Thursday, July 16, 2009

Good Manners Examined

With my manners class, as with all my classes, I am always hopeful that the the skills learned during our lessons will be reviewed and cultivated at home. As skills are taught, they can only become habits if we practice them. As I prepared for the manners class this week, I was reminded how important it is to teach our children good manners. Etiquette does include, of course, learning good table manners...which fork to use for each course served at a fine restaurant...but it is so much more than that.

Ultimately, using good manners is a way for us to show kindness to others by exhibiting thoughtful behavior. When we say please and thank you, we are expressing the gratitude that exists in our hearts. Practicing good habits in order for them to become habits in our lives does not reduce them to rote memorization. Instead, I think that the kindness we show through our manners can lead our hearts to be more in tune with people's needs, helping us to think about how our actions can affect those around us.

Consider the simple acts of human interaction...meeting someone for the first time, sitting down to meals with family and friends, waiting in line at the grocery store or in a crowded airport...all these moments are more pleasant when we are considerate. When we smile, look people in the eyes, speak clearly, wait patiently and listen without interruption, we are showing others that we care about them.

Why not take some time this summer, when our schedules are slower and the hot days of summer cause us to flee indoors, to learn about and then practice manners together as a family. I have a list below of table manners to help you get started, but consider other everyday manners like making introductions, writing thank you notes and letters, eating out and traveling, or even visiting the sick or elderly.

We have been working with our children on interacting with adults from making introductions to responding to teachers and neighbors with confidence and respect. We noticed the differences in teenagers whose parents worked on these issues, how they not only seemed kinder and more respectful, but also older and more confident. We desire to cultivate those good habits in our own children. We hope to give our children positive instruction that develops character and confidence, which aids their growth into mature and productive adults. And though our family is a work in progress, with stressful days, tears and confessions (Mom included), I am hopeful that these little lessons will take root in their hearts and one day, if God allows, to partake in its sweet fruition.

Starting with the Table!
Arrive at the table with clean hands and face.
Leave toys, books, and pets behind.
When you sit down, place the napkin in your lap.
Sit up straight and stay seated.
Ask politely for dishes to be passed. Never reach across the table. Say “Please” and “Thank you.”
Wait until everyone is seated and served before starting to eat. If grace is said, wait to eat until it is completed. Don't giggle during grace.
Keep your elbows off table.
Never chew with your mouth open.
Never talk with a mouth full of food.
Use utensils quietly without banging them on the table or plate. You should place your knife softly on the edge of the plate when not in use.
Don’t criticize the food.
Talk with everyone.
Keep your knife out of your mouth.
Never play with your food.
Never grab food from other people's plates.
Ask politely for seconds if you want them.
Ask to be excused from the table.
Clear your plate from the table and take it into the kitchen.

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