Mind Your Manners


By Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick 
“Etiquette provides the knowledge, and gives the confidence to pass the test of life.”     - Elizabeth L. Post
Many say etiquette instruction is outdated and has no relevance for today’s children. But is that true? Certainly not.
It is true that many of the rules of etiquette from the past are outdated, but etiquette is always evolving and adapting to adjust to current times. The true tenets of etiquette and good manners, which are treating others with kindness, consideration, and respect, however, remain timeless.They encourage us to behave in a way that is considerate of all; and to treat others the way we would like to be treated in all of the situations in which we find ourselves.
The idea of “modern-day” etiquette instruction for children dates back to as early as the 16th century when Dutch theologian, Erasmus, wrote the widely popular A Handbook on Good Manners for Children. Although many of his rules would not apply today, his essential advice remains the same, “Young bodies are tender plants that grow and harden to whatever shape you've trained them.”
Etiquette instruction for children was very popular in the 16th century in England as well as Italy. “Always send a thank-you letter, but make sure you never look too oily” was one guideline given at that time in a book by Baldassare Castiglion, an Italian diplomat from Urbino, in his book, “The Book of the Courtier.”
According to psychiatrist and Harvard professor Robert Coles, the years between kindergarten and sixth grade are the ideal time to teach children values like respect. These are the “age of conscience years,” he contends, during which children are highly receptive to moral values and eager to figure out how and why they should behave in various situations, and are enthusiastic about deciding what kind of people they are going to be.
If we want our children to grow...