Can Civility Make A Difference?

I have been pondering the idea that, over time we have lost our ability to be civil and have good manners. I wonder now if that leads to further issues with the way we treat each other, to include bullying behaviors.

If parents don’t teach children good manners or model civility for them, what can we expect of the next generation. Do we say “please”, “thank you”, or even “I love you” enough to ensure that we all feel better and treat each other better and with respect.

When I was young, we would never have thought to call an adult anything but Mr., Ms., or Mrs. and then their last name unless they were related. Now, I find my kids friends ask me point-blank for my first name. I usually tell them it “mister” and they ask again. I’m not sure I’m popular with my kids friends, but I do believe that it helps lead to a level of civility for them to understand how to treat the parents of their friends.

Interestingly enough, the TODAY SHOW thought enough about this as well to do a piece on it. Click the below link to watch TODAY’s angle on this topic and please share your thoughts as well. Does teaching and practicing civility make a difference in the bullying area or is it slowly dying?

Click here to watch the TODAY video.

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About Alan Eisenberg

Alan Eisenberg is a Certified Life Coach, Bullying Recovery activist and author of "A Ladder In The Dark: My journey from bullying to self-acceptance" and "Crossing the Line". He has been writing and speaking to various audiences about the issue of C-PTSD and Bullying Recovery. Mr. Eisenberg has been featured on several print, radio shows and podcasts on this issue, including NPR and in the Boston Globe. He is currently working toward his Master's Degree in Mental Health Counseling.
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  1. Absolutely. If adults don’t model the behavior, how will children learn? The media is filled with adults shouting, cussing, interrupting each other, etc. When I worked as a cashier, I was chewed out (and cussed, and once threatened) by irate customers many times. I touched on this in my blog…we need to not only correct the behaviors, we need to model good ones and reward them. I make it a point to thank any child who holds a door or picks something up for me. If I see well-behaved kids at a restaurant or store, I stop by and tell them what a good job they’re doing. It’s important to not just point out what kids are doing wrong, but to reward them when they are doing right. And you’re doing the right thing by having them address you as “Mr.”. You are not their peer, you are an adult, and while you may not be their best buddy, they will respect you.

  2. I would agree that good manners and civility are deteriorating. However, I’m not convinced that “Mr.” and “Mrs.” or “Sir” and “Ma’am” have much to do with that.

    Growing up, I used first names or surnames based on the preference of the adult. But, insisting that children using “Mr.” and “Mrs.” to address adults outside the family as a sign of good manners is a bit too close to “children should be seen and not heard.” It goes along with the notion that adults deserve respect from children merely on the basis of seniority, and that children are somehow “less than” adults.

  3. Civility without real empathy is meaningless, and I’m afraid that’s what you might get. You can’t teach true civility merely by saying adults should be addressed with honorifics, you have to explain why, and explain why even when the person in question may not deserve the honorific, the civil thing to do is use it.

    Stephanie puts the problem with reflex civility clearly, it becomes a question of power and status, instead of a way of signaling true respect to someone else. And the real goal of true civility should be to show mutual respect, something I myself need a lot of work on.

    Bernard Shaw said it best in his play “Pygmillian” (My Fair Lady for musical fans). True civility comes from treating others equally.

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