A sense of decorum

In this thread some posters are opposed to ‘half-naked children in restaurants’, and others seem to come down on the side of practicality. Rather than hijack that thread, I thought I’d start one on general decorum. It’s a pretty broad subject. Half-naked children in restaurants is one issue. Someone brought up changing a diaper on a counter. But there are other behaviours that will disgust some, embarrass others, and leave some people clucking their tongues and saying ‘That is just not done.’

So where do you draw the lines? Should there be things that are totally unacceptable in public, that are encouraged at home? Or should good social habits be taught at home so that they are repeated in public?

Now, I’m not Politenesman But I’m also not an oaf. I think there are things that are ‘just not done’. Farting at the dinner table and proclaiming, ‘Whooo-eee! That one’s going to kill!’ is unacceptable. Farting without comment is as well. I come down on the side that removing children’s clothing in a restaurant is not acceptable in public. Some people may draw the line between that and farting. As I said, it’s a broad subject.

I was brought up to say Sir and Ma’am, please and thank you, to sit still in my seat, not to interrupt, and so on – at home, as well as in public. Some would say this is bizarre, and that children raised so are ‘stifled’. But I would counter that habits not taught early are seldom learned at all. And I appreciate politeness and a sense of decorum.

Children just don’t seem to have any idea of what constitutes good manners any more. We were in a restuarant not so long ago, next to a table of teenagers. You couldn’t complain about them being too noisy becuase they were talking too loudly, in fact they were barely exchanging a single word. They were texting each other. In a restaurant. When they were not a couple of feet from each other. 'Tis a bizarre world.

What? I’m the first person to mention cell phones?

Loud cell phone conversations in public as well as talking on your cell phone when you’re with someone.

I agree that things done early (and I’d add consistently) are learned best and with a minimum of turmoil for the kid or the parent. Where is the line drawn? Just before pissing off “a reasonable person”. Yeah, it’s vague. But, like pornography, I usually know it when I see it. And I, personally, choose to be a little conservative in that estimate. I’d rather be thought the uptight mom than the mom with the horrid brats.

What I don’t get is parents who won’t control their kids in public because they feel like kids only understand one type of behavior or something and they don’t want to “stifle” them 24/7. As far as I’m concerned, “stifling” them for a couple of hours in public is not only fine, but good! Teaches the little savages how to survive in a society where everyone doesn’t think they’re the center of the universe.

Like I said in the other thread, we have several “levels” of etiquette. When we’re at home or at a BBQ, I don’t give two thoughts to who’s wearing a shirt. It doesn’t matter to me. But at a “pay-after-you-eat”, I expect to see clothes on you. I have different manners depending on whether I’m at a BBQ or a state dinner. “Decorum” at one is “inappropriate behavior” at the other. Actually, we have two standards of Restaurant manners, now that I think about it. WhyKid once defined them by asking, “Are we going to a pay-before-you-eat or a pay-after-you-eat?” They know that at McDonalds, when they’re done eating, they can get up and run around. The same is not true of Olive Garden. At a wedding (if they’re invited, of course), they can get up and walk and greet other guests and go dance on the dance floor. The same is not true of a crowded pizza joint where they’ll trip up a waitress.

It’s not like we make lists of rules, but by clearly living, demonstrating and enforcing our expectations, the kids get it. Now that he’s older, I can request that my son wash up and wear clothes “Appropriate for a Grandma visit” and he knows what I mean, even if I can’t articulate it. (Definitely means he has to cut his fingernails, and generally means pants that aren’t jeans and a shirt with no writing on it.)

Things are looser at home, sure. But there are still rules and standards. I couldn’t live with kids if there weren’t.

I’m distinctly old-fashioned on this one.

I believe you should wear nice clothes to a wedding, funeral, church or other semi/formal event.

I believe you should excuse yourself from the table if you have to take a phone call, and that said telephone should only be on if there is a serious situation which necessitates you meing immediately notified.

I believe that children should be quiet and well-mannered in public and that the adults in charge of them should remove them from the area if they become unruly.

I believe that you should never share the intimate details of your life with strangers. This includes loud cell phone conversations, appearing on trashy talk shows, having noisy fights with the SO in public or using your co-workers as a sort of secular confessional.

I believe in waiting in line.

I believe that others should not be expected to accept inconvenience because I’m in a hurry or I have a “special” circumstance.

I believe that you should always remain polite even if others are making complete asses of themselves. In other words, nasty behavior on the part of others does not give you an excuse to respond in kind.

