The Three Keys to Parenting a Polite Child

The Three Keys to Parenting a Polite Child

From Cyndee S. Harrison

In my work as an etiquette instructor, I enjoy sharing parenting tips and techniques which can be easily integrated into even the busiest family's schedule. Here are the three most essential keys to helping ensure your child will grow into a polite adult:

1. PROVIDE REGULAR OPPORTUNITIES TO PRACTICE. One of the biggest pitfalls to mastering etiquette for folks of any age is that we are often very intimidated by what we perceive to be the formality of it all. When faced with an occasion at which our best manners are an expectation, we can often feel uncomfortable. The easiest way to ensure that our children are at ease in a wide variety of social situations is to practice in a relaxed, comfortable setting. Proper table etiquette, carrying on a conversation with adults, and introducing oneself are all skills which must be taught and practiced repeatedly. No one would suggest that you eat off of the best china every evening...but then again, how can they remember to pull out the chair for Grandma if they've only been taught how to do so in the minivan on the way to her house? Make a conscious effort to sit your family down around a properly set table at least once a week...the benefits reach far beyond remembering where the fork is placed! Teach and talk about the expectations of your family...and society as a whole: using kind words, proper telephone use, introductions and handshakes, body language, responsibility, etc. Just remember, Practice makes Polite!

2. MODELING, MODELING, MODELING: In order for our children to develop the values which are essential to being a truly courteous, they must see people whom they respect and admire exhibit these same kind qualities to others. Patriotism, respect for the aged, work ethic, and a general sense of gratitude are just some of the things that children can learn by seeing from adults. And while none of us want to act like a finishing school matron all of the time, it is important that we help children see the benefits of polite behavior by demonstrating them in the things we say and do. Limit exposure to television and media (did you see the 'Best Burp' award on Nick?) influences which are incongruent to your own beliefs and values and help children understand that behaviors that may be acceptable to some families or groups are simply not OK in your own.

3. A READY REFERENCE ON THE FAMILY BOOKSHELF: One of my favorite things to do is shop estate sales. It's an odd sensation to go through so many of the personal effects of a complete stranger, often after they have grown old and died or retired to a nursing home, but it's a fascinating look at the way other people live. One of my first destinations is always the bookshelf and I can honestly say that there is almost ALWAYS a well worn etiquette book in the collection. I often hear people muse about the superior manners of earlier generations. I for one believe that we aren't necessarily less polite, but we are definitely less informed. Think of the topics which are important to your you have books on these issues? I can remember many homes from my childhood which had a Bible on the coffee table. More than just a decorating trend of the 70's, this was an outward and visible demonstration of that family's religious beliefs. If you're serious about the business of helping your family gain more of an appreciation of polite behavior, you MUST have a reliable reference book on the topic which is readily available to them. The courses of 'A Little Grace and Charm' always include such texts and I can happily recommend a long list of great resources.

About the Author:

Cyndee S. Harrison is a veteran teacher, mother of three, and etiquette instructor. Her business, The Tea Party Company, was established in 1999. She is dedicated to providing children and their families memorable, meaningful activities that both educate and entertain. Visit Miss Camellia's Tea Society Here or sign up for her free newsletter by visiting here.


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