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One of my pet peeves about parenting is the amount of repetition one needs to do! There are times when I feel like I am barking out the same instructions over and over again especially when it comes down to teaching kids the right manners.  “Say please”, don’t talk while eating”, “wait for your turn”  –  I think we go through a sizeable number of these every day! Since there are times when I feel like I’m not making much headway with my kids, I turned to some experts in the area to provide insight on etiquette and manners and how it ties with  social skills and raising a well-adjusted child.  We spoke to 3 founders of etiquette and manners classes - Manners in Mind (Singapore), Mrs. Goode Manners (California) and Mannerations  (New Jersey) and here’s what they had to say. 

Our Questions:

How would you define Etiquette?
How is etiquette tied to social skills?
Can kids who are teased or bullied also gain help with better etiquette?
What are some tips for parents to improve their kids’ manners?
Tell us about your classes and your approach?

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Q. How would you define Etiquette?

Manners in Mind: Etiquette is an agreed upon set of polite behavior in society. It's a way of smoothing interactions between people.

Mrs. Goode Manners: The best definition of etiquette is conducting your life in a way that you would want to be treated yourself. The “Golden Rule,” if you will.

Mannerations: Etiquette is a body of knowledge on how to behave that covers basic guidelines for behaving in a kind and respectful manner.The display of etiquette is good manners.

Q. How is etiquette tied to social skills?

Manners in Mind: Good social skills and etiquette are intertwined. When you teach your child to "play nicely" or share or say "please" and "thank you" you are teaching your child the very basics of age-appropriate etiquette and good social skills. Children with good social skills appear confident, composed and graceful in any environment, which leads to a positive outlook, less anxiety in a new situation, and the ability to make friends more easily.

Mrs. Goode Manners: Good manners and etiquette are the keys to having good social skills. Have you ever been in a situation which was just so awkward? Someone not looking into your eyes as they spoke to you? How about someone on their cell phone or  iTouch, texting away, or playing a game, as you tried to speak to them? If you are not mannerly, or do not exhibit good etiquette, no one will want to be around you.

Mannerations: Social skills and etiquette are like different circles in a venn diagram and when they intersect you have a more confident child. The end goal is for a child to have grace and confidence.

Q. Can kids who are teased or bullied also gain help with better etiquette/manners?

Manners in Mind: Yes and no. With bullying there are a lot of variables and children bully others for so many different reasons. What I can say is that if your child leads with kindness and politeness in a sincere way, your child will be less likely to offend someone or get into a confrontational situation.

Mrs. Goode Manners: My hope is to educate children young enough so that the bullying and teasing lessens.  Parents and caregivers need to inculcate the right values in their children such as being inclusive, to not walk around in cliques, or look down at someone who is different. That said, I think for the bullying victim, trying to build their self-esteem through better etiquette and manners may help mitigate some of the negatives.

Mannerations: It’s hard to bully a child who is confident and has good manners. Kids with good etiquette and manners are also those who typically know how to manage bullies. They can make conversation easily, are comfortable in different situations and hence are able to diffuse a difficult situation.

Q. What are some tips for parents to improve their kids’ manners?

Be a role model:  

Manners in Mind: Your kids will learn from your behavior. Treat people you encounter from waiters to grocery clerks to teachers to your child's playmates with kindness and respect. Your kids will soon learn how to treat people as well.

Mrs Goode Manners: Kids learn from their parents. It starts at home. If a child hears their parent gossiping and saying mean things about someone, the child will learn and think that is acceptable. If a mom or dad is on his/her Blackberry during dinner, or family time, the child will not understand why they cannot do the same. Parents need to look within their selves and acknowledge that they do things that might hinder their child from having good etiquette.

Mannerations : Kids pick up instantly what the parents are saying so it’s imperative for the parent to serve as a role model.  Treat your child with respect – it’s a two way street and very important so that they can treat others with the same respect.

