Think for a moment to the old days when youth respected age. Any decent adult was free to correct any kid, and did. Rude behavior just wasn't tolerated - not in public and not at home. These days, as I've reached my mid-forties and woken up to what was going on around me, I've been known to correct a complete stranger's child (or children) in a public place, usually Wal-Mart: "No running!", or "No yelling, please!" and once, "Where's your mother? I'm going to wash your mouth out with soap!" It sounds positively Victorian doesn't it, what I do? And presumptuous - who am I to correct someone else's child? "This is America, goddammit, and nobody messes with MY kids." (Um, including you, ma'am.)
I do have to say there's an age limit on the kids I'll correct. I tend to leave the teenagers alone since one never knows when one of them will pull a weapon and put me down. Yes, one actually flashed a knife at me in Wal-Mart, in front of God and everybody - and said "Lady, mind your own fucking business." Hmph. I did. Funny, I can't even remember what the little asshole did. He was one of those tattooed-by-the-age-of-10, bolts-of-metal-through-every-loose-bit-of-skin kind of kids. Maybe 14 years old? What does that say about courtesy and respect in America today?
Most children today have plain old bad manners. They haven't been taught courtesy and respect. One of the characters in the movie "No Country for Old Men" said something to the effect that when "yes ma'am" and "no sir" went away, well, it was Katie-bar-the-door on society. I'm with him on that.
What if adults politely corrected the misbehavior of children around them? Maybe the kids would get the message. If the parents would allow others to correct their children maybe the parents would get the message, too. I don't foresee it happening in the general population but I'm going to keep at it. Perhaps I can make a tiny difference, one child at a time.