Would this bad mannered scene shock you? I was out with some friends this week and we were all chatting when one friend interrupted me to tell me a particularly juicy piece of news.
"Shut up and don't be so rude!" I said.
"You shut up!" she replied. "And give me that," she added, snatching my blueberry muffin.
Not really. As adults, we mostly treat each other with courtesy and respect, and expect to be treated the same way in return. We say please and thank you and excuse me. We don't demand things, and we apologise if we bump into a stranger, or upset someone. We hold the door open for strangers, allow elderly people to get onto the train first, give up our seat to someone frail or pregnant. Well at least most of the time - sometimes we do lose our cool!
Naturally, we tell our children to do the same. We tell them how important it is to do these things, to have manners, to be respectful. But is it a case of do as I say, not as I do? You might hold open a door for a stranger, but do you do the same for your children? Do you make a point of saying please when asking them to get ready for school, or do you slip into the habit of giving orders and sighing pointedly until they're followed?
If we don't treat our own children with respect and courtesy, I'm not sure we can expect them to apply those things to other people. When Mums and Dads refer to their children as 'brats' or tell them to 'shut up' or 'get over here' or 'give me that' then I'm not sure they can complain if those children are rude to the people around them.
In our local Tesco, I regularly see harassed mums and dads talking to their kids in a way that could cause a stranger to punch them in the nose. I hate to see parents shoving their children out of the way when they're dawdling, or picking them up and depositing them somewhere without asking them if it's okay, or at least explaining what's going on.
Last time we were at soft play, I watched as one mum screamed at her son to "GET HERE, NOW" because it was time to go home. I understand the sentiment, and anything that gets you out of soft play faster can't be all bad, but I did laugh when the same woman chastised her son for not thanking the member of staff who gave the little boy back his shoes.
Of course, the way we talk to each other in families is less formal than the way we talk to other people – and many families have affectionate in-jokes that might sound horrifying to outsiders. For example, Flea and I like to play a game called 'stop moaning' where she will start to ask me something and I shout STOP MOANING and push her over. I should add that we play it on my bed, and Flea will beg and plead for just one more game mummy, before you call the authorities to report me for abuse.
But I like to think that on the whole, I'm fairly polite and respectful of my daughter. I would say please and thank you to anyone else, so why not her? I wouldn't scream at a stranger, so I don't scream at her. Well, except for that time I had a horrible cold and she dropped the last bottle of medicine onto the stone, kitchen floor. Hey, nobody's perfect. But I do always say please before stealing her crisps.
Do you think setting a good example is important?
Or are manners over-rated?
Please leave a comment.