Editor’s Note (September 2021): Wow, No Thank You.

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Before I had kids, I would have told you good manners were non-negotiable. Even more than straight As or winning soccer goals, I wanted my children to demonstrate kindness, respect, and basic human civility. I’ve backpedaled on quite a few rules I swore I would enforce (parenthood is humbling like that), but when it comes to manners, I’ve tried not to budge. They’re required to say “please” and “thank you,” write thank you notes, and address adults by “Mr.” or “Miss” unless otherwise instructed.


I thought my husband and I were doing a decent job of raising kids that don’t behave like jerks, but lately my 8-year-old has us questioning ourselves. You veteran parents might know what I’m dealing with: the eye-rolls, the talking back, the snarky attitude. When I asked him to grab me a spatula recently, he said (from the couch), “You have two legs. You can get it.”


Um, excuse me? I stopped what I was doing and demanded to know where he learned to speak to me that way. “You and Daddy say that to me all the time,” he said. Oh.


On our site this month, Randi Mazzella chats with Melinda Wenner Moyer, author of How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Assholes, a new book that examines the effect of an increasingly selfish and cruel social climate and what parents can do to raise children to be honest, kind, and considerate adults. Vanessa Infanzon shares a roundup of family-friendly bike trails in the Carolinas and Virginia. Our Weekender series takes you to Nashville, Tennessee, and uncovers the best kid-friendly spots in the Music City. You’ll also find a new recipe from Lily Barnes and the latest review from our Pint Sized Foodie.


My husband and I have had to take a hard look at the way we speak, not just to our children, but to each other. Are we short and impatient? Do we treat our kids with the same respect we expect in return? How can we be kinder to each other in our own home? How can we set a better example for these little humans who are always watching us and mimicking everything we do?


My kids still complain about writing thank you notes, and I have to remind them to pick up after themselves on a daily basis. But when they think I’m not looking, I’ll catch my son holding my daughter’s hand as they walk in the building on the first day of school. I see the way my daughter says “please” and “thank you” in restaurants and looks her server in the eye. It’s little things like that that make me think we might be raising decent humans after all.