Why Good Manners Matter

“…the principle of civil reciprocity is a solid one, for which reason it is occasion for total, staggering dismay that it appears to be on its way out.” Lynne Truss fumes in her wonderfully, hotheaded bestseller, Talk to the Hand  #?*! The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay at Home and Bolt the Door.

 

“Shut up Mom!” hollers a three year old from her perch in the grocery cart. “Is this all there is?” a six year old questions, as he unhappily chooses a lollipop from the reward bag his teacher has just handed him. “I was going to invite my friend Jordan, but he couldn’t make it, so I had to invite you…” laments a 13 year old boy to a classmate, as he chews an enormous bite of a sandwich…with his mouth open…

 

“I don’t want to prepare her for a cotillion, maybe I could just get her to look up at me and stop ‘texting’ for a moment, when I ask her about her day?” says the dad of sixth grade Stephanie.

 

People are mourning the loss of etiquette. The search term that brings the highest number of people to my parenting blog, day after day, year after year is “children’s manners”. Parents want their children to be well mannered and they themselves would like to be treated with dignity and respect…maybe even a little deference.

 

Kids are kids and expected to say outrageous things from time to time. The days of “children should be seen and not heard” are long gone. However, children need to be trained to not only place their napkins in their laps, but to be aware that they are members of a large global society. As the credit card commercial says, “Membership has its privileges”. Membership also has its responsibilities, the biggest responsibility, valuing the other members.

 

If kids aren’t displaying good manners, it is not a big stretch to assume that parents aren’t teaching and/or modeling good manners. A father, who demonstrates boorish manners, gives the green light to his child to use boorish manners; dad might even think it is funny when his child acts out in public. The problem is we (instructors, teachers, coaches, admissions officers, and bosses) don’t find the child’s behavior funny, and we (instructors, teachers, coaches, admissions officers, and bosses) quickly pass him over. Sadly, the ill-mannered child never had a chance; his father chose his behavior, and the consequences of that behavior, for him.

 

Why aren’t parents teaching manners if they would like their children to use good manners, and they know that their children must exhibit good manners to succeed?

 

It does seem, from the many parents that I interview, that parents today are not too keen on being the “bad guys” to their children. Parents want their children to have manners, but cringe at correcting their children’s bad behavior. “I hate to come home from work after not seeing my kids all day and have to start disciplining their behavior; I would rather just goof around with them.”

 

Other parents didn’t receive manners training themselves, so teaching manners to their children is not an option. “I feel at a huge disadvantage. I wasn’t taught manners as a child and I am very uncomfortable in certain social situations. I struggle at business events because, I hate to admit it, I don’t have a lot of tact, sometimes, I inadvertently blurt out some inane and completely inappropriate comment.  I just do not even know where to begin to teach him a better way to behave.”

 

It is not uncommon to hear parents today say that their children are “gifted”, “brilliant”, “testing for genius”, or possessing “perfect pitch”. Perhaps these parents are so busy pointing out the great, it is difficult to see the not-so-great? Maybe these parents are fearful if they say anything deemed negative or judgmental, they will damage their children’s psyches? Maybe pointing out a child’s “not-so-great” behavior makes the parent look “not-so-great”?

 

Many people hypothesize the reasons behind (per the sub-title in Lynn Truss’ book), “The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today.” Maybe the trend is a consequence of high divorce rates, increasing single parent homes, the great number of two working parents, political correctness, video games, The Media, The Internet, the pornification of society…maybe a combination of the list? But is the question even relevant? None of these “possible causes” are going away any time soon.

 

So it becomes our job as parents to accept the culture as it is today, and teach our children good manners. Arming our children with manners and values allows them the opportunity to make good choices when faced with the curve balls, “the world” will inevitably throw at them.

 

Respecting and valuing others, developing high integrity and making others feel at ease, are probably the key reasons that society practices good manners. Manners put us at ease with those people that we know. Manners make us feel safe around complete strangers.

 

It would be anxiety provoking, to say the least, if there were no rules of social etiquette. What if, when browsing through a dress rack at the mall, it was perfectly acceptable for the stranger browsing alongside us, coveting the discounted blouse we got to first, to pop us one in the jaw and wrestle us to the floor for the garment? How often would we go to the mall?

 

It is okay that social standards have relaxed over the past 75 years. Rigidity and strict rules don’t fit today’s world. Pinafores, cotillions, white gloves, dessert spoons, sipping tea from the saucer, and pillbox hats seem out of place in most social circles. But the basic tenets of etiquette still hold strong and true.

 

Proper table manners, pleasant conversational skills, appropriate dress and the use of tact are social graces that make interacting with others easy and agreeable. Etiquette rules that embrace the goals of respecting and valuing others, having high integrity and putting others at ease, make living side by side easy. It is hard to argue the merit of good etiquette.

 

Fail to teach children manners and fail them. Without proper manners training, children will run into awkward situations as they mature that will probably limit their options for success. We want our kids to be participatory members of a thriving and exciting, civil society. The last thing that parents want for their children is for them to have to “Stay home and bolt the door.”

 

 

 

 

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The Time is NOW to Teach Kids Good Manners

Moms from all over the world, and especially here in the USA, contact me every day to share their concerns about raising kids. One of the biggest issues, I am asked about, is children’s manners and respect. Moms everywhere are concerned about their kids learning table manners, communication skills, sharing, and all of the basic social courtesies that create a civil society…they are worried that as a society we are doing away with everyday etiquette.
So many etiquette challenges…For instance, teachers voice their frustration with kids who interrupt class without raising their hands. Moms complain about table manners, use (or non-use) of “please” and “thank you”, challenges kids have entering conversations, and lack of tact when a child doesn’t like something or when another child makes a mistake. Kids are kids, and nobody wants to do anything to break their wonderful spirits or sap their energy. At the same time, many parents and teachers wish there was a fun and easy way to instill the basics of etiquette, manners, respect for others — all in an engaging way that kids actually enjoy and that lets them express their natural creativity and “kid-ness”.

