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What Is Etiquette and How Do you Teach It to Your Children?

When I was growing up all those years ago, just like the parents on TV, my mother wore a dress while she did the house cleaning and my father a shirt and tie to the dinner table.

Oh and don’t forget if there was ever any doubt about how to handle any social situation there was the “Miss Manners” column in the local newspaper.

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In today’s world, where families rarely even sit down at the same table for dinner, it may seem trivial and terribly outdated to know, or even care, which side of the plate the salad fork goes on.

However, that does not mean your kids shouldn’t know a few things about simple etiquette.

Etiquette is by definition, “a set of practices and forms which are followed in a wide variety of situations relating to decorum or general social behavior.” More simply put, teaching your kids about etiquette is teaching them proper behavior and good manners in social situations, and it has become something of a lost art.

Emily Post is well known as the Grandmother of Etiquette. She wrote her first best-selling book on etiquette in 1922. In 1946 she founded the Emily Post Institute. Though Post herself passed away in 1960, at the age of 87, The Institute that bears her name continues to this day.

While teaching your kids etiquette and good manners may seem a daunting task, according to the website of the Emily Post Institute, it really takes following only one simple rule. “Always be the person you want your child to be. So, if you want your kids to be respectful, considerate, polite and honest, you have to be respectful, considerate, polite and honest. Observing this golden rule every day is the simplest way to incorporate manners into your family life.”

Tips for Teaching Good Manners

The Post institute’s advice is a great place to start. You must mirror what you want you kids to be and the ways you want them to behave. But beyond that, you may be wondering about specific ways to teach good manners. Here are a few tips.

Practice Makes Perfect – Like the Post Institute says, you need to model these behaviors. That means not only using them in “real” situations but take the time to “role play” with your kids. Kids love these kinds of activities anyway, so stage a phone call with them to teach phone manners. Pretend to be a guest who has comes to the door. Throw a “dinner party” or “tea party” with your little ones and their dolls or stuffed animals.

Give Them the Magic Words – We have all been brought up to know that “please” is the “magic word,” but there are others. These are the 5 words/phrases that must be drummed into every kid’s vocabulary from as early as six months of age. “Thank you,” “Please,” “May I,” “’Excuse me,” and “No, thank you.”

Positive Reinforcement – As with teaching anything to a kid, praise is the key. Praise your child every time he or she uses good manners.

Speak Well – You can’t help what your kids hear on the playground, but you must speak correctly at home. Too often parents destroy their kid’s speech patterns by using slang and “bad words” themselves. This is a critical area where you need to model the right behavior.

Lose Your Own Prejudices – Children do not know biases until they hear them from you. Even if you hold certain views about certain groups of people, minimize “hate speech” around your kids. Instead teach them as Martin Luther King, Jr., said, to judge a person by the “content of their character,” and not the color of his or her skin.

A Finishing Touch 

In the not too distant past children of the “aristocracy” were sent to “finishing schools” to learn proper social graces. While these are no longer so common, the key to bringing up little ladies and gentlemen is still instruction. Children are sponges, absorbing everything around them. If good manners and the norms of etiquette are reinforced daily, they can and will become a way of life well into adulthood.

There are some that argue that good manners, proper speech, and courteous behavior are archaic and reek of “elitism.”  But the truth is, a little touch of class still goes a long way. Teaching your kids about social graces and etiquette will only help them in life.

Current friends, family, and not to mention future college recruiters or employers, like and respect classy people. Always remember, teaching your children good manners not only teaches them how to honor and respect others, it gives them the skills and confidence to respect themselves.


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About Cynthia Lechan-Goodman

One comment

  1. Our President behaves in a boorish, inconsiderate, and rude manner. Arriving at the White House on inauguration day he left Melania in the car and dashed up the White House steps. Melania, left to fend for herself, was politely greeted by the Obamas, whose solicitude stood in sharp contrast to her husband’s piggishness. The Obamas had impeccable manners. Not so Mr. Trump. If you want your children to learn etiquette it’s not enough to set an example yourself although that is of course essential. You must point out to them the habitual bad manners of the Boor-in-Chief. He sets a terrible example for the entire country. You could also underline the contrast between him and his predecessor in the White House.

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