Good Grades or Good Manners?

09vL19M8coeHq_3258-300x210.jpegThis week, I attended an incredibly eye opening event hosted by NBC Universal called “Power of the Purse.” The brunch, which took place during advertising week in New York City was targeted to moms and featured one of my favorite Role Mommies of all time…Sarah Jessica Parker. SJP was on hand to react to findings of a new study about what is truly weighing on the minds of today’s busy moms.
While the survey shared many important results – including the fact that moms want to be accurately portrayed in the media and feel we’re not or that fathers secretly long to switch roles and become stay at home dads, the statistic that struck me most was the fact that 77% of moms surveyed said they’d rather have a kid with good manners over one with good grades. Even SJP has this to say about her own son, James Wilke:

Untitled from beth Feldman on Vimeo.

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As someone who went through life striving to achieve good grades while having good manners along the way, I have to admit that as a mom, I have witnessed embarrassing behavior from my own kids and from other children too. When either of my kids do something that is inappropriate or rude, we call them out, make them apologize, or take something away from them so that they know we’re not going to stand for that behavior. However, most moms I’ve seen simply cave in so that they don’t have to deal with their kids’ despicable behavior.
Just last week, I was waiting for my daughter to get a haircut, as a woman walked inside with her three children. The kids’ ages ranged from 3-6 years old and as I sat trying to read a magazine, the whine factor was driving me nuts.
“Mommy, why can’t I get something? I never get anything,” wailed a three year old boy.
“What do you mean sweetheart? We just came from the supermarket and I bought lettuce and bananas and all kinds of good things for you and your sisters,” his mother responded.
“But you never get me anything!” He wailed louder and then burst into tears.
Never get you anything? For Pete’s sake, you were in the supermarket with your mother. Every time you step into a store doesn’t mean you’re supposed to get something!
Fast forward to another incident when a mother confided that she didn’t want to take her daughter with her to an important event because she knew she would just be annoying, would complain about being there and frankly, she just didn’t want to deal with her attitude.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve been in those situations when my 12 year old doesn’t want to spend time with us, but at the end of the day, we still make her go. And you know what? When she does, she actually has had a pretty good time. The more we cave into our kids’ demands, the more we are going to find that we are truly raising little monsters. Entitled kids who tell us to jump and we bow to their every demand and ask, “How high?”
Frankly, I don’t want to play that game anymore. I want my kids to do the right thing. To respect others. To look out for one another and to stand up for those who aren’t being treated right. But the more that parents continue to put up with the whining, the demands and complaints without sending them to their room to reflect on their deplorable behavior, the more that behavior will only get worse. Fast forward just one decade and watch what is currently unfolding in the workforce.
If you’ve been working for more than two decades like me, I’m sure you’ve begun to notice that there’s an entire generation of college grads today who have some of the worst manners I have ever experienced. Raised with a sense that they could do no wrong, many of today’s millenials continually question authority or blatantly tell their bosses that they don’t agree with the direction they’ve been given. Sure, we’ve had years of experience under our belts, but in the eyes of many kids who came of age in the world of Mark Zuckerberg, we are dinosaurs who have no clue. Frankly, many of these kids have bad manners who are singlehandedly taking down successful businesses with their laissez faire attitudes. If they don’t like a job, they quit within a matter of months. If they don’t agree with their boss, they will argue until they think they’ve been heard. And if they believe they have been treated poorly, they will gossip and complain to anyone who will listen.
I don’t know about you, but frankly, I don’t want to raise a child who disrespects authority, has no regard for others and is so ego driven that they never look out for anyone but themselves. I want my kids to get those good grades, but more importantly, I want to raise my children just like Sarah Jessica Parker – I want them to be good citizens.
I do have to say that this year, I had a really nice conversation with one of my son’s teachers. We were at “Meet the Teacher” night and it just so happened that my daughter had the same teacher just three years ago. I remember her being lovely and supportive and my daughter truly enjoyed being a student in her class. As we gave one another a hug, she said something that truly made me smile.
“I don’t know what you’re doing Mrs. Feldman, but all I can say is keep doing it. You’re children are such nice kids. It’s truly a pleasure to have them in my class.”
Now if that’s not an instant A, I don’t know what is.