Sometimes important life lessons that kids need to learn, like good behaviour, aren’t on the school curriculum. Jennifer Scott, author of the New York Times bestselling Madame Chic series, has turned her sophisticating talents to help children have fun while mastering the basics of manners and good-old fashioned politeness…
Life as a child is so exciting. Kids are constantly learning new things and experiencing fresh adventures. But life can be daunting too as children are expected to fit into a world that has a lot of rules. What do you do when you meet someone for the first time? How do you act at the dinner table? Is it even possible to keep your room tidy for more than a day? Being a kid is one of the most wonderful phases in life and becoming a ‘Connoisseur Kid’ means helping your child become an expert in the art of living, enjoying everything about being young and gaining new skills that will carry them into adulthood with ease.
When you make eye contact with the person you are talking to, you make that person feel really special. You know that you are being heard because you are giving that person your full attention by looking at them. Using eye contact might feel awkward at first, but if you practise enough, it will come naturally to you. Practise with your family at first, when you ask someone a question, look them in the eye. It’s important to make eye contact not only when you are talking, but also when you are listening too.
Posture is how we sit, stand and carry ourselves. You might wonder what posture has to do with communication and manners, but it plays a very important role. This is because we not only communicate with our words and our eyes, but with our bodies too. Try this activity. Stand in front of a mirror and slouch. Make your slough exaggerated: hunch your shoulders, stick out your neck, let your head drop. How do you look? Happy or sad? Lazy or energetic? Now try standing with good posture. Straighten up your back, put your chin up, tuck your tummy in. Now how do you look? Your posture can communicate things to other people. If you’re slouching throughout your day you might appear sluggish, lazy and unhappy. But if you stand up straight you appear ready for anything, upbeat and energetic!
You will be amazed at how smoothly your day will go when you learn to communicate well. The first step to communicating well is speaking clearly. Have you ever heard someone mumble? Their head is usually down, they aren’t looking at you, and they say something so quietly that you can’t understand. It’s frustrating to talk to someone who is mumbling!
Ask your kids to try this exercise: Mumble something to your parent and see if they can guess what you’re saying. Now have them mumble something to you. This game might make you laugh but think about how hard it would be if every time you talked to someone you couldn’t understand what that person was saying! As good communicators, we should aim to speak clearly and let our voice ring out like a bell. Try practising a few tongue twisters like these in a clear voice:
- Do drop in at the Dewdrop Inn.
- Six slippery snails slid slowly seaward.
- Crisp crusts crackle and crunch.
- Fred fed Ted bread and Ted fed Fred bread.
Saying Please & Thank You
Now that we are speaking clearly, using good eye contact, and have great posture, we feel ready for anything! Let’s get into a bit more detail about the actual words we say. Everyone knows that saying “please” and “thank you” is important. “Please” is often referred to as the “magic” word because without it, you might have a hard time getting what you want. Just imagine a world where no one says “please”. Always remember, when you take the time to say please, it puts a lot of people at ease.
A heartfelt “thank you” goes a long way and reminds you of what you are grateful for. You should say “thank you” to everyone: your parents, your teacher, a waiter at a restaurant and the nice lady who holds the door open for you. Remember to always say your “thank you” loud and clear, and with eye contact for best delivery.
When you do something nice for someone
And they thank you for good measure,
Always say “you’re welcome” back
“no problem”, or “my pleasure!”
Top Table Manners
Kids might wonder why they need table manners… when it seems like no one else has them. If they are at a table with a lot of other kids who are breaking all the rules, a child might want to join in so they can fit in. Be a good example and encourage child to be known for their impeccable table manners – no matter what others around them are doing. Tell your child, “It will make the other kids wonder just what’s so special about you!”
Review these tips for fantastic table manners every night before dinner. Encourage your child to read them aloud to the family so everyone can practice together. When your meal is over, review the list as a family to see how you all did. And don’t forget to wash your hands before every meal!
Tip 1. Wait until everyone is seated before you start eating.
Tip 2. Never chew with your mouth open or talk with your mouth full.
Tip 3. If you need something on the other side of the table, ask politely for it to be passed to you. Avoid reaching across the table.
Tip 4. Sit still at dinner. No wiggling, or you might fall off your chair.
Tip 5. Sit with good posture and keep your elbows off the table.
Tip 6. Always ask to be excused before leaving the table.
Tip 7. Before you leave, thank the cook.
Tip 8. Push your chair in and bring your plate to the sink.
People in different parts of the world use their knife and folk differently. In America, people hold their forks in their right hand while eating. In Europe, people always hold their fork, tines down, in their left hand and their knife ion their right hand for the duration of the meal. No matter how you use your knife and fork, there are a few mannerly rules to remember:
- Avoid waving your knife and fork around while you are talking. Keep them low to your plate.
- Always use your cutlery unless you are eating finger foods, like a cheeseburger.
- When you are finished eating your entire meal, place the knife and fork side by side on your plate in the 11 o’clock position (as if on a clock).
Tidying Your Room
The best tip to share with kids, other than having a cheerful attitude about cleaning their room, is to tidy by categories, or things that are similar in nature. When you tackle one at a time, you can tidy in an efficient way. Every single thing should have a home, don’t just shove everything under the bed!
When tidying up your room,
Everything deserves a home.
Don’t let that teddy bear wander,
Don’t let those Legos roam.
Find a spot where they can live.
Don’t shove them under your bed.
Next time you tidy up your room,
You’ll already be ahead!
A Place For Everything Challenge
Test your child’s newfound skills with this fun test. Remove five random things from their room, for example a pair of pyjamas, a book, a toy, a marker and a T-Shirt. Hold the items at their bedroom door and with a timer, challenge your child to see how quickly, but neatly, they can put them away.
Being a Connoisseur kid just means striving to be polite, have good manners, helping your parents out at home and thinking of other people. A true Connoisseur kid doesn’t do everything perfectly, but they’ll always give it their best try with a positive attitude. The main thing to remember to teach children is to be themselves, enjoy life and always just do their best. But perhaps some of these lessons will help them along the way.
Edited excerpt from Connoisseur Kids by Jennifer L. Scott and illustrated by Clare Owens (Chronicle Books, £16.99) Jennifer is the bestselling author of the Madame Chic books, the blogger behind the Daily Connoisseur and the mother of four children. She lives with her family in Los Angeles, California. Image of Jennifer © Kevin McIntyre.