DEAR MISS MANNERS: A dog chased my 6-year-old son in our new neighborhood, and when my husband went over to talk to the dog’s owner, we were assured it wouldn’t happen again. Then the dog chased my son again -- and bit him -- the next week.
After I reported the bite (on the advice of my child’s pediatrician), animal control came out to take reports and quarantine the dog, as per their protocol. Then the dog’s owner came over to chew me out for reporting the bite, rather than to apologize and ask about my son’s well-being.
A week or two later, I told the dog’s owner how scared my kids are to go by their house -- not because of the dog, but because of the “mean scary lady.” A few days after that, while we were out for the day, she left a present for my son, and a couple of notes about how bad she feels. We were all set to make up, until the next day, when my son rode by her house and she called out to him, “Say thank you.”
I am so angry again. She is a grandma, and I feel she should know better. I don’t want my kids anywhere near her -- ever. Do we owe her a thank-you note?
GENTLE READER: To whom do you hope to teach manners -- your neighbor or your son?
The neighbor sounds like a poor prospect, so Miss Manners suggests directing the instruction to your son. The lesson here would be: “We behave well, even when other people don’t.”
This does not mean that you have to be silent victims. You rightly reported the dog bite. By calling her a “scary lady,” rather than some epithets that probably sprang to your mind, you were only reporting your son’s reaction. All within the bounds of politeness -- and your point was made, resulting in an apology and a present.
Then, having finally done the right thing, your neighbor craved acknowledgment. It was rude of her to ask for thanks, but then, you already knew that she was new to good behavior.
Presents do require thanks. Surely you do not want to teach your son that he need not do the right thing if others do not.