob and I were walking out, I marched him up to the teacher and demanded that he tell the teacher "Thank you". The teacher smiled and waved us on, clearly aware of the point I was trying to make. The OTHER kids may be jerks, but MY son, of course, has perfect manners.


Blogger Tracy M said...

My DH and I insist our kids say "Yes, Sir" and "No, Ma'am", and we have caught so much flak for it from our families! My mom looks at me like I am abusing my kid when I expect a "Ma'am" out of him.
Of course, they don't always have to speak like that, but when an adult wants their attention, they know what is expected of them.The general trend does seem to be acceptance of sassy mouths.

It may not be politically correct, and you can call me old fashioned- but the threat of a bar of Ivory soap really works! And, while my mom may *tisk* me, my grandma is smiling her approval.

11/22/2005 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

Bring back corporal punishment and see if manners don't improve. I'm being tongue-in-cheek, but my point is that maybe children never had truly better manners/respect, but had a greater degree of fear of adults.

As a child growing up in Texas, every adult male was "yes, sir", no, sir" or "Sir?" (instead of 'what?'). Females were ma'am. I remember paddles being prominently displayed in the classroom. When we left Texas and I 'sir'ed a teacher in class in a more northern state, other kids thought I was brown-nosing the teachers. Likewise, I remember adults thought it was a bit formal, too.

I wonder if I went back to Texas if kids would seem to have more manners--meaning, maybe 'manners' vary from region to region. I know I get really perturbed when a child "What?'s" me, but it is my own fault. We haven't trained them in the same formality I grew up with.

Last night at FHE we were talking about Pilgrims and what life was like for them, and a book talked about kids standing at the table rather than being allowed chairs, not to speak unless directly spoken to, etc. My older daughter did find that a bit harsh. :)

So, I think that your swimming instructor is right in that kids are less respectful, but in some ways that is good. Notably, we now teach children to tell on adults if an adult hurts them, etc. I think we have created a trade off.

11/22/2005 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger Mo Mommy said...

Our 3 yo has started saying sir and ma'am. And though we have no clue where he got it, we sure like it. I totally agree that many kids get away with crazy stuff now. Even my younger sister gets away with things I would have gotten a slap for, and she's only 12 years younger. I encourage my sons' teachers to expect a reasonable amount of attention (he IS only 3) and respect, but other parents freak if their child is reprimanded in any way. By the time our chilldren have children, perhaps we will see a shift back towards more stringent expectations of behavior. Loved Elizabeth's point about the trade off.

11/22/2005 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger Island Queen said...

I completely agree. There is a lack of respect in general with this new generation. As a child I would never dared call an adult by his or her first name. But now it's common place and I seem really old when I ask them to call me "Mrs. S.". I've had my son's friends parents tell him to call them by their first names. I say no. They get mad at ME - saying it makes them feel old.

Too bad a lot of parents these days want to be friends with their kids instead of being their parent.

11/22/2005 07:06:00 PM  
Blogger a spectator said...

Of course children show less respect; a few reasons I can think of (feel free to disagree--these are blatant generalizations):
1--parents are having kids older and are too tired to discipline
2--teens are having kids and are too young to discipline
3--parents are divorced and/or working and feel too guilty to discipline
4--kids are only children or one of 2 and are way overindulged
5--everyone who is not a parent of snotty kid A is too afraid to say or do anything about snottiness for fear of being sued

I am sure there are more, but this is what I have encountered over and over again as a teacher in America. It IS cultural (meaning, it doesn't happen everywhere).

11/22/2005 07:38:00 PM  
Anonymous heather h said...

I agree 100%. I serve in my wards YW and cannot beleive the lack of respect. This generation is not only disrespectful but self absorbed like nothing else! One thing that I have noticed in my 5 years with this calling..what happens at home makes a BIG difference. Most of the obnoxiouse girls treat their parents the same way. If a parent is not going to demand respect why should kids dish it out for anyone else. The way a child gets away with treating his or her parents sets the example for how to treat all adults.

I certianly don't think we need to demand our children respect us out of fear, but expect respect. My 3y.o is learning that when mommy and daddy are talking he needs to wait until we are done- we don't intterrupt. Like wise my Dh will not tolerate the children yelling at mom ( I do the same when they are disrespectful to mom).

I guess what I am saying is that we as mother's can help reverse this effect.

11/22/2005 08:03:00 PM  
Anonymous claire said...

Manners and respect are two different things. Kids can have manners without any respect, although often adults perceive manners as respect.

I am working harder to develop respect in my family, but manners are a close second. We took two friends along to dinner the other night with our 6 and 9 yo daughters. Neither of them said thank you when I dropped them off and that always reminds me that it's my job to teach my kids to say thank you when they are in the same situation.

11/23/2005 01:41:00 AM  
Blogger Kim Siever said...

We teach our children to say, "Yes, sir" and "Yes, Ma'am". To be fair, I do the same thing when I am talking to someone else, but it is usually over the phone and with someone I did not know.

11/23/2005 02:11:00 PM  
Anonymous mrs k said...

Having grown up on the west coast, the concept of "sir" and "ma'am" was pretty foreign upon my arrival in Virginia a few years ago. Still, I made a deliberate decision to integrate this into my vocabulary. A few months ago we moved to back to California. I work at a children's retail store, and a few days ago I was helping a woman who was at least 60, maybe even 70. I answered one her questions with, "Yes, ma'am." She gasped, looked shocked, and said, "I am MUCH too young to be called ma'am!"

The regional differences with manners are quite interesting. Civil behavior in one place can be obnoxious in another.

Respect--or the lack thereof--seems to be the key factor. Talking back to anyone shows lack of respect, be it with a 6 year old or 16 year old. The bar of soap comment brought back a memory of my youth of talking back, but I learned my lesson!

11/24/2005 01:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Beanie said...

I know some people who like to be called and/or have their children call people Miss and then the first name. Like my neighbor is Miss Hellen and I am Miss Beanie etc. I like it, it makes me feel not too old like Mrs. or even Sis.does but yet it still feels kind of formal without being too formal.

11/26/2005 09:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Amber M said...

I try to teach my 3 and 5 year old kids good manners and respect. But, I've noticed that a lot of American media undermines my work.

I love some of the foreign films -- we love Miyasaki's films, like Totoro. You notice a real difference in how the Japanese children are depicted, hardworking, respectful but still fun. They make American kids look sassy, lazy and self-centered.

The good thing is that the Church helps combat some of our culture's onslaught. Like the teaching that we are all children of God, and the focus on service.

12/02/2005 11:48:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


I like the "Miss Heather" thing, too. I try to teach Jacob that, and it is reinforced at his preschool, where everybody is "Miss First Name." It adds a bit of formality and politeness without being too stitled.

However, the other day, I told Jacob to say thanks to a friend's dad, whose name was Charlie. "Mr. Charlie" sounded weird, but I wasn't sure what else to do. Oh well.

12/03/2005 10:53:00 PM  

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