February 2011 — better manners

Matt and I have had several occasions recently where we’ve looked at each other and wondered where we went wrong. We have talented and charming children, but they have these “were you born in a barn?” moments that are embarrassing and disconcerting.

Good manners seem to come more easily to some children than others. Some of our children who are natural socializers have a much easier time knowing what’s appropriate in any given situation than some of our other children, who tend to be socially awkward. Maybe all of your children are in the first category (lucky you!), but we’ve realized that some of ours may need more specific instruction and lots of practice, accompanied by consistent reminders.

My plan for February is to talk about three or four principles each night with our kids (I’ve started making a list, and it is LONG!), adding to a big poster as we do so. Hopefully by the end of the month, we’ll be ready for a “fancy dinner” where we can all be on our best behavior!

A couple of other fun ideas: I found this website which has a list of Colonial Manners (it says they were transcribed by a young George Washington, but I can’t figure out if they were his ideas or if he was copying them from some other source). I’m going to help my older kids understand the archaic language, and discuss with them the ones which still apply (almost all).

And to kick things off, we’re going to have a mixed-up dinner. You know, where you give everyone a menu, written in code, and they have to choose 3-4 items for each course, and they end up eating spaghetti with a spoon, and having pepper with dessert? I think our kids are the perfect age to get a huge kick out of that, and it will be the perfect lead-in for a discussion of why there are mannerly ways of doing things, since everyone’s happier when they have a knife and a fork.

Y tú? Are manners something you’ve spent time thinking about, or do they just come naturally in your family? Do you have clever ideas for modeling and reminding kids about proper manners? A book I should read? A game we should play?

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4 thoughts on “February 2011 — better manners

  1. Kira Lambert

    ha! I love it. You’ll have to give us the scoop about how the dinner goes down. I’m sure it will be hilarious! Good luck. The only thing I think of when I think of manners is “constant vigilance” (that’s from mad-eye moody in Harry Potter, btw). I figure if I let it slide a few times the kids know. It sure is a lot of work for parents!

    Reply
  2. Robin

    You know, I always kind of thought that if I were a good example, my kids would just absorb good manners. Most of my kids are pretty good about saying please and thank you, but I think that’s about as far as it goes! I think we will actually have to start having some sort of formalized training here, lest my children become social pariahs.

    You know, if you think about it, they really are absorbing their manners from those around them, unfortunately, they are getting their examples from sarcastic TV shows and their equally ill-mannered friends. I have to say, thought, that Parley has these two friends who are brothers, and they have THE BEST manners I have ever seen! Every time they come over they call me Mrs. Lambert, and ask very politely if they can use the phone or have a drink of water or something. They’re not perfect (they still a good-sized mess when they leave), but it’s such a thrill to listen to a 12 year old boy with really good manners!

    Reply
  3. Jill

    Liz I absolutely love this idea! Between the manners and the fruits and veggies you have nailed some of my concerns with my kids lately. If I can get Ethan, Andrew and Sophie to try any food, let alone 27 times it will be a miracle!

    Reply

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