Teaching kids manners
Just in time for those holiday thank-you notes and dinners at Grandma's house, a book lands on my desk called Soup Should Be Seen, Not Heard! a book of manners. The spiral-bound flip book is aimed at kids ages 4 and up, not parents, and there are illustrations on every page and a light touch.
It starts off with the basics, the Golden Rule, saying please and thank you. Then it delves into more precise coaching. How to introduce yourself, how to introduce others, "Mrs. Smith, this is my friend Emily."
There are chapters on telephone etiquette, dinnerware, writing messages, proper attire and my favorite: points of politeness in public places ("Do not kick, tap or push the seat in front of you").
We adults forget sometimes because it seems obvious but children do have to literally be taught such obvious things as look, but don't touch, treat public property with respect, how to ride an elevator without being obnoxious and how to behave in a movie theater.
I like the idea of a book aimed at kids instead of parents. This is the kind of lesson, the book notes, that needs to be internalized and most of all needs to be practiced everywhere -- at home, in the neighborhood, at school and even "in other galaxies" next to a cute picture of an astronaut saying "Please take me to your leader," to a two-headed space alien who thinks, "Seems like a nice guy."
The back of the book also offers parents and teachers a starting point for conversations about various points of etiquette and a curriculum guide. Because the most important part of etiquette and manners is to actually talk about it and about why it's important because, as the book ends, "When you use good manners, people like to be around you."
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne