First Day of School – Uh-ohohoh

It’s the beginning of a new school year. One of the greatest challenges faced by parents is learning that their child is in a classroom with a teacher they really don’t like. The last thing you want is to have your child’s energy and attention diverted from learning and enjoying a whole year of school. Your challenge is to help your child maintain a respectful behavior. That will help them have a good year regardless of whether or not they like their teacher. I encourage respectful behavior in this situation by telling kids:

It’s easy to act respectfully to the teachers you like. It’s much harder to act respectfully to the ones you don’t like – especially if they are not always respectful to you. It’s a real challenge – a test of your ability to be a better person. Follow the guidelines and classroom rules, do your work to the best of your ability and use good manners. Consider this as good practice for the day that may come when you have a boss you don’t like. By using good manners and acting in the ways you know are right, you can be proud of yourself. That will build up your self-respect, and you wind up a winner.

Kids are in school for twelve or more years. There will be teachers they like and teachers they don’t like. There will be the absolute favorite teacher and the absolute worst one. No one has a favorite teacher each of every twelve years. So this is a lesson that must be learned. Help your child through it, encourage activities at school that they really like, reinforce the positive things that happen, and focus on the things your child accomplishes. It may be a more difficult year, but your child will be learning some coping mechanisms that will serve her well all her life.

Biking Manners for Adults

I just had the amazing opportunity to take a three week bike ride from Washington, DC to Burlington, VT. The trip represents many hours on a bike spent thinking about things like biking etiquette. Often, I’m talking to adults about teaching children safe bike riding and connecting it to good manners. Safe practice is respectful and considerate and a good way to teach kids both manners and safety. I always give two pieces of advice. One – know what you can and should expect from your children at any age and expect it. Two – always be the kind of person you want your children to be. That’s the relevant advice for this article! If you want your children to be safe, mannerly bike riders, you must be a safe and mannerly bike rider yourself.

So… safe and mannerly bike riding means (taken from this handy brochure published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration):

Helmet On!

Seven Smart Routes to Bicycle Safety for Adults

  1. Protect Your Head. Wear a Helmet
  2. Assure Bicycle Readiness. Ensure Proper Size and Function of Bicycle.
  3. Ride Wisely. Learn and Follow the Rules of the Road.
  4. Be Predictable. Act Like a Driver of a Vehicle.
  5. Be Visible. See and Be Seen at All Times.
  6. “Drive” with Care. Share the Road.
  7. Stay Focused. Stay Alert.

For a Bicycle Safety Activity Kit, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Web site .

Stroller Etiquette

Solo stroller

Last week I received a request to do an interview on stroller etiquette. What a great topic! The interview gave me an opportunity to think through the issues that come up when people pushing strollers encounter tight spaces and crowded places and the manners that can help navigate them. It’s clear that there is etiquette to be found on both sides of the stroller. As with so many of our manners, stroller manners emerge from those three basic principles that form the foundation of all our etiquette advice at The Emily Post Institute. Stroller etiquette seems to be rooted primarily in the principle of consideration. Angela Hill, who wrote the article for MercuryNews.com, describes with humor and accuracy the potential situations that can arise:  triple wides on a narrow sidewalk – strollers on public transportation at rush hour – what to do with a stroller in a restaurant while you eat – strollers so loaded with “stuff” the child has to walk anyway – and more! At the end of the article Angela shares my list of stroller manners.  I love the title she created for the list:

How to keep
the peace

Parents

  • Consider whether a location is “family friendly.”
  • In restaurants, place child in high chair, then move stroller out of the way to a coat check area or lobby.
  • Have a back-up lightweight collapsible model for travel, public transit
  • Be considerate. Don’t block others when avoidable. Say please and thank you

Everyone else

  • Be patient. Caring for small children isn’t easy
  • Expect crowds of kids at amusement parks.
  • Open doors to help the parent.
  • If you’re blocked, ask politely for the stroller to be moved.
  • Be considerate. Go around. Say please and thank you.

I’m so glad Angela prompted my attention to this particular set of everyday manners! Thanks…

When a stroller meets the crowds

Ethnic Dining?

