Going through the self-checkout lines in supermarkets and in other major stores, I notice the combined feeling of sadness and irritation as the automatized voice (yet another)  commands how to pay and where to put my bags.

This reminds me of a reflection piece, “Those Little Interactions,”  published in my book,  “School Struggles.”

In slightly modified form, here is the piece as it is directly relevant to my feelings on the self-check-out line.


A considerable percentage of social interactions takes place while reading nonverbal/verbal cues and signals

While it may seem to be in the dark ages when I was in high school, we would call our friends (no cell phones back then) and often a parent would answer.  There would be a common pleasantry and brief small talk, “Hi Richard.  How are you?  How are your parents?  Please give them regards.  We hope to see you soon.”’

What happens for children when we greatly reduce these opportunities to practice small social interchanges?  Why bother having to deal with the middleman (i.e., the parents) when a cell phone gets right to the source?

Is it a loss that children don’t have to practice those small social skills?

I love having EZPass and feel quite smug watching others line up at tollbooths while I zip through, wondering what their problem is that they don’t have one.

Years ago when I was little, my family would go to visit relatives in Central Pennsylvania.  One thing that always struck me, even then, was how incredibly warm and friendly the toll takers were on the Turnpike.

‘How are you sir?’  They would ask my father with a smile as we pulled up to the booth.  “We hope you have a pleasant trip.”  My father would say something back pleasantly.

I never forgot those interactions.  They added to my model of what social politeness is and the value of little pleasantries.

Now as we use self-checkout in stores another example of modeling mannerly behavior for a child is eliminated.

Recently I attended a week-long seminar on ADHD.  The presenter commented on the loss of social manners as affecting all people in society.  As he said, “I smile at a mom and her little child in line at Starbucks and they shoot me a look like I’m a child molester.”

His comments struck me because I have had similar feelings in superficial social interactions (supermarket, cafés, etc.).  The sense of social invisibility is becoming increasingly pronounced as we cut off channels to learn the basics of social manners and pleasantries.

Our children lack models.

Take Away Point

Modern and living has altered many of our normal, every day social interactions.  Assuming these pleasantries (smiling, saying hello and good morning) matter, try to be aware of them to model them as much as possible for your child.

They still matter, I believe, and modeling is a key way to impart them.

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Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:  rselznick615@gmail.com