While it’s true that proper manners can take a lifetime to learn (or is that just us?), Etiquette Empowerment founder Patty Hughson teaches a local four-week course in the foundations of table manners and polite interaction to young adults. But because attention spans are fickle things, we asked her to distill it down even further and provide us with some basics for kids to practice this holiday season. As Hughson says, “Etiquette isn’t about rules. It’s about getting along in the world with kindness, grace, generosity and gratitude.” That’s a good reminder at any age.
At dinnertime, kids should practice these guidelines:
- Begin and end meal with the napkin.
- Chew with your mouth closed.
- Say please and thank you.
- Salt and pepper are passed together.
- Say thank you to the cook.
- Before leaving table ask to be excused.
- No slouching, no squirming, no elbows on the table.
- Clear the table.
Have your child come up with 10 open-ended questions for dinner or social events on topics such as school, movies, sports, TV, etc. Teach her how an inside voice sounds versus the outside one, and which is appropriate. Show by example how to engage your child in conversation to make sure no one is ignored. Don’t forget eye contact; it is extremely important.
Giving and receiving
Ask your child what gift he would like to give from the heart and to whom, so that it would make someone’s life better or easier. It’s all about kindness and helping out others in need. This is the special time of year to give back.
- The art of handshaking, says Patty Hughson, can be practiced daily. Here are a few tips to give to your kids (or to brush up on).
- Right hand to right hand.
- Firm grip: “Not a bone-crusher, not a limp fish,” Hughson says.
- Two to three pumps is all it takes.