Why Preschool Should Be Mandatory For Adults With Bad Manners

by Dawn Yanek
amelaxa / Shutterstock

A few months ago, I read about adults taking “preschool” classes to get back to their inner child. They color, finger paint, do show-and-tell and so on—and they pay up to $1,000 a pop to do it. Um, okay. Here’s an idea: Save yourself the money and borrow my kid while I go out for a fancy dinner and cocktails with my husband—anytime.

As the kids these days say, SMH.

But, I digress. The real reason that I’m shaking my head is that so many adults out there already act like kids—in the most awful ways possible. They have bad manners, worse than my 3-year-old, and frankly, their inner children are kind of assholes.

These are the adults who would seriously benefit from a little preschool refresher. But instead of dipping into the sensory bins for the fun of it all, here’s what they actually need to learn:

1. Cover Your Mouth When You Cough

Three times last week—three times!—I witnessed people coughing all over the damn place in enclosed spaces, right as we’re entering cold and flu season. Two were in lunch places with open food bars, and the other was in an elevator, where a woman turned toward my newborn and coughed on her. I was so horrified that I couldn’t actually form words, but I shot a really dirty look in her direction—much like a preschooler, though, she was completely oblivious to my anger.

2. Clean Up After Yourself

Give yourself an M&M as a reward or sing the “Clean Up Song” if you have to, but try to be considerate. Now, I’m the first to admit that I’m a complete disaster at home, but in public, I’m a neat freak. Why? Because it’s rude to expect someone else to clean up my mess. Plus, as my mother would say, “You weren’t raised in a barn.” As I watched a 50-something woman wiping a ridiculous amount of muffin crumbs onto the floor of a cafe (seriously, lady, did any of that muffin get into your mouth?), I thought this would be a helpful note.

3. Line Up Single File

Or if you’re with your kid, by all means partner up side-by-side. But don’t line up with your husband and three kids in a horizontal line on the sidewalk and then meander slowly down the street. This is not a parade. We are not on vacation. I am trying to get somewhere—and I’m likely late because I’ve got my own kids slowing me down—so get out of my way!

4. Keep Your Hands to Yourself

DO NOT TOUCH MY BABY. Yes, that statement warrants all caps. It’s bad enough when random strangers want to touch you when you’re pregnant. It’s weird and annoying. But when baby is finally out in the big, bad, scary, germy world, it’s maddening, and your hands on my kid will bring out the mama viper in me. (We’re way past mama bear at that point.) My baby hasn’t had all of her shots, she’s brand new, and she has no immunity other than mine from breastfeeding. Also, she’s just discovered her hands, which she likes to shove in her mouth. Please do not touch them, you idiot.

5. Say Please and Thank You

This is not optional. If you don’t say it, you don’t get whatever it is that you want. End of story. And while we’re talking about basic social niceties, I’m a big fan of “I’m sorry,” even though there’s been a big pushback against it recently. Let me explain: If you don’t mean it, don’t say it. But learn how to mean it when you’ve clearly done something wrong. Not sure how? So glad that you asked! Please see “empathy” below. (See how easy including that “please” was?)

6. If You Made Someone Feel Bad, Think About What You Did

Ah, the lost art of empathy. Here are some questions for offenders: How would it make you feel if someone didn’t hold the door for you when you were struggling—say, with a bulky stroller and two kids? How would you feel if someone gave you the stink-eye just for sitting down next to them in a restaurant (with a quiet kid)? How would you feel if you were judged for any number of things that other people knew nothing about? Yeah, that’s what I thought, so don’t do it to someone else.

7. No Pushing

I cannot believe that I need to include this on my list, but after witnessing the horror of Halloween during a busy block party, I absolutely do. Now, I have no idea if some of the offenders of these other preschool rules were parents or not, but these people were—and they were elbowing and shoving my tentative 3-year-old so that their kids could get in front of him before the candy ran out. Wondering why kids these days have such bad manners? It’s because their parents have such bad manners.

8. It Doesn’t Matter What Your Friend Is Doing, Just Focus on What You’re Doing

It’s so easy for kids to get distracted and then get off track. In doing so, they trip, they fall, and they don’t get better at the tasks at hand. Same goes for anyone who is judging someone else, especially in the parenting world. So cut it out, focus on your own crap, and we’ll all be the better for it.

So there you have it. Eight simple rules for being a good, considerate human being. Feel free to print out this list and give it to offenders. If they don’t like it? Tough. Someone has to be the adult here.