DEAR ABBY: This letter is in response to the one written by ''Determined in Dallas,'' who prides herself on courtesy and who is attempting to pass on similar traits to her 4-year-old son. When her son kindly holds the door open for a stranger, and that stranger neglects to say thank you, ''Determined'' feels it necessary to announce (''loud enough for the offender to hear''), ''She should've thanked you, but her manners aren't as good as yours!''
The lesson that ''Determined'' is teaching her son is that it's OK to embarrass and correct total strangers when they don't follow your beliefs. This, in my opinion, is far more rude than not saying thank you. If ''Determined'' wants to reinforce the idea of thanking others, she'd do better to speak to her son privately and quietly. She could also teach him (and remind herself) that a truly kind person performs acts of kindness without expecting thank-yous and applause. -- NOT THANKED YET STILL COURTEOUS
DEAR NOT THANKED: You are not the only reader who took pen in hand to point out that the zealous mother might be sending her son the wrong message -- and displaying rudeness in the bargain. While it would have been more tactful of her to direct her comments quietly to her son, I still believe that small children need positive reinforcement. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: The letter from ''Determined in Dallas,'' the mother of the 4-year-old boy, brought back memories of my dear grandmother, Alice. While reading that letter, I thought you might scold her a bit about her reply to thoughtless strangers ''... loudly enough for the offender to hear.''
Personally, I think she did the right thing. I recall how my Alice would hold the door for people, and when they ''forgot'' to say thank you, undaunted, she would call out one of her cheery ''You're welcomes.'' -- ALEX KALINOWSKY, RIDGELAND, S.C.
DEAR ALEX: She must have been quite a woman.
DEAR ABBY: The recent letters about courtesy miss the point, which is that human beings should be courteous to one another regardless of gender.
As my husband says, what works for one gender should work for the other as well. Good manners should mean being thoughtful and considerate of others and open to giving or receiving an act of courtesy depending on the situation -- not the gender. -- SALLY ROSLOFF, NORTHRIDGE, CALIF.
DEAR SALLY: Your husband is absolutely right. And his philosophy is similar to that of manners maven Tish Baldrige, who sagely points out: ''Manners embrace socially acceptable behavior ... but also much more than that. They are an expression of how you treat others when you care about them, their self-esteem, and their feelings. ... In a chaotic world, they can make order out of disorder and give you the power to bring pleasure into other people's lives.''
It's worth thinking about.
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