Maximize Teaching Moments:

Manners in Mind: when your child has a misstep, I'm a believer in positive reinforcement as a way to make changes rather than punishment. Explain why their behavior is inappropriate, demonstrate what they should have done and then praise them the next time they do it right. And then, praise them again and again!

Mannerations : Find the positive in a tense situation and use it to reinforce a message  rather than punish. Use subtle techniques. For instance if your child is not looking at you when you’re talking don’t yell – just stop talking. They will soon get the message.

Repetition:

Mrs Goode Manners: It’s very important for a parent to teach by repetition. Maybe we beat ourselves up thinking why our kids don't listen to us or why they are eating like little animals!  But, if you continue teaching them at home, they will eventually know that when they are at someone else's home, they have the tools and, they have the confidence to eat properly. They need to remember to place napkins their laps, help to clear the table, and so on. I hear all of the time, that my boys have the best manners. I always laugh. I am glad they have them somewhere! But, at least I know that I taught them the foundation they needed.

Netiquette:

Manners in Mind: Kids today don't filter their interactions and are much more public in their thoughts and behavior than a few years ago. In a wired world, news of one's actions spread more quickly and further than ever before. The bottom line is, if you wouldn't do it in person, you shouldn't do it digitally. Whenever you interact online, you leave a digital fingerprint that is incredibly difficult to erase. A small transgression that might seem funny or clever at the time - a rude tweet or email or an inappropriate photo - lives on and on. Parents should explain from a young age that politeness should be practiced in every interaction all the time, no matter how small or in what context.

Observe what is around You:

Mannerations: Manners are a learned skill and doesn’t end with kids knowing when to say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’. Being polished is not innate to kids but can very easily be taught. Teach them to observe people around them and to pick up on instances where they have seen a display of good or bad manners. In fact, for some time you can even get them to note it down. It teaches them to be more aware in any situation and to learn from others.

Q. Tell us about your classes and your approach?

Manners in Mind (www.mannersinmind.com): Good etiquette and manners are important for everyone. Remember we are talking about everyday rules for politeness and kindness to make those around us feel comfortable and to give us confidence in every situation. Manners in Mind offers a variety of classes for both children and adults. These range from dining and table manners, to digital etiquette, to cultural sensitivity. We use age-appropriate techniques for children such as games, role playing, and hands-on demonstrations in a fun a low-pressure environment.

 Mrs Goode Manners (www.mrsgoodemanners.com): Mrs Goode Manners was founded when a group of us moms were sitting talking and wishing for a place to teach our kids basic manners. We weren’t looking for a place where they needed to be prepared for a Debutante Ball. We wanted the basics – the things that they don't take heed of when we correct them. In my classes, I teach both Social Skills and Table Manners. My approach is really to show them how to act in a casual environment. Everyone knows when we get dressed up or are going to a dressy and special event, we must use our best manners. I want to show the kids that must ALWAYS use some type of manners or etiquette whether we are at a casual play date, or at a family member's wedding.

Mannerations (www.mannerations.com): Etiquette is for everyone and not just for the rich. I teach disadvantaged children as well and can see that it cuts across all strata. It gives kids a sense of order which makes for more pleasant interactions in general. My classes are very casual – kids come dressed as they are and my aim is to teach them to respect others irrespective of how they are dressed. We do a lot of role playing and group exercises as part of the program. I offer one-day workshops on social etiquette to classes that are 4-8 weeks covering a range of topics such as net etiquette, dining, how to talk to adults, and sportsmanship.

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All great tips! So the next time you are despairing about the fact that your child is shoveling food into his mouth try using some of the above! And let us know what’s working for you in the comment space below.

Thanks to our Etiquette Gurus:

Kristen Graff - Manners in Mind, Singapore (www.mannersinmind.com)

Julie Goode - Mrs.Goode Manners, California (www.mrsgoodemanners.com)

Patti Manning – Mannerations, New Jersey (www.mannerations.com)

For more of our articles on parenting go to http://www.schoolsnmore.com/articles/search/category/126

Some fun books/DVDs on manners:

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