Top Etiquette Tips for Children

Follow these simple steps to ensure manners and etiquette are not a lost art in your home.

There are many things a parent would hope to pass onto their children. But aside from their engagement ring, a distant cousins gold watch and possibly that dodgy, frayed sofa - etiquette and manners may just be the greatest non-tangible gift to take them from childhood to adulthood.

So, what is the difference between etiquette and manners?

Etiquette: This is a set of rules various parts of the world follow, which are noted as the ‘proper’ way to do something. For example, using your knives and forks for different types of food, or opening the door for someone. These are universal signs of good etiquette, which make daily life and society more polite and pleasurable.

Manners: Manners are what you do in a specific way to be polite and courteous. For example, this could be saying please and thank you during interactions with others or looking someone in the eye the entire time you are engaged in a conversation with them.

Now, have a think about how much of either of the above applies in your family today. Especially between you and your children, and your children with each other. According to Marina Passalaris, founder and author of ‘Beautiful Minds’, possibly not much at all.

“Once upon a time when we used to find balance between work, family and play, dinning with the family was a nightly ritual,” she says. “It was a time to share stories, get to bond as a family unit and rules of etiquette were passed on from generation to generation,” she recounts. During that time, etiquette was not simply about the correct cutlery to use, but courtesy at its most basic level, she explains. “It was about considering the people around you,” she says.

Although many may lament the passing of such daily politeness, Marina is confident that etiquette is in fact not a lost art. “We are living in a world where we are so focused on technology and basic etiquette skills are being lost. However,” she continues, “it is up to us as individuals to pass etiquette and manners onto our children.”

Here are Marina’s simple steps for ensuring manners and etiquette is not a lost art in your home.

o Etiquette can be taught at any stage of life, but the earlier the better,” she says. However, if you child is nearing school age or teen-age, don’t give up. All is not lost and it’s a matter of breaking bad habits right this minute, and instilling new ones. “This will take about three weeks continually,” summarizes Marina.

o To get started on basic manners – with children of any age – start with always insisting on ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’, always encouraging and reminding children to make eye contact when they speak and are spoken to, and smile – so that they will follow suit. “It’s free and is the easiest ay to make others feel at ease with you,” Marina explains.

o Don’t blame children for bad manners if you have exhibited them yourself. “Parents set the standard of what their children do and how their children behave,” says Marina. “Yes, our kids are influenced by their peers but at the end of the day, its up to the parents as to whether this behavior continuous or not.”

o Be the role model. Don’t enforce anything that you as a parent are not following through on. “Lead by example and your children will follow.” That means no technology for you at the table, if it’s not ok for them!

o Invest in etiquette. It is a tool your children will take through their entire life, says Marina, and one that generates even greater gifts within them as adults. Manners and etiquette build social skills in young people, which convert into confidence and positive image. This then makes the transition from child, to teenager, the professional, adult world - and relations within it - less daunting. “Manners and etiquette are essential for professional success,” she summarizes.

o Make good habits, daily habits, urges Marina. “Don't reserve your best behavior for special occasions. You can't have two sets of manners and two social codes - one for those you admire and want to impress, another for those whom you consider unimportant,” she says

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