and you thought I wasn’t old-school…

by Janelle Hanchett


This may come as a surprise to you, but I’m not a particularly traditional parent. I’m pretty sure most of the traditional parenting methods (fear-based parenting, authoritarian rule, seen-and-not-heard mentalities) have resulted in maladjusted whacky Americans at best, Unabombers at worst. When I hear about parents telling their kids blatant lies in attempt to manipulate and control them, or deploying violence and scare tactics as a way to maintain power, I want to kick them in their teeth (the parents, not the kids).

I don’t care how my kids dress (although for my daughter, that tween mini-skirt slut gear is out of the question).

I don’t care what toys my kids play with.

I don’t care how my kids end up politically (although admittedly we’re nudging them to the left on social issues).

I don’t really care if my kids go to college or not (let’s admit it. It ain’t for everybody. And there are other ways to gain experience, wisdom and education.).

I don’t care if they’re gay or not.

I don’t care if they’re religious or not (though I’d prefer a bit of spirituality, in whatever form that takes for them. Unless it takes the form of acid or other psychedelics. Cause those are dangerous.).


There is one thing that I force down on them with Stalin-like tenacity.

I am unbending.

I am mean.

I am neurotic.

I am old-school, 1950s-regimented I-know-better-than-you “don’t fuck with me on this one, children” when it comes to MANNERS.

That’s right.

We will not chew with our mouths open.

We will not flail about at the table, eating with our fingers and slurping out of cups.

We will not scream and run in restaurants.

We will not play with our food or any other interesting item at the table.

We will not interrupt.

We will not belch, pass gas or engage in other bodily functions in the presence of others.

We will say “thank you,” “please,” “excuse me” and all other niceties.

And kids. Check it out. We will acknowledge one another, especially adults. We will say “hello,” shake hands, and answer questions when addressed. We will say “goodbye.” We will hold conversations with people attempting to engage us in conversation (obviously, people we know. I don’t force my kids into conversations with strangers or anybody they aren’t comfortable with).

I am so not nice, so not easygoing when it comes to this particular issue. I drive my kids batty.

But I don’t care. They’ll thank me later. For this one thing, they will thank me later. (And it may be the only thing they thank me for, so I’m holding onto it with a death grip.)

I mean, have you ever been around an adult who chews with his or her mouth open?

Yes. Exactly. ‘Nuff said.

And have you ever been around a child who is dead terrified and/or completely disrespectful of adults? I’m not talking about toddlers. I’m talking about 5 or 6 or 7 or 8 or whatever year old kids who feel it unnecessary to acknowledge your presence – even when you try to talk to them.


A few months ago I went into a home with two children. I was hanging out in their living room for at least 3 hours. These kids didn’t acknowledge me once. They were about 8 and 10. I tried talking to them. They just looked at me like I was some sort of alien life.

Admittedly, I’m scary. But I was being nice. I was using my inside voice and good behavior.

Because my mama taught me manners.

(Thanks again, mom.).

And their parental figures just stood there letting them ignore me.

Yeah. You aren’t doing your kids any favors there, sunshine. Basic manners and civility are generally considered a win-win in this world. Pretty critical skills, as far as I can tell.

Unless you’re the Unabomber.

Then it’s cool to be all rude and withdrawn and shit.

Or if you’re one of those tragic artist writer types. All deep and anti-social.

Although even they probably chew with their damn mouths closed, cause there’s nothing poetic about half-masticated food and chomping sounds. 

Don’t ya think?

  • Franki Halloran

    Yes, manners are a must… from your (un)masticated mama. Don’t you love aliteration?

    • renegademama

      Mom, I adore you. And yes, I do love that alliteration. Kiss.

  • Jamila

    I couldn’t agree more. I am so thankful that my mom whipped our manners into shape at such a young age. It’s hard to see some of these teens and toddlers with no manners at all. I’m with you on that one big time.

  • Dee

    I agree. I guess as a side effect of being an “attachment parent”, I come across people who think it’s ok for kids to (fill in the ill mannered behavior here) for the sake of not being a coercive parent. Um, no.

  • Lesley

    I have been to that home of which you speak
    It scares me.
    I like not being scared and so I just ignore them as well and everything works out just fine.

  • Erika

    Thank you! Manners are a must. I have cousins who chew with their mouths open, eat with their fingers, are 100% anti-social, and all manner of things that will drive you insane and probably will want to kill them. Yes, they were raised in a barn! It shows! I have to face people all day long who do not know the first thing about being polite or courteous, or even human. I am so glad that someone actually understands what is important when raising children.
    I thank you!

