When I was in the 8th grade, my parents forced me to go to something called Cotillion. Although a French word meaning a formal ball, usually for women, this cotillion was for junior high school students. Our parents’ goal in tangling with the rude, hormonal, inappropriate and defiant adolescents we were morphing into was singular: to teach us manners. Cotillion in 1963 was a forced gathering of immature junior high boys and girls. I was one of those kids.
We had to dress up, smell good, do our hair in appropriate ways, and come into the small room with positive attitudes. We had to look at our instructors in the eyes, smile, and say,
Good Afternoon, Mrs. Strict and Mr. Manners. On one occasion, we girls had to wear gloves with our dresses.
But most of all, we had to treat each other appropriately. This was done by forcing us to invite 10 members of the opposite sex to a series of 10 dances. We recorded our dancing partners in our little black books.
In between each dance, the instructors tried to mold us into polite, considerate young people. We learned to write thank you notes, talk to each other politely, avoid profanity, care about our personal appearance and implement a host of other skills so needed by junior high and high school students.
This example of a 1963 cotillion brings me to my point: kids can be very inconsiderate to each other and to adults. Although rudeness is part of the rebellion that begins in some kids with the onset of the physical maturation process, this negative behavior in the home, classroom, and playground needs to be eliminated, or society ends up with adults who act these same ways in their homes, their offices, and at their family gatherings and parties. We all know adults who disrupt office environments with their childish behavior, right? Or how about that family member whose sole goal is to crush a special occasion? Such behaviors were allowed to continue throughout childhood and adolescence.
Granted, the Internet was not a part of my childhood, so we had to develop decent social skills to make friends, secure volunteer positions, land jobs, and be admitted to the university of our choice. Social skills were important. We couldn’t hide out in a cubicle.
Today, when I walk into the lobby of my business, and I greet students sitting in the chairs waiting for their classes to begin, I do not always receive a return greeting back. This is hard to believe. Here are some of my rules for kids who want to succeed in life:
Rule #1: When someone says hello, you look at him or her (in the eyes, not the floor or ceiling) and say
“Hello” right back.
Rule #2: When someone asks you how you are, instead of just saying “Fine,” ask that person how he or she is doing.
Rule #3: When someone gives you a prize, a compliment, a bowl of popcorn or a treat, say “Thank you.”
Rule #4: When you enter a classroom, greet the teacher and when you leave a classroom, say “Good bye.”
Rule #5: When you receive an informational e-mail, send a return e-mail acknowledging receipt. For example, just say “Got it!” That way, the sender knows it reached its destination.
Rule #6: When a grandparent, friend, or parent gives you a gift, write a thank you note in your own handwriting. This activity is a lost art.
Rule #7: Since your dress reflects your personal philosophy, think about how you dress yourself. Note that I didn’t say what or what not to wear. Just realize that how we choose to present ourselves is indicative of more than we think.
Rule #8: Don’t freak dance. It is lewd.
Rule #9: Call your grandparents if that is possible. They won’t be around forever and when they are gone, you may regret not connecting.
Rule #10: Practice being kind. Although it is tempting, even in adult life, do not gossip about other people. This only indicates insecurity. This will be hard for you in junior high or high school because people can be really mean. Stay above all of that.
Painting by Jean Busquets