I believe in cleaning up after myself.

I believe in treating everyone kindly, no matter how “low” their status might be.

The problem with this is not that it’s wrong but that it’s often trumpeted by people who feel they are specially priviledged to determine what is appropriate behavior. The alienation (that’s part of my SDMB user name, after all: Male + Alienaton = Malienation) that I feel from society at large is due in large part to the lack of respect I feel that the decisions that I have made in regards as to how I prefer to live my life have been given. How much concern for someone else’s sense of decorum should I exhibit if I am given little or no say as to how this social contract is drawn?.

Consider, too, the ends to which some people will go to to maintain a “sense of decorum.” Consider this thread in which a guy is excoriated for grunting too loudly in a gym. What’s next? No farting in a restroom?

It might be interesting for those who post in this thread to state whether or not they have children.

I meant to state in the OP that I do not have children. Nevertheless, my parents taught me how to behave in public and I’m confident I could do the same. Why? Because I notice public behaviour. (I once asked my mom if I behaved like my nephew when I was his age. She said, ‘You weren’t allowed to.’) I tried to explain to my sister my nephew is obese. She said, ‘You listen to him whine! It’s easier to give him candy than to listen to him whine about it!’ I think that teaching a child that whining won’t get him the desired results results in less whining. Even though I don’t have kids, I think that as an adult I would get to set the rules.

But nobody *has * to listen to him whine. When he starts whining, tell him to either cut it out or go to his room, because nobody wants to listen to that. Sure, it’s easier *in that moment * to give him the candy. But it makes life way harder down the line. You’re right that the best way to discourage whining (or any undesireable behavior) is to show them that it doesn’t get them what they want. I have a fifteen year old daughter who probably hasn’t whined (without irony, anyway) since she was a toddler.

I’m with Lissa, pretty much down the line. Malienation, I don’t feel “specially privileged to **determine ** appropriate behavior”. On the contrary, I simply acknowledge that such a thing as “appropriate behavior” does, in fact, exist, and abide by it.

This I’m just baffled by. In what ways is your quality of life compromised by the expectation that you should show consideration for others? I’m not being snarky here, I’m asking for examples.

I’m with Lissa all the way down the line too. I have no kids and won’t be having any. I know I’d probably be the kind of parent that is way too permissive and end up raising little hellions.

I got nothing off of the top of my head (although see previously posted link to gym grunting thread), but my point is that the standards for a “sense of decorum” always seem to be set by the fussiest and most sensitive members of society. My feeling is that people with an overdeveloped sense of proprietry view themselves as largely superior to the common culture and use that sense of proprietry to isolate themselves from the inner nature of that culture. Fine. We’re isolated from each other. Let’s keep it that way. People like that always seem to be like frowning librarians hovering over people and waiting to shush them. Who needs that?

I would disagree with that. Our culture has gotten less polite, and at the same time most people are also more isolated. At this point, I’m not sure we can successfully argue that consideration for others’ feelings leads to isolation–that was one of the arguments for shouting down the ‘librarians’ in the first place, and it doesn’t seem to have worked. I do think that the contrary is probably true. It’s much easier to get along with others and have fulfilling relationships when people are considerate and respectful.

I have two kids, and I am very strict with them.

If you find the people are often looking down their noses at you and telling you to hush, perhaps *your * standards are too lax.

What part of “the common culture” do you think that people object to? Because last I checked, being rude is NOT part of the common culture. It’s part of the **deterioration ** of the common culture. It’s rude and inconsiderate people who “isolate” themselves, by demonstrating that they have no desire to interact pleasantly with others.

I’m not trying to pick a fight here, this isn’t personal, because I don’t know you. But it seems to me that it’s people who think that the rules don’t apply to them who have an overdevloped sense of their own importance.

You’re missing my point. I’m not arguing that “consideration=isolation” but rather “asking for consideration=thinly veiled attempt to cheat people out of a place at the table because they’re not like you and their difference makes you uncomfortable.”

Nah, I don’t get a lot of hushing. I don’t envision myself as some sort of tough guy but Ms Malienation says I make people afraid of me. I dunno about that, but I do admit to being distant. I’m just not approachable; still, I’m not gonna concede that I’m rude. It’s not that I think the rules don’t apply to me. It’s just that the rules gotta make some sense and I gotta have some input as to what they are. I’m just not gonna be part of a society in which my behavior is largely determined by what makes some hand-wringer uncomfortable.

Why would I? How would a life spent seething at endless unwarranted disapproval make me happy?