KIDS WITHOUT MANNERS - or parents who don’t know the difference?
Be the first to know!
Get the most exciting updates from NYMetroParents
Lyss Stern, founder of the New York City socializing and networking organization, Divalysscious Moms, says that, as a former teacher, she knows how important it is to teach manners at a very young age. She insists that her 2-year-old son, Jackson, says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Stern reports seeing a 5-year-old in a restaurant recently, spitting juice through a straw at his mother. The mother, who was on her cell phone, “did not bat an eye.” Stern says that if her son misbehaves at a restaurant, she immediately takes him outside. As she notes, “Children can never learn manners early enough!”
Kim D’Amato, owner of Priti, an organic spa in the East Village, is shocked by the bad language she overhears from kids on the street. D’Amato, who grew up in Australia, has noticed that kids as young as 12 curse loudly here, and adds that, “It is only in America that you hear kids being so rude.”
“Parents have to set a good example,” stresses Melissa Leonard. “When kids are very young, make sure they say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ for everything you give them.” Even if they can’t speak yet, Leonard suggests they make some sort of grunt to indicate thanks. “And if they don’t, don’t give the thing to them until they do,” she says.
Thank-you notes serve as a good model, even for the very young. In Leonard’s family, her daughters, ages 4 and 5, participate in the process: “I write the note, but I have them sign their names and draw a picture,” she says.
It helps to surround yourself with people who have similar values and to set rules when your kids go to play dates, Leonard advises, saying, “I tell other parents or caregivers: ‘My kids are not allowed to watch X, Y and Z.’” Afterwards, ask the adults if your kids behaved.
“Once you’ve established a firm foundation with young children,” she concludes, “you just add on more guidelines as they get older.”
SOME EVERYDAY SITUATIONS
Samantha von Sperling (SvS) teaches both one-on-one and group classes and seminars. We posed some common situations to the director of Polished/Social Image Consultants, NYC:
— Writing a thank-you note for something you don’t like SvS: It’s the same as writing a thank-you for something you do like! You include some detail about the gift; you find some redeeming quality. If grandmother sends a sweater the child doesn’t like, he or she can still say something like: ’Thank you for the blue sweater — blue is my favorite color!’ If it’s a toy that the child is not interested in, he or she can still say: ‘Thank you so much for the thoughtful gift. It was so kind of you to send me something for my birthday.’ Up till around age 13, parents really need to be involved in the writing of thank-you notes. After that, the child should be responsible for writing on their own.
— Pre-teens or teens who don’t want to attend family events SvS: This is an education in diplomacy. We all have to do things in this world that we don’t like. But kids need to know that family is important, whether we like them or not. Now, if you have a busy, overscheduled 17-year-old who is otherwise polite and needs the weekend to work on an important school assignment, that’s when the parent may be able to say okay. But to say, “No, I’m not going to my cousin’s wedding because I don’t like her” — that’s not acceptable.
— Kissing forceful relatives
SvS: Again, this is part of life — with family. Tell your child to stand there and take it.
— Refusing a playdate
SvS: There are two ways to handle this. You can always make another arrangement for you child at that time. Or, you have to sometimes be kind. Explain to your child that it’s important to find something you like in everyone, that what might not be important to us could very well be important to the other child. There is value in learning to broaden one’s social horizons. Plan the playdate so it doesn’t involve too much interaction.
— If your child breaks something in someone’s home
SvS: The parent should offer to replace the item, because the parent is responsible for their child’s actions. What worries me is this kind of thing happening in the first place. Of course, there are accidents — and some people don’t understand that they need to put away the Ming vase when a child visits!
— If your child doesn’t like the food at someone else’s house SvS: Part of the expectation of being a guest in someone else’s house is that you eat what is served to you, whether you like it or not. The child needs to be taught that when in someone else’s house, it’s not all about them (the child). They need to know that they should eat it — or at least take a few mouthfuls — because it can be very offensive to a host not to eat their food. This is aside from foods that are allergy-causing or restricted because of diet or religion — in these cases, the parent needs to relay the information to the hosts beforehand.
— If your child says something indiscreet or hurtful to someone SvS: Children need to learn not to do this. Even a small child of 4 or 5 can understand certain nuances of what is acceptable, what is social and what is anti-social — if it’s explained to them. We underestimate both the intellect and sensitivity level of small children, I think.
— When kids stare at people with a disability or deformity SvS: It needs to be explained to a child that it’s impolite to stare at people, period — before they come across a disabled person. Of course, it could still happen, as children are curious. In that case, the parent needs to explain that people are the same, despite disabilities.
— When kids try to interrupt while you’re on the phone SvS: A parent has to instill in a child: “I will listen to you, but not if you interrupt me.” Then you can’t give in! (Unless it’s a real emergency, of course!)
— Dealing with difficult moms SvS: If there’s a mother you just can’t get along with, you could volunteer to take both the children on an outing or playdate. Or, if you have to socialize with the other mother, try and make the time spent together less taxing. Suggest going to a children’s play, or the library, or to a Disney movie — an activity where the time is not spent just talking. Try to find a common ground for the sake of your children. Can you talk to the mom about her hobbies or interests, so you can try and connect and the children will be able to maintain their friendship?
— Teens who keep adults waiting
SvS: You can leave without them, once. They have to know that you mean what you say.
We overprotect our children in this country. If you want to create a capable adult, you have to let them cross the street by themselves at some point. You have to let them learn to handle themselves in the world. Remember: If you hold a child to high expectations, that’s what you’ll get!
LOCAL ETIQUETTE CLASSES — Samantha von Sperling, Polished: Social Image Consultants. (646) 644-4300; Samantha@socialimage.net; www.socialimage.net
— Melissa Leonard, Harrison. Etiquette consultant, kids' classes. (914) 844-1068; email@example.com; www.establishyourselfny.com
— Lyudmila Bloch, Etiquette classes for individuals and school groups. (212) 977-6804; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.etiquetteoutreach.com
— Sandra Morisset, Protocol Training Services. Social & dining etiquette workshops. (212) 802-9098; email@example.com — Joie Gregory, director, The Right Fork. (212) 665-5081; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.therightfork.com
JUDY ANTELL contributed to this article.