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Guest rant about rude kids

April 21, 2014

Today’s guest post was written by Amie, who describes herself as a mom of a 9 and a 14-year-old, mathematician, and bigmouth.

Nota bene: this was originally posted on Facebook as a spontaneous rant. Please don’t miscontrue it as an academic argument.

Time for a rant. I’ll preface this by saying that while my kids are creative, beautiful souls, so are many (perhaps all) children I’ve met, and it would be the height of arrogance to take credit for that as a parent. But one thing my husband and I can take credit for are their good manners, because that took work to develop.

The first phrase I taught me daughter was “thank you,” and it’s been put to good use over the years. I’m also loathe to tell other parents what to do, but this is an exception: teach your fucking kids to say “please” and “thank you”. If you are fortunate to visit another country, teach them to say “please” and “thank you” in the native language.

After a week in paradise at a Club Med in Mexico, I’m at some kind of breaking point with rude rich people and their spoiled kids. And that includes the Europeans. Maybe especially the Europeans. What is it that when you’re in France everyone’s all “thank you and have a nice day” but when these petit bourgeois assholes come to Cancun they treat Mexicans like nonhumans? My son held the door for a face-lifted Russian lady today who didn’t even say thank you.

Anyway, back to kids: I’m not saying that you should suppress your kids’ nature joie de vivre and boisterous, rambunctious energy (though if that’s what they’re like, please keep them away from adults who are not in the mood for it). Just teach them to treat other people with basic respect and courtesy. That means prompting them to say “please,” “thank you,” and “nice to meet you” when they interact with other people.

Jordan Ellenberg just posted how a huge number of people accepted to the math Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin never wrote to tell him that they had accepted other offers. When other people are on a wait list!

Whose fault is this? THE PARENTS’ FAULT. Damn parents. Come on!!

P.S. Those of you who have put in the effort to raise polite kids: believe me, I’ve noticed. So has everyone else.

Categories: guest post, rant
  1. JSE
    April 21, 2014 at 8:24 am

    “What is it that when you’re in France everyone’s all “thank you and have a nice day” but when these petit bourgeois assholes come to Cancun they treat Mexicans like nonhumans?”

    The problem here is really more “being a giant racist” than “never learned to say merci and s’il vous plait.”


    • Busy Bee
      April 25, 2014 at 8:46 am

      Assuming that most of the service staff at a Club Med in Mexico is Mexican, and most of the Mexicans are service staff, I would definitely wonder whether those French guests are racistly treating Mexicans as non-humans, or simply showing respect to the service staff according to French cultural norms. In France, service staff are employees, who make a decent living without having to make obvious the fact they are indeed serving us. When your waiter aims to make your dining experience magical, in the sense that everything you need just appears out of nowhere when you need it, instead of aiming to be remembered favourably when you calculate the tip, that breeds a very different kind of service, and —in my opinion— a much more enjoyable dining experience. French guests would come from an environment where acknowledging your waiter is usually unnecessary and often an insult to their professionalism. If you are unfamiliar with that difference in culture, you may be unable to imagine how jarringly rude Americans can be when trying to be polite in a French restaurant.


  2. Jesse
    April 21, 2014 at 9:24 am

    “one thing my husband and I can take credit for are their good manners, because that took work to develop”

    Maybe. I think “I worked on x and then x happened, therefore my work caused x” is shaky.


  3. mathematrucker
    April 21, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    This was probably implied in the phrase “teach your kids,” but the extent to which the polite words “please” and “thank you” are appropriate and called for varies in the real world. For example if you are constantly telling your boss “thank you” for every little thing he/she does that helps you in some way, depending on the circumstances it could eventually be perceived as a form of disrespect and irritate them every time you say it. The word “please” also has to be used with care.

    The nuance fades when dealing with strangers however. A “please” or “thank you” is pretty much always called for when you request or receive a favor from a complete stranger.

    A small peeve of mine is when you’ve just completed a business transaction and the cashier or clerk says “you’re welcome” after you say “thank you”. Isn’t it more appropriate for them to also thank me (for my business)? This happens often.


  4. Aaron
    April 22, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    To Jordan: if you work for one of the many math departments that doesn’t even acknowledge receipt of job applications for positions for which you yourself are advertising, then I say you get what you deserve. (If not, then never mind!)


    • Jan
      April 22, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      This was my first thought upon reading this indeed. I had applied for a position in the Math department of the University of Wisconsin this year and never receiving any official status update on my application which, after almost 5 months of hearing nothing, I don’t suppose will ever happen. Thank you.


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