Monday, September 28, 2009

Good manners are good sense

As a trident doula/parenting coach/nutrition guide/women's issue advocate, I am deeply involved in the education of children.

From good interpersonal relations to spotless dining technique, manners are the best way to get along with others, show respect even affection and establish yourself and your place in the world with confidence and elan.

From an early age, teaching children manners is an important goal of parents. Even very young toddlers can say "Please" and "thank you". Young toddlers can also help out around the house, setting the table and helping to sort laundry. Constant reminders and daily demonstration of the target behaviours are essential for success.

As children grow older, they become more independent. This is the time to emphasize that manners are something that define you. Beyond the basics, tweens and teens should be able to politely answer the telephone and take accurate messages, make and accept introductions, have adequate table manners, speak in complete sentences and make some small talk, think of the feelings of others, etc.

Once children hit high school and college, all of these skills will come to the fore. Interviews, college tours, debate clubs, etc will put to the test how well children have been taught-and how much they have absorbed. One important aspect that distinguishes the polite and the polished from the gauche and garish is experience. Manners must be practiced and practiced often to become an effective and effortless part of a child's repertoire.

Even in adulthood, the same holds true. One may pay thousands to learn queenly manners, but if never used, it is a princely sum wasted. Taking children to a variety of settings in which to practice their manners is to give them a solid foundation for their future.


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