Courteous kids: 6 tips for making etiquette practice easy

Photos courtesy Red Stick Refinement.

Whether we’re ready for it or not, the season of holiday parties, friends-givings and meals at the in-laws is fast approaching. And yes, table settings, food and drink all contribute to a successful get-together, but according to my mother, there is no better feeling than when your kids are the best behaved at the party. And thanks to the popularity of cotillions and etiquette classes in the South, Southern children are often raised to be fundamentally polite and well-behaved. However, it can be hard to for children to always be on their best behavior, so they may require a little extra etiquette practice at home.

That’s why we asked April Setliff of Red Stick Refinement for some ideas on what you can do to get your child ready to party… politely. Here’s her advice:


1. Encourage your child to see the importance of having good manners.

“Take a second and ask yourself how you are presenting etiquette to your kids,” says Setliff. “Are you presenting learning etiquette as an opportunity or as a threat or punishment? Learning manners and etiquette is an opportunity to better oneself. It’s an invaluable skillset you take with you your whole life. As a parent, you should build up learning manners to your kids so they can see the value in it.”


2. Lead by example.

“I know people have heard this saying 100 times but it’s so true, even in the manners world: lead by example. Think about this: if your kids see you talk rudely to the waiter, chances are they are going to talk rudely to the waiter, too,” explains Setliff.


3. Always explain the ‘why.’

“If you explain why something is good to do, it helps with a better buy-in,” explains Setliff. “Children aren’t going to jump on the etiquette train if you say, ‘You have to do this because it’s what you are suppose to.’ I suggest explaining why having good manners is a good idea by letting your child know that good manners open doors to new relationships and opportunities.”


4. Reward good manners with words of praise or little treats.

“I would encourage creating a kindness bucket at home and making it a family effort. The point of a kindness bucket is that when a good deed is done like opening the door for someone, or kind words are said like thank you or yes ma’am, you put something in the kindness bucket. Then when the bucket is full, treat the family to something fun as a reward,” suggests Setliff.


5. Try making a game out of practicing manners.

“For smaller kids, you can make actions like setting the table a learning game,” proposes Setliff. “That way, whoever’s turn it is to set the table will get excited to put out the utensils and figure it out. Once you have that buy-in, as they age these things will become routine.”


6. Practice and promote good communication.

“In today’s world, older kids and teens can easily get around having an actual conversation since everything can be done via a smartphone,” explains Setliff. “Try practicing conversation skills with your teen by having them pick up the phone to do a task that they would typically use an app or website for. For instance, have them call a restaurant to place a to-go order instead of ordering online. It’s crucial that they know the importance of having good conversation skills, even in today’s ever-growing digital world.”


Visit redstickrefinement.com for information about enrolling in one of its etiquette classes. And read more about Setliff and Red Stick Refinement here in this article from the inRegister archives.

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