  • Cailin

    Word!! Manners and good social graces open doors. Bad manners close doors. Having good manners will give kids confidence to engage people from all walks of life and open new interactions on good terms with respect. I agree, if there’s one thing we should do for them it should be 0 tolerance for bad manners. Honestly, it too hard to like kids or adults with bad manners, no matter how intelligent or valid their point of view.

  • dani

    We have a lot in common.

    My son is the wild stallion of manners. I’m trying to break him, but he’s a fighter. He rebels against the fork.

  • dani

    Oh, and I’m glad this week is looking up.

  • Sara Rose

    AMEN. To every bit.

  • Ann Vanderkuip

    I am soooo on board with you renegademama! Mine are 15 and 16 now, and they *are* those kids that go around the room at family functions, shaking hands, kissing cheeks, doing other odd hand pumping things. They even do it here, poking around rooms to say hi or goodbye-even to each other. Manners are not optional…yet I am usually pretty chill about the rest of life, as you are…btw, hubby was reading your blog on the weekend and asked me why I changed my blogging name! I talk that as a HUGE compliment.
    ~Ann aka Quiet Monsters

  • The Blue Muse

    Now that I’ve stopped cackling long enough to type… LOVE this post! Glad to know old school manners/common decency are still alive and well, despite what I see when out and about.

  • Erica

    I could not agree more. Seriously. My sister even has “strong opinions” over how I raise my kids (traitor joined on my In-Laws bandwagon, bitches) and I tell her “till YOU have kids and YOU see what YOU are resposible for THEN come and talk to me and tell me your “strong opinions” because till then, you dont know shit.” Just sayin.

  • Sylvia @ Frolic Through Life

    Thanks for stopping by at my profile at Bloggy Moms. I love you child raising philosophy and I will definitely be following your blog.

  • Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier, Photography Blog

    Okay – first off, let me admit that I don’t have children so whenever I’m in the company of people with children, even friends, I’m super careful about what I have to say, because I don’t want to stick my foot in my mouth.

    So – it’s NOT okay for children to run screaming around the restaurant? My boyfriend and I went to our favorite place one night and saw a pair screaming and playing chase. The restaurant staff was pissed, but said nothing – why? because this is the Pacific Northwest and we’re super passive aggressive. So they said things to other diners, but not to the parents. Even when a hot plate almost lost it’s contents on one of the kids.

    I mentioned this at a gathering of mostly moms and was told that this is just how kids are; Ohhhh. I see. The mom told me this as her son ran around a coffee shop (ummm, isn’t this dangerous) and attempted to pull the fire alarm.

    I love your blog already.

    • Cath Gillespie

      We took our three sons to restaurants from birth (we parked the oldest in his car capsule under a table and almost left without him – it really was a mistake).

      But as soon as they were old enough, we had a going out kit with crayons, paper etc.

      Admittedly, we had to forego the pre- and post-dinner drinks and cut down to two courses rather than three, but the rule was that they didn’t leave the table until we were going home.

      There’s no excuse for letting children disrupt the pleasure of other diners.

  • Shan

    Mouth sounds are so beyond my pet peeve.

    I’m working with Mad on becoming more social. Of course, she’s *three* and selectively shy (she loves men… help!) so I don’t expect everything to come at once. Know what makes it hard? Fricken adults who get their panties in a wad because Mad at age *ONE* rejected their friendly advances. Excuse me, but if you never come around to my shy girl, she’s never going to get used to you. Doh!

  • Carrera

    You are my hero. My absolute hero. That is all.

  • Michael Hicks

    First time reader of your blog, Janelle.
    Very pleased to meet you!!!

    I caught your gig with Srini on the Unmistakable
    Creative Podcast. You’ve really seemed to master
    the art of detached compassion. Clearly, you care
    about people. But you do it without getting bogged
    down in their minutiae or losing yourself in the process.

    The Fatal Flaw With Being Human is that we’re not perfect.
    But our imperfections make us beautiful. And discovering
    them one at a time is what living Life is all about.

    Thanks again for the post. Have a Magnificent Monday! 🙂

    P.S. I’m with you. Manners are HUGE with me. Please, Thank You,
    May I be excused, pleased? all seem like relics in our
    anything goes society. Common courtesy really is supposed
    to be common. I appreciate you reminding us of this fact…

  • Trackbacks

  • Trackback from This will not be cute when he’s 40. - renegade mothering
    Wednesday, 12 September, 2012

    […] realize my kids are annoying (aren’t they ALL?), but as you know, I have a thing about manners. Plus, I’m so self-centered and egotistical I watch my kids like a damn hawk when we’re out in […]

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