Outsourcing Manners
November 5, 2009 · Posted in Discipline, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Spoiling · Permalink

table+mannersA business card tacked on to the bulletin board at the pediatrician’s office advertises a new service: classes for children and manners. Surely you have to admire the entrepeneurial spirit of this business person, but is this service necessary?  Are we really at a time where we need to hire people to teach our children basic manners? Can’t we do this one ourselves? Teaching manners is on the parental job description.

In the eighties and nineties, parenting advice was so focused on the child’s needs that some specialists suggested that making your children say they were sorry when they didn’t authentically feel sorry was incorrect. Manners were seen by many as old-fashioned and rigid, not to be imposed. Fast forward to today.  Pick up any parenting magazine (the two that are left), and you will see an article every month about how to raise children that are not so entitled, disrespectful and unmannerly. I guess that old way of thinking didn’t really work out too well.

Social graces that were deemed sexist in the seventies and beyond, like holding a door open for a woman or giving up your seat were banished. Couldn’t we just have mandated everyone do it for each other to eliminate the sexism quality but keep the graciousness?  Now you can’t find a good feminist who doesn’t also say chivalry is dead with wistfulness.

Manners: “please”, “thank you”, “excuse me”, “I’m sorry”, “let me get that for you”, “after you”, are the lubricants of civilized social interaction. They are kind, respectful and much appreciated habits that we must teach our children by basically drilling them into their heads for years.  It is a parents job to remind, prompt, model and teach these nicities over and over and over again until they become automatic. This takes years. Kids will eventually learn these manners and will be able to to use them in public, in school, at a friend’s house.  With you, unfortunately it will take the longest and rudeness will die the hardest, becuase you are the parent. That’s on your job description too.

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  1. Liz
    November 12th, 2009 | 4:18 pm

    Many parents desperately need a reminder that this is THEIR job. Whenever I see manner-less children it immediately reflects on the parent.

  2. November 20th, 2009 | 6:25 pm

    Funny how I came across this, while just perusing your site. I have a feeling you saw my postcard, socialsklz:-) manners for the modern world. At New York City’s most competitive private schools, tiny five-year-olds are put through rigorous admissions interviews. The schools contend that a child who can share with playmates, take turns with friends and use an adult’s “magic” words like “please” and “thank you” during an admissions interview is more likely to succeed later in life. What is astounding, however, is that these same schools years later will send these now barely adult graduates to renowned colleges and universities without the social skills they will sorely need, skills that are easily taught and profitably put to use. These are lessons in manners, etiquette and social diplomacy that will set youngsters apart as they head off to their first job interviews –and sadly many parents fail to equip their children with these lessons.
    As an adjunct professor of communications at New York University, I teach a class to college students entitled, “The Brand Called You. “ Topics include the overuse of words like, um , y’ know and, yes like,; greetings and introductions; appropriate attire for business and non-business encounters in life; body language; managing reputation when using social media; respect for yourself and others; technology etiquette and, most of all, the importance of taking pride in what you do. The class ends with each student giving a 30 second “elevator speech,” or an overview of an idea for a product, service, or project. The name reflects the fact that an elevator pitch should be possible to deliver in the time span of an elevator ride, meaning in a maximum of 30 seconds and in 130 words or fewer.
    This valuable lesson led me to see how empowering it might be for even younger students to learn these principles and I quickly realized that social skills should be taught much earlier in life. To that end, last year I began volunteering social-skills classes to students from New York public schools, such as PS 140, AGL and Booker T. Washington in addition to organizations including the YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Girl Scouts of America. Rather than manners and etiquette classes featuring white gloves and pinkies held up at high tea, I teach the same basic manners and etiquette workshops for the real world that I teach to college students at NYU, with a few changes. For example, I teach greetings and introductions, the art of conversation and reputation management online to both groups, but during children’s programs we focus more on the basics like eye contact, positive behavior and addressing adults. What is clear, though, is that youngsters as young as age 4 not only open up socially, but gain confidence and self-esteem with these tools.

    Dr. Barbara Howard, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and an expert on behavior and development, once said that, “Social skills are necessary for school success; they affect how you do on the playground, in the classroom, in the workplace.” As an instructor both at the university level and at socialsklz:-) manners for the modern world, I see firsthand that some of the finest lessons that parents and guardians can teach their children are good manners, etiquette and a solid set of social skills. We can fill up any child’s schedule with activities and programs, but they must be able to apply those skills in a social setting.
    The earlier we begin instilling these lessons, the more empowered and self-confident our children will be and, ultimately, the more peaceful our world will be.

  3. November 21st, 2009 | 12:17 pm

    Dear Faye,
    We did post the whole comment because it was so interesting. If you would like us to put up you edited comments we would be happy to-but we were very interested in your comment. Thanks for reading!

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