You asked for it so we created a solution: An engaging and simple system to teach kids etiquette, manners and respect

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If you want to make a difference and lay a foundation of success for your children and the children in your community, please visit Etiquette Moms now. Before you know it, you could have a wonderful new way of earning extra income and spending time with your kids.

 

 

 

 

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Family Time Should Not Include Video Games

As the mom of two little boys and the designer and manufacturer of a line of games, toys and parenting tools I have a unique perspective on children’s toys, games, and products. I also have attended Toy Fair every year in New York where all of the new toys are introduced to the trade before they hit the stores.

I am pro toy. I love creative board games, building blocks, puppets, books, puzzles, science projects, sports equipment and crafts. I seek toys, products and games that engage, challenge, educate, encourage movement and that are fun. I especially love toys that encourage family time. And am thrilled when a birthday invitation arrives and I get to take my kids to a toy store to buy a gift.

Unlike the average lay person who strolls the toy aisles with casual interest, I painstakingly study each shelf, taking detailed notes about the designs, age appropriateness, quality of packaging, attention to detail, and overall toy concept. “What is the mark up on this item?” “Did the manufacturer have an inspector in the manufacturing plant assuring the use of safe products?” “How much damage is this wasteful packaging going to do to the planet in my child’s lifetime?” “What kind of a hit is this toy maker going to take when smart and thoughtful moms and dads say, ‘No Way!’ to this doll that looks like a prostitute?”

I ask myself questions with my mom hat on, “Would a child lose interest after 15 minutes and leave this toy discarded on the family room floor?” and “How many pieces will get sucked up in the vacuum, roll under the couch, get eaten by the dog, or get flushed down the potty while dinner is being prepared?…Will it be fun for mom and dad to play too?”

I make it a point to get children’s perspectives on toys. I teach Tae Kwon Do to a wide age range of children and interrogate them after class about their varying interests. I volunteer in my six year old child’s classroom very often and have in-depth discussions with the children about what they enjoy doing and playing with and I get down on the floor and play with my three year old and his friends and watch them delight over things that roll.

A recurring theme repeats itself over and over to me, “Will you play with me?” “Watch me do this!” “Mom, check this out, check this out!” “Do you want me to make one for you?” “I am going to dress up as a pirate; can you dress up as Wonder Woman!” The resounding theme is: be with me, play with me, connect with me, and share yourself with me!

As I hear the welcoming and joyful invitations to play from the many kids I have the honor and privilege of being around, I can’t believe the rotten choices we are given in retail stores for juvenile products.

Of all the choices, I find video games to be the most rotten and scary. Children are begging us to give them our time and attention, and we are handing them insipid tech toys that isolate them from us, their siblings and their peers. As if it weren’t bad enough to immobilize a child in front of the television or computer at home for hour after hour, manufacturers have scaled the units down so that kids can play video games in the car, instead of speaking with us; play video games on the playground, instead of hanging on the monkey bars; and even play video games at the dinner table, instead of eating with the family.

Video games, computer games, DVD players and ipods discourage face to face interaction, requiring the user to stare sedately at a screen, or tune people out with earphones. These devices also discourage creativity, imagination and activity. We have all heard the frightening reports of increasing childhood obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes; however we continue to offer toy choices that limit mobility.

There isn’t a lack of creative toy design. There are many wildly clever toy designers that figure ingenuity, originality and inventiveness into their products. The problem is lack of interest from the masses. Small toy stores that once offered interesting choices have been pushed out by the enormous box stores that, due to their large size, can offer toys at lower prices. The risk is too high for most independent manufacturers to sell to the box stores. For instance, if a box store orders a huge amount, 100,000 units perhaps, and those units don’t sell, the small manufacturer is often required to buy back the inventory, and can be bankrupted with one terrible phone call. The result: kids get slim pickings. Video games sell, so stores offer more and more video games.

With envy, I have watched children burst out of classrooms into the sunlight and run screaming onto the playground desperate to blow off their pent up energy. I try to remember what it feels like to want to run until I fall down. It has been my pleasure to work side by side with kids for hours as they enthusiastically learn how to tie dye t-shirts, make soap, knead dough, construct cities with blocks, and kick or punch through boards. I marvel at their creative energy, their willingness to take on new things, and their social ease and intelligence. After years of teaching kids, I have never had a single child say to me, “I think that instead of cracking these eggs into this cake batter we are making together, I would rather play a video game, alone, in my room.”

After watching kids playing merrily on the playground or grinning from ear to ear as they run all day on a beach, how could any parent opt to instead sit their children in front of a television for hours of passive, inactive, button pushing. If I were a kid and I knew everything that I know now, I would revolt.

I guess it is our job, as caring, loving parents, to revolt for them.

Let’s stand up for our children’s right to actively experience childhood, and stop handing them devices that discourage running, jumping, imagining, reading, growing, learning, and moving? Let’s encourage face to face interaction and give our kids the attention that they need and crave and that we promised them the first time we held them. Let’s limit the amount of video monitors that we expose our children to, in favor of games, toys and crafts that appeal to their energized, smart, clever and funny nature. Let’s choose to put down what we are doing in favor of being with our kids. There will be plenty of time to do what we want when we blink and our kids are grown.