Gen Z’s Manners' Makeover

November 9, 2023
Avery Fox

Ashton, Maryland, United States

Class of 2025

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“Hey, Mom, can you make me lunch?”

“Use your magic words.”

“Mom, can you please make me lunch?”

“Yes, of course, I will make you lunch buddy.” 

Thank you!”

Magic words; that’s an interesting phrase. Referring to manners as magic words are a common phrase used to help kids remember to use their manners; more specifically, please and thank you. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines manners as social conduct or rules of conduct as shown in the prevalent customs. Manners show respect and gratitude and demonstrate trustworthy behavior. Today, manners have become less common in Generation Z because they simply don’t see a need for them. But manners are the most important courtesy in human behavior. 

Many people think of manners as the classic “please and thank you,” but there are so many ways to display manners, more than I can count. One can hold the door for someone else, be considerate of their word choice around others, behave appropriately according to their setting, make eye contact, make proper greetings, and many more. Has anyone else ever had the experience where there is a double set of doors, and you hold the first door for someone, and then they wait for you to open the second door, too? It's very awkward. Or you help someone with their homework, and you say you’re welcome, but they don’t even say thank you, so they look at you funny; that one has happened to me a lot throughout high school. The lack of manners by the person who doesn't hold the door and by the person who doesn’t say thank you isn’t okay. 

As a member of Gen Z, those born between the mid-1990s and 2010s, I see the blatant disregard for manners everywhere: at school, in students' actions, or in public. Yesterday, as I walked into a restaurant with my family, a teenage boy sat on a bench outside the restaurant. My mom and I walked through the revolving door and got cut off by the boy as he pushed past us to the door. He didn’t look up, he didn’t say excuse me, and he didn’t even apologize for cutting me off. How rude, absolutely no manners! Dr. Gage, with her Ph.D. in School and Consulting Psychology, feels that it’s very important for parents to teach their kids manners, but “three-fourths of Americans think manners and behavior have deteriorated in the United States over the last two decades due to a serious generation gap when it comes to etiquette rules.” The lack of manners in the past two decades has become horrific. This is very problematic because, without manners, teens have a lack of respect in their interactions with others. 

Why do Z-ers think this way? What justifies not respecting someone else or not showing someone else common courtesy? Laziness? No, that’s not right. Forgetfulness? That can’t happen every time manners are needed, can it? No. The answer is nothing; nothing can justify the lack of manners in this generation. 

Gen Z-ers have grown up in a world profoundly shaped by technology and social change. One can argue that the informal behavior of Z-ers does not equal disrespect or that they have created their own forms of courtesy and those are respected. In this context, it’s not surprising that traditional expressions of manners were lost in the advent of digital communication. While conducting an interview for KPBS (a television station), James Fowler, a political science professor at the University of San Diego, and Maureen Cavanaugh, a reporter, discussed a common sight: teenagers sitting next to each other all texting different people. To teens, it’s completely normal to be sitting with a group of people while texting others because they’re respecting the other people who aren’t present by including them in the conversation. Fowler states that, “it’s very easy for us to sort of project our own values onto other people when we’re making a judgment about whether or not what they're doing is correct.” We must acknowledge that the rapid growth of social media caused manners to not disappear but evolve with the generation to align with the new societal norms. 

In an era of change and adaptation, good manners should not be underestimated. Regardless of the generation or cultural context, manners need to remain a vital courtesy of human behavior. As we navigate the complexities of the modern world, we must recognize that manners continue to guide us toward a more courteous, considerate, compassionate, and harmonious society.

So, to all the parents of Z-ers who want to raise their kids with good manners, practice what you preach, acknowledge their use of manners, and don’t take “yes” for an answer. Remind your kids to use those “magic words” because kids learn more from what you do than what you say. Once you have taught your kids to have good manners, encourage them to keep it up by acknowledging their use of manners. Finally, let your kids know your expectations, “no, thank you,” or “yes, please” (McCready).

Avery Fox is a BBG of Ahavah BBG #2289 from Ashton, Maryland, and loves to dance.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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