Teaching Manners: 5 Uncommon Manners for Uncommonly Polite Kids

Manners Matter.  That is the song sung by all debutante mothers in the south.  Growing up southern, we are taught the essential things in order to become the perfect Southern Belle.  Among them were, always smile, never show your anger in public (as a redhead, I always had difficulty with this rule), always be elegant and graceful, look before you step, and always, ALWAYS, have perfect manners.

Now that I am a mom myself to a very active 3 year old, I find myself repeating these same instructions to her.  The Southern Belle Rules were the basis of my upbringing and I am starting to pass them along to her.

May 12th – 17th  happens to be National Etiquette Week.  The Mother of Etiquette, Emily Post, said “Manner is personality—the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life.”  As Parents we enjoy watching the personalities of our children develop as they learn and grow.  However, Mrs. Post also said “Any child can be taught to be beautifully behaved with no effort greater than quiet patience and perseverance, whereas to break bad habits once they are acquired is a Herculean task.”   Well Said!

Teaching Manners

Here are 5 uncommon manners to teach your children.  Once mastered, you will have the most polite children on the block.

  • Elbows off the table – this was a rule for several reasons, 1. Most children do not have the best posture and this reinforced keeping your shoulders back and prevented hunching. 2. It also made following another rule much easier, bring your food to your mouth, not your mouth to your plate.
  • Napkins in the seat once finished with dinner – Most people place their napkin across their lap, however, once used, the napkin should remain in your lap, and not placed back on the table.  When you are finished with your meal, place the napkin in your seat before leaving the dining table.  This signals to the hostess that you have completed your meal.
  • Using the words May I, instead of Can I.-  This simple use of words allows a child to understand that they are truly asking for permission.  This helps with waiting to find out the result, be it yes or no.
  • Gossiping.  This rule is for when they get older.   Gossip can be juicy and when we are with our best of friends, we share stories and catch up on each other’s lives. Gossip is never good form.  It always seems to be taken out of context and someone is always hurt.  If it starts with “I heard” then it does not need to be shared.
  • Writing a Thank You Note – The age of technology, a handwritten note is a welcome sight.  This can be done for any age.  Non-writers can color the note, and new writers can practice the skill.  I still hand write all of my thank you notes and you wouldn’t believe the amount of phone calls I received to thank me for my thank you note.

These 5 rules seem very simple, but they make for a huge difference in daily life.  Incorporating them is not always easy, but the comments you receive because your children are well behaved, will make it all worth it.  And finally, to once more quote the great Emily Post, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”

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