When I first started writing my column three years ago, I wasn’t fully prepared for the responses that now appear for those of us who write columns for papers or articles for magazines.
Three years ago, the comments were polite, even if the reader didn’t agree with what I had written, and I could learn something from the feedback. My last column published two weeks ago provided advice for the graduating class of 2017. I didn’t believe the column was political in any way, and the response was very telling for the times we live in.
Some of the readers who consider themselves “right-wing” loved the column and shared it on their pages. Other readers that feel they are “left wing” were very upset and took to personally attacking me regarding my advice to a generation that has been raised during the smartphone era and given participation medals throughout their youth.
I pointed out that it is not the fault of these graduates that this happened to them, but it would be their responsibility to overcome the damage. It is surprising to see how easily people personally attack those they don’t agree with and the country is not going to benefit from these attacks or the labeling I notice of right vs. left or conservative vs. liberal. I have been equally attacked by both “sides” (which all journalists expect and mostly ignore) but I don’t think we really even know what these “sides” stand for anymore.
All of us have no choice but to admit that there is corruption in our leadership that benefits from the people being divided against one another instead of feeling united against the corruption.
I had a friend send me a message that a woman had used a very inappropriate c-word describing me and even made fun of my hair because she disagreed with the column. It reminded me of a blog I had written years ago after I had completed a radio show with a panel of various ages that discussed the Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior that George Washington had copied for a school assignment at the age of 16.
The 110 rules were originally written by French Jesuits in 1595 and at their core really describe a life focused on other people rather than self-interests. How far we have come in 422 years, and in many ways it’s not a road well-traveled.
As a parent, I think it is important to consider how these rules can benefit you and your children as they are unfortunately watching adults cruelly attack one another over differences of opinion and learning from that behavior.
In the last 20 years, the emphasis in the schools and now at home has been on self-esteem and self-worth; the value of learning to focus on others has slipped away. Teachers and parents alike are tip-toeing around kids and their unruly behaviors so that they don’t feel shamed by manners and discipline.
Is it working? If we look around we see disrespectful children in many restaurants, schools and on athletic teams that don’t use manners or mistreat classmates or teammates. These kids wouldn’t lift a finger to help their parents without arguing about it first or proclaiming how unfair it is to have to help support the daily grind of operating a house. Parents are exhausted and overwhelmed by these children and know they have created monsters but don’t know what to do. If that is your household, then I would suggest establishing the rules of civility in your home.
The next time you all sit down to dinner (which needs to be quite often if you want to raise well-adjusted adults), I encourage you to start reading from the following list and get your children to explain what these rules mean and how they intend to start implementing them in your home. These conversations can be useful for kids ages 5 on up and you will be surprised how much your kids want the structure that might be lacking in your home or has been caused by children mirroring the behavior they see on social media.
Here are some of my favorite Rules of Civility that can change your household and get you and your family on the right path:
Rule 6: Sleep not when others speak, sit not when others stand, speak not when you should hold peace, walk not on when others stop.
Ask your children what this means to them. This is a rule about showing respect and using manners. There is no shame in either of those characteristics. Have each of your children tell you one way they can practice this rule starting today that will make a difference in your home.
Suggest to them that this rule means that all electronics are to be turned off when the family is eating together (and that includes yours as well!). It is also a rule that can help them be respectful on social media.
Rule 40: Strive not with your superiors in argument, but always submit your judgment to others with modesty.
Imagine a home where the teenagers actually consider that they don’t know it all and that they should be respectful when expressing their opinions. The tricky part about these rules is that we have to lead by example so the adults have to follow them as well! Ask your children how they can get along better with everybody in the household by having them name one thing they can do differently each day.
On your own social media, if you don’t agree with a post you read, either ignore it or be respectful to the person if you disagree. Your children will learn from you.
Rule 52: In your apparel be modest and endeavor to accommodate nature, rather than to procure admiration. Keep to the fashions of your equals Such as are Civil and orderly with respect to Times and Places.
Don’t we all long for a world where people dress appropriately and children are excited to look and act mature? I used to love getting dressed up to travel on an airplane when I was a child and miss that experience now. Ask your children to go an entire week without arguing with you about what they are wearing to school or out for an evening and show you that they understand modesty.
These are just a handful of the 110 rules, and as I read them all, it is frightening to think about how badly our society has strayed away from them. We can’t be afraid to go back to them and start encouraging respect, manners, courtesy, and modesty in order to get adults and children on the right path.
You can easily find all of the rules and spend the next 110 days going through them with your children (even if they are young adults). Today we are flunking the rules of civility but we don’t have to be. Start with one rule at a time in your own life and get your children involved in the discussion. Write down what is important to you as a person and as a family and set a goal of implementing one new rule each week.
A family without respect will fail and a society without civility will crumble…. It is only just a matter of time.