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But what is the skill that promotes mannerly behavior? “Self-restraint,” says Mr. Forni.

“We must instill self-restraint in our children. We do much to instill self-esteem in our children, but not much to reinforce self-restraint.” It was self-restraint that was lacking in every example of public incivility that unfolded during the past week.

Here’s another lesson suggested by Mr. Forni: We must teach our children that this sort of behavior is wrong. “We have to make clear to children that those gestures in which high-profile people find themselves is wrong … they did something wrong, something unfair to another person.

“Our culture of extreme informality makes us vulnerable to crossing into incivility,” Mr. Forni says.

Imagine if we simply resurrected the notion that it’s wrong to treat people badly, and that self-restraint and a more formal standard of behavior are ways to avoid such actions. We’d be living in a much more civilized culture.

But then what would we watch on Youtube?

• Visit Marybeth Hicks atwww.marybeth