A Word in Your Ear with Jon Rhodes - 24/2/2011

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WHEN I was growing up, Bad Manners were a rather dodgy ska band with an imposing bald bloke as their lead singer.

Buster Bloodvessel was his name, but he was more cartoon pop baddie than anything truly menacing. I even heard he helped old ladies across the road.

Being in Bad Manners probably gave him some artistic licence to be obnoxious. But teenagers – what’s your excuse?

I’m getting hacked off right now. I can’t remember the last time someone under 20 held a door open for me. Maybe it’s my grumpy scowl which they feel needs re-arranging with a swift clout from two metres of spring-loaded timber – I really can’t say.

I was brought up the right way, but was a gobby so and so.

By the time I was 16 I’d shed such immature ways, and realised I needed to grow up a bit.

My parents had always instilled respect in me, it just took a while for it to dawn I was not always right, and those with less hair and more years on the clock probably did know a thing or two about the world. And now the boot is on the other foot.

I have two young children of my own, who have the words “please and thank you” tattooed on their brains. And it has worked. They are still monkeys, but well-mannered monkeys.

“Oh, you wait until they’re 16,” I’m constantly reminded by doom-mongering parents who have been through the teenage “change”.

But why should that be the case?

I get teenage attitude, I get the belief they want to change the world, but come on, is holding open a door that big an inconvenience?

On recent visits to schools and colleges, I was stunned as students barged past me in the corridors and never said ‘thank you’ as I gave way. I borrowed a trick from my father by sarcastically shouting ‘thank you’ as they passed. The look I got was one of puzzlement.

Being a teenager is a fantastic thing – I know, I was one once – but it’s not, as some see it, a seven-year opt-out of what is expected in civilised society.

Now I know there are exceptions, many parents reading this will offer their own children as shining beacons of hope. And, of course, there are obnoxious adults – but what hope is there for them?

Five years ago, we had the short-lived ‘Manners Matter’ campaign, where stickers were distributed around schools as part of National Day of Courtesy.

It didn’t last or work, although I do hear some high schools now reward pupils for good manners. That’s right, ‘reward’ something that should come as second nature.

I find that a rather sad state of affairs, but I suppose it’s better than a door in the face.