Photograph by Carl Tremblay
Despite what your kids might think, the point of manners is not to provide parents with opportunities to scold everybody. "Manners help us get along with one another--they're about treating others well and being treated well ourselves," explains Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily, and co-author of Emily Post's Etiquette, 18th edition.
Faye de Muyshondt, manners coach and author of socialsklz:-) for Success: How to Give Your Children the Tools to Thrive in the Modern World, agrees. "Good manners can make your life more happy and more fun," she tells her students, "and with good manners, you often have more friends, and you hear more yeses than nos."
Certainly, a polite response may come more easily when it's "Thank you for the Lego castle" than when it's "Thank you for the itchy brown sweater vest." But good habits can be learned for any situation. As Post explains, "Kids inherently understand consideration, respect, and honesty, which are the principles of etiquette."
But can etiquette be fun? Faye de Muyshondt thinks so, which is why we're sharing her tried-and-tested activities here--ones that go beyond the classic "Mother, may I?" into games, crafts, and lots and lots of role-playing. So read on for giggle-inducing ways to have a great time teaching good manners. You're welcome!
What is it about the simple act of meeting and greeting that turns children skittish, as if they're more likely to pick your pockets than say hello? Lizzie Post knows: "Poor kids! We say, 'Don't talk to strangers.' But then we're constantly asking them to talk to new people." Indeed. Yet, as Faye de Muyshondt points out, "Your child is going to make thousands of first impressions. Teaching him that skill? What a great return on your time."
Throw a pretend party (set the mood with candles or balloons) and invite the guests of honor: your kids. Have them ring the doorbell, and encourage them to use these techniques to make their very best first impression: eye contact, a warm smile, a firm handshake, and a polite introduction or greeting, such as "It's nice to meet you" or "Thank you so much for having me." Or role-play how it feels when someone you're greeting looks at their shoes. (Spoiler alert: it feels bad.)