Helping kids understand etiquette and how to be polite in social situations goes way beyond knowing what fork to use at a nice restaurant.
“Etiquette is about feeling comfortable and knowing what’s expected,” explains Colleen Harding, founder of the Cleveland School of Etiquette and Corporate Protocol. “When kids know how to act and how to carry themselves they have this confidence about them — they feel prepared and they’re not as scared in new situations.”
Manners, Harding believes, are less about a set of rules and more about developing an attitude of respect toward others.
Making a Good First Impression
Kids are often shy about introducing themselves, especially to adults. Practice with your child how to meet and greet a new person.
First, let them know that when they meet an adult they should say something along the lines of, “Hello, Mrs. Smith or Mr. Jones, my name is Suzie, thanks for having me over for dinner tonight.” Young children might have fun acting out these types of introductions.
For tweens and teens, remind them to look at the person when they’re greeting them, too.
A good, solid handshake never goes out of style. But how — and when — do you teach children how to properly shake hands when greeting someone? Harding says the earlier you start teaching children how to shake hands the better.
“When starting out, the posture, grip and eye contact are the most important,” she says. “You always stand up straight, look a person in the eyes and give a firm grip. You introduce yourself and include, ‘It’s nice to meet you,’ after the other person introduces themselves.’”
Learning Table Manners
One of the top reasons parents call Cathi R. Fallon, from the Etiquette Institute based in Columbus, is because they’re concerned about their kids’ etiquette at dinner.
She reviews with the kids in her classes that they should place napkins on their laps and keep elbows — and other body parts — off the table. When it comes to eating, kids need to know to keep their mouths closed while they’re chewing and not talk until they’ve swallowed their food.
Fallon also advises kids,“Don’t say, ‘Oh yuck.’ If you don’t like something, you can say ‘No, thank you.’”
To hone your kids’ skills you might break out the nice plates at home and plan a formal dinner where they can be on their best behavior during the meal.
Being a Good Guest — and Host or Hostess
When your child has someone over, his or her goal should be to make the guest feel comfortable. That can be as simple as having your child ask what the other person wants to do. Even younger children can be taught to ask questions like these during play dates, Harding says. “Keep planting the seed that your child should be thinking about the other person and it will become a habit.”
On the flipside, when your child is a guest in someone else’s home they should be willing to share — whether it’s taking turns with toys or picking a TV show to watch.
Flu Etiquette Reminders
With the intense flu season approaching, we must remember the simple gestures that show we have good manners, according to Catherine Holloway, an etiquette consultant in Cleveland. These are gestures that will keep us healthier through flu season as we put our best foot forward.
She provides the following seven tips:
1. Cover your mouth when coughing
2. Turning your head when sneezing and coughing.
3. Air kisses replace actual cheek kisses.
4. Good eye contact replaces the handshake.
5. Washing your hands before and after you eat.
6. Carry extra tissues in your briefcase/purse.
7. Beware of your personal space and others
Considering Tech Etiquette
As kids become more tech savvy there’s a need to remind them how manners come into play.
“We’re seeing a big problem with children who are so engrossed in their iPads or cell phones that they’re losing good speaking skills,” Fallon says.
She says it’s importance to have face-to-face conversations and that when talking to someone, avoid answering texts or calls.
Good manners are not only appreciated by adults, but are also a great way to help children feel more comfortable and confident in social situations.