American Parents Are Now Outsourcing Basic Parenting Skills

Jen Doll
American Parents Are Now Outsourcing Basic Parenting Skills

We live in a world in which you can, if you have the money, pay other people to do pretty much anything for you, which means we also live in a world in which all sorts of people are willing to charge you money to do those things. And so, with parenting, we go. There's a piece in The New York Times today by Matt Richtel about the new-new parenting, i.e., teaching your children manners by hiring etiquette counselors instead of going the DIY route. Because why would you do it yourself? "These etiquette experts say that new approaches are needed because parents no longer have the stomach, time or know-how to play bad cop and teach manners."

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Quick as can be, kid etiquette people and their businesses are everywhere, not just New York City (you can't blame them, I suppose; this appears to be good money, a couple hundred or manybe even a thousand dollars for a series of classes). And "around the country, there are classes taught by self-appointed etiquette counselors — Emily Posts for a new age — delivering a more decentralized and less formal approach to teaching manners than in years past," writes Richtel, adding that some fancy restaurants and hotels offer up "family time" meals for the kids to "practice" their newfound skills.

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Perhaps the most revealing, and possibly horrifying, thing about the new etiquette is this: It's not just about being nice to be nice, or being mannerly to be mannerly. “'These days, you have to teach kids about return on investment,' said Robin Wells, the founder of Etiquette Manor in Coral Gables, Fla." You can't just say it's "just because," or "I told you so," she explains; instead, she uses some serious Jedi mind tricks, telling her students to "be polite to your mother because she’ll be happier, and if she’s happier, you're happier." She also schools them in the fine art of manipulation:

On the first day of her five one-hour sessions, which cost $285, she tells the children to go home and do one unexpectedly kind thing so that they can see how wide-eyed and impressed their parents will be. “It’s almost manipulation at its finest,” she said.

We are raising a generation of monsters, perhaps, who will rule us all. Of course, Wells also covers the basic stuff: knives and forks, how to talk to adults, not to put one's phone (one's phone) on the table. Because all this rudeness that need to be trained out of kids is not just because of kids being kids, it's also "because of technology."

“Kids have stopped making eye contact at one another,” Ms. Neitlich [founder of 

 founder of  Moms On Edge] said. “They bring their technology to the table. She added that it is true of parents, too: “Everyone is in a hurry. Things are clipped, clipped, clipped.”

Thus, in pure social media terms, etiquette teachers are explaining to kids that they need to work on  "building the brand called 'you,'" instead of scaring them with grody words like "manners" and "etiquette." They're also incorporating information from criminology research (ha ha ha) that informs us that "when an environment is dilapidated, it gives permission to people to misbehave," i.e., the broken-windows theory. When kids are allowed to wreak havoc, or watch TV while eating dinner, or exist in an environment of chaos, that chaos persists and grows. It's not just the kids' faults that they're rude. It's the parents, too. Which means, quick, call in an etiquette counselor! I'm all for kids being polite, but wouldn't the ultimate in politeness mean not exposing your kids' bad behavior to a complete stranger, maybe? 

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Anyway, trend stories. They simply do not end, do they? 

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Image via Shutterstock by Zurijeta.