The normal parental course of action for manners training is constant correction. Eventually though, this can stress out even the calmest parent and child. So is there something more fun than cotillion (a Southern manners staple for the upper classes), to get a child to have good manners? I have listed a few ideas below to get you started.
1. International Night – This started in our house when our daughter went through a picky eater stage. Every Friday night I picked a mystery country. Dinner that night consisted of dishes from the chosen country I thought my family might enjoy. While we were eating, I gave clues about the country to see if she could guess where it was. Part of the fun can be discussing the manners of that country and how they differ from ours. This is a great British website that lists lots of information about numerous countries including their manners. You can also google “easy recipes from ‘name of country'” to get some recipes to try. I tried to hit every continent at least once and it was amazing how many new recipes we found we enjoyed.
2. Why Do We Keep Our Elbows Off The Table? – Pick a manner of the week and find out why that came to be considered polite behavior. Older children can be encouraged to do some of the research themselves. Or make a game out of trying to match the manner with its origin. There are a lot of ways to vary the game using different time periods to include history lessons for homeschooled children. (Or just a fun way to sneak more history into any child’s day!)
3. The New Neighbors -You and your husband come to dinner in the character of some new kids in the neighborhood who are joining you for dinner. Unfortunately, you are untrained in the social graces. Ham it up as much as possible. I can almost promise you that your kids will go nuts correcting you! Try not to break character and make them show you what they mean. Pretend like you don’t understand what the problem is with your behavior. Have fun with it!
4. High Tea – Is there a fancy restaurant nearby with incredible desserts? Does your daughter love the idea of high tea? Promise her a trip to this heavenly and usually off limits place if she can exhibit perfect table manners for a specific amount of time. I would suggest a period long enough to be a stretch, but no so long she gives up. At award time, dress in your best and enjoy!
5. Knights and Princesses – For the younger set, nothing is more fun than pretend, dress up and other fun ways to try out different roles. As we all know, knights and princesses must have impeccable manners! Play the queen or king of their country and help them be terrific knights and princesses. Then switch roles and let them train you. Make it fun.
6. If All Else Fails, It’s Cotillion, Baby! – Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of a Southern sixth grader like the threat of spending their weekends in seventh grade at Cotillion lessons. The mere threat can make napkins suddenly land consistently in laps for months at a time! Most larger towns have something similar. It usually involves dressing in uncomfortable clothes and practicing manners for hours on end. Show your child how excited you will be to send them there for lessons. If they don’t respond, you may find it’s worth the money to have someone else take on the task. As we all know, some things just require being said by someone other than a parent to sink into your child’s brain!
Have fun with taking a break from traditional manners training. Let me know if you have any more fun ideas that have worked in your family. I would love to share them with everyone. If you need me though, I may just be having tea at the Plaza!