MINDING THEIR MANNERS

My son is a picky eater.  He likes his food salty.  While eating out with my in-laws, my son took a bite of pasta and decided that it wasn’t salty enough.  Instead of swallowing and chalking that first bite up to a seasoning exploratory bite, he stopped in mid-chew, grabbed the salt shaker, tipped his head back and poured salt into his mouth.  Then, he continued chewing and swallowed.

Most parents live in at least discomfort—if not fear—that their child will commit a manners faux pas.  We try, but somehow cannot cover all the possibilities that can pop up and require use of social antennae.  In Nashville, where we live, it’s popular to send kids to “Cotillion” which is a kind of crash finishing school experience.  The kids learn which fork to use, how to introduce themselves properly, and how to behave at a dance with members of the opposite sex.  My son could probably have used cotillion, but getting him in the door would have been impossible.

So, I turned to Emily Post.  Emily Post’s The Guide To Good Manners for Kids by Peggy Post and Cindy Post Senning, Ed.D. is a wonderful reference for parents to use to instill good manners in their children.  It is written for children to read on their own, but is even better read by the two of you together. Straight-forward, unfussy writing makes the content modern and approachable for any aged child.

The book begins by explaining why manners matter.  It goes on to explain some bread-and-butter manners basics like thank you notes, how to behave on a job, and how to greet someone.   The book even covers online manners and manners relating to new technology like cell phones and video games.

The Posts cover manners at home, school, and with friends as well as manners to use when in public places.  There is a section on responding sensitively when someone dies. 

You could hand the book to your child and ask them to read it on their own.  But, why not try going through the book section by section with my son.  We read the text together, one section at a time over a period of weeks.  After each reading, we went through one of the excellent examples from the book—a “what if” exercise requiring use of the manner point just discussed.  We then applied the principle to an example from our own life.  I gave my son a few scenarios asked him to practice responding in a mannerly way.

There’s nothing in the book that covers the acceptability of salting ones food directly in one’s mouth, but the principles of manners are there.  By understanding that good manners make getting along with others easier, make strange situations more comfortable, and make daily life easier, your child should be able to respond with manners in just about any social situation.

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