Is it only my observation or have manners largely gone by the wayside these days? Moreover, how many really well mannered children do we all know?
Okay, so I’m giving away my northern location because generally, the kids I know from the South could teach the northern ones quite a bit when it comes to manners. However, It follows that if many adults aren’t too familiar or interested in basic etiquette, then their children won’t be either.
Are you tired of rude children in restaurants, airplanes, theaters and the like? Do you cringe when your favorite child rips opens your thoughtfully chosen gift with little notice of you or a thanks for the gesture?
Fear not. For those of you who long for a more mannered world, Sheryl Eberly has created the book, 365 Manners Kids Should Know: Games, Activities, and Other Fun Ways to Help Children Learn Etiquette. It’s pure Genius. Has anyone attempted this before? If this kind of book has been offered in the past, it unlikely covered the extensive topics that Ms. Eberly offers. In this information-packed book, the author, a former employee of First Lady Nancy Reagan (well, no wonder – that explains some of her expertise), tackles every sticky etiquette scenario one could ponder.
Ms. Eberly’s advice roams near and far.
- Anticipating the needs of others
- Neighborly manners, sloppy language
- Active listening
- Writing letters with care
- Everyday table manners
- Dress appropriately for the occasion
- The valued teammate
- Be a model American
- Be considerate to people with special needs
And my favorite, Environmental Manners, because “taking care of the environment is everybody’s responsibility.”
She also demystifies “netiquette,” (net etiquette) museum, travel, restaurant, wedding and even funeral behavior. In doing so she goes a step further by breaking down the important details of religious holidays and ceremonies in every denomination. Not sure how children should act at a Ramadan or Kwanza celebration or at a Mormon wedding? She has all the answers. It’s clearly as much for the parents’ education as for their offspring.
Good manners, the author advises should begin at the onset of a child’s birth and “involve more than simply knowing the rules about forks and finger bowls in formal situations – they include good attitudes, respect, and consideration for others every day. If we want our children to be confident, poised adults, we need to teach them the rules of etiquette today. Knowing proper behavior is an essential part of being prepared for life.”
The book is informative, never preachy, and a great gift for parents (their children will thank you years from now, or maybe sooner if the lessons are well learned). The only question is how do we give this book without offending parents, without them thinking we’re suggesting their kids are ill-behaved? You’ll have to figure that out. In the meantime I’m passing it around to all my favorite parents. Thank you, Ms. Eberly, from the non-parents of the world.
“Where do your idle hands go while eating in America?” I quickly quiz my nephews on a regular basis.
“On your lap,” they sullenly respond. They’ve been through this before.
“And what if you’re in France?” I fire back.
“Wrists resting on edge of the table, fingers off” they dutifully retort. They are half German and part French so I have always found it important for them to distinguish manners in different cultures.
“What about your hands in Africa?” A harder question they don’t get asked as often, but they find the answer.
“The left hand never touches food, especially communal food. It’s reserved for the bathroom.”
Do they need to know this? Well, maybe if they live in Africa like me one day, or if they visit there, they will not offend. I am proud. At least their table manners are well rehearsed, but I have more work to do.
“Why do we need to know this?” they will occasionally ask.
“Because good manners are important and because you will dine with Presidents and Heads of State some day,” I proclaim. “Do you want to be forever embarrassed because you ate with the wrong fork?” They are not convinced but oblige their silly aunt nonetheless.
“How do you know we’ll ever meet Presidents?” they ask.
“Oh, I know these things.” And we leave it at that.
I suppose this book was just destined to find me.