By Penelope Carlevato, RN
“Merit, even of the highest, without a corresponding good manner, is like a flower without perfume or a tree without leaves.”
“The American Code of Manners,” written in 1884, was to encourage children on how to take their place in the world. The book consisted of 31 chapters of detailed instructions for all areas of society where good manners are needed. Many of those chapters seem a little outdated today, but the general context of the book still applies. All children need a positive influence in their lives, to build healthy self-esteem, and have guidelines for interacting with other children and adults.
While writing my children’s etiquette book, “First-Class Etiquette,” I watched for children with good manners. Unfortunately, I didn’t see many. Fred Astaire, the famous American dancer and actor, commented, “The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.” So, parents and grandparents, we are the obvious role models for good manners.
The best place to start with manners and etiquette is at home during family mealtime. As a nation, we are in the car a great deal of time. A whole generation now thinks it’s the norm to consume fast-food meals in the car or in front of the TV. Make an effort to sit together as a family around the kitchen or dining room table for meals and do this as often as possible.
According to the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, studies prove that having a habit of shared family meals improves nutrition, academic performance, increases a child’s interpersonal skills, and dramatically decreases the risk of eating disorders and drug and alcohol use.
Polite words, encouraging good table manners, and being kind to one another will form the foundation for positive growth in your child. Practice at home and give reinforcement when your child responds positively. If a correction is needed, don’t wait to let him or her know their action was inappropriate. Make sure you are sensitive to your child, speak to them privately so as not to embarrass them.
10 TOP TABLE MANNER RULES
1 Wash your hands before coming to the table.
2 Whether using a paper or cloth napkin, place it on your lap before the meal.
3 Begin eating when everyone is seated, and grace is completed.
4 Ask for food to be passed; don’t reach across the table to grab what you want.
5 Say “Please” and “Thank you” when someone gives the food to you.
6 Chew with your mouth closed, and don’t talk with food in your mouth.
7 Keep elbows and other body parts off the table.
8 Keep your bottom to the seat of your chair and feet on the floor.
9 Asked to be excused if you need to leave the table.
10 Always thank the person who made the meal – Mom included!
10 TOP MANNERS OF ETIQUETTE
1 Always say “Please” and “Thank you” when someone does something nice for you.
2 Don’t interrupt. If you need to get someone’s attention, the polite way is to say “Excuse me.”
3 Always knock on closed doors before you enter.
4 Don’t make fun of someone because they are different from you or gang up on someone.
5 Always say “Excuse me” if you do something insensitive, like bump into them, or cut into a conversation.
6 Cover your mouth if you sneeze or cough, and never pick your nose in public.
7 When meeting a new person, look them in the eye, and extend your hand, smile and say, “Hello, my name is Mary. It is nice to meet you.”
8 Use your inside voice while in the house or a building.
9 Take turns when playing a game or entering a room.
10 Listen to your Mom or Dad and do what they say.
TEACH YOUR CHILD THE GOLDEN RULE:
“Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” Luke 6:31
Good manners are behaving in such a way that others will feel comfortable. As parents and grandparents, our conduct should pave the way for our children. The very same principles of child-rearing we received from our parents needs to extend to our children.
In this electronic and technical world in which we live, there is always the need for loving and encouraging instruction of politeness and social graces. Manners are all about respect and virtue for others. New college grads are finding etiquette and manners are the determining factor in landing the job over other candidates. So, whatever your age, be a good role model as our children look to us as their examples.