The death of politeness

By: Dr. Shalini Forbis

This past December I was at WDTN for an event.  The Dayton Children’s Hospital bloggers were there to participate in a phone bank.  As we were preparing to leave the studio, a news piece aired about politeness. If you didn’t hear this story, here are the details:

The Marchex Institute conducted a study/analysis of 600,000 phone calls that had been placed by consumers to businesses in a 12 month period.  What did they find?  Ohioans are in the top five for using profanity (swear words) during these interactions.  In addition they also found that Ohioans are in the bottom five or the least likely to use courtesy words such as please and thank you during these phone calls.

Now, I remember an incident when a toddler used a curse word in the office.  Of course, the parents started with “I don’t know where he got that from”.  There are a lot of options.  The most likely answer is that he got this from the adults and older children around him.  As adults, it is easy to use words with other adults, forgetting that children are present and learn from us.  I remember my daughter hearing my husband use an inappropriate word to describe another driver who had cut him off.  Well, as soon as she heard it she repeated it.  Guess who got in trouble?  My husband.  My daughter, who was a preschooler, probably knew she shouldn’t use that word.  But daddy was saying it, so she decided it was okay.  The other pattern I have noticed is the increasing use of profanity on TV – it used to be the language worsened after 10pm.  But I now see shows airing at 8pm and even during the day that routinely use profanity.

What can we do as parents?

  1. Teach our children please and thank you from early ages.
  2. Teach our children NOT to use profanity. This is hard, they will hear it on tv, out in public.  However, they are most likely to pick up the language we use at home.  Be watchful of what you say.  If you hear your children using language you don’t like, talk with them about it.  Use negative consequences as a discouragement and then remember to recognize and positively reinforce when you see an improvement.
  3. Teach children to appropriately address adults. Teachers and adults in authority should ALWAYS be addressed with their titles – Teachers should be Mrs, Miss, Mister, etc.
  4. Most importantly, model the language and behavior we want to see our children using.  Children will not listen to what we tell them to do unless they see that our actions match with what we tell them.

As a parent, our children are considered a reflection of us when they are outside of our home.  Teaching manners, respect and politeness helps our children to succeed and may help to move Ohio from the dubious distinction of being the least polite and using the most profanity!

About Dr. Forbis

Dr. Forbis a pediatrician in the Children’s Health Clinic at Dayton Children’s and a mother to two girls. As part of the “Dr. Mom Sqaud,” Dr. Forbis blogs about her experiences as both as doctor and a mom and hopes to share insight to other parents on issues related to both parenting and kids health. Learn more about Dr. Forbis.

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