A family from China (or Kenya, or India, or Lebanon, or Honduras)  has moved into your community and your child has formed a great friendship with one of the children who is in her class. Now she has been invited to her friend’s home for supper and is nervous because she doesn’t know what to expect. She knows what to expect at her home but what do they do or eat in China, Kenya, India, Lebanon, or Honduras? I had the opportunity to give some advice in TABLE MANNERS FOR KIDS, a book I wrote with my sister-in-law, Peggy Post. Here’s what we had to say:

illustration by Steve Bjorkman

Chinese food – maybe it’s your favorite!  How about sushi? Or – for some of you it might be Italian or Indian or Middle Eastern.  You may find yourself in a situation where the food being served is completely new to you.  Many foods, spices and herbs are an acquired taste so don’t be surprised if you don’t like everything.  It’s polite to try at least a little of everything, but you don’t have to finish it all.  You certainly may ask what things are, but be careful not to react negatively.  If someone says, “Oh, that’s eel,” and eel is not something you have ever eaten, you don’t want to say, “Euwww!”  Instead, you simply say, “No thank you, I think I’ll try this other dish.”

Some ethnic food is supposed to be eaten with your fingers.  Watch your host and see if they break off a piece of their pita bread and dip it into the small dishes on the table or do they put some of the food directly onto the pita bread with a knife or spreader.  Just follow their lead and you will be fine.  Just as you may ask what the food is, you can ask how to eat it correctly.  If you can use chop sticks, by all means do so.  If you don’t know how, ask for a fork, or, better yet, ask someone to show you how to use them correctly.  If you know you are going to a meal that is traditionally eaten with chopsticks, try them out at home and practice to hone your skills.  Some of the fun of eating foods from different cultures is to learn the traditional way of eating them.  Somehow Kung Po Chicken may actually taste better if you eat it with chopsticks. pp. 83-84.

I want to repeat two sentences from this selection. It is the most basic piece of advice we can give and is the key to enjoying a dinner – no matter how different it is.  “Watch your host…. Just follow their lead and you will be fine.” Talk with your daughter before she goes. Give her the opportunity to ask you any questions she may have about entering another culture. And if you don’t know the specific answer, you can simply remind her to do what her friend does and to always act respectfully. If she does, she is sure to enjoy the good company of her friend and the new experience.

It’s Over – Graduation!

Congratulations!

Graduation is a special time of transition and accomplishment all wrapped up together.  As we approach graduation season – both high school and college – we receive many questions from graduates and their friends and families. People often ask us about the differences between invitations and announcements: the grads want to know when you send which, and the recipients want to know if they should send a gift for either or both!

First, the grads’ question:  Many schools have to put limits on the number of people grads can invite to the ceremony. Usually this is due to space considerations. For example, the grad might have the opportunity to invite five people to the actual graduation. For any celebration following graduation, there may be all the same considerations you have for any guest list: How much space do you have? Are you serving an elegant meal that might require a smaller set number of guests? What time constraints are there, such as the graduation ceremony or any school party? And there are some considerations specific to graduation: Your best friend may be graduating also and having a celebration at the same time. All your friends might be doing the same thing so your celebration may be mostly family. Teachers have a dilemma as many of their students want them to come to their celebration. They may try to spend a little time at several parties. The important thing is for everyone to realize that graduation is a unique event that requires some special thought as you make out guest lists for invitations to the ceremony and/or the celebration.

Announcements can help address any complications. They are a great way to share the excitement of the event and the day with friends and family who can’t be invited as a result of space constraints at the ceremony or the celebration you may host. Also, rather than send an invitation to someone you know can’t attend, an announcement lets them know when you are graduating but carries no social expectation of a gift or feeling of obligation to attend.

Second – people want to know both if they should send a gift and what are good graduation gifts. If you are invited to a graduation event, you really should send  a gift. As with any gift, your choice of what to give should be based on your relationship to the graduate and your personal budget. Parents may give something of special value or personal meaning. Others might give gifts that say congratulations and welcome to the adult world — monogrammed stationery, fine pen and pencil sets, a leather bound journal, framed art or photography, picture frames, or luggage. It is fine to give gift certificates or money.

And finally, it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: the graduate should always write a personal thank you note for every gift and also send notes to anyone who entertains or does special favors for them.

To all you graduates, I end with a shout: CONGRATULATIONS  and best of luck in all you do!

Mobile Etiquette

I thought this post by Anna Post on the Etiquette Daily was a good fit for The Gift of Good Manners. Let me know what you all think!

Mobile Etiquette: What it Means to Kids and Parents

by Anna Post on April 19, 2011

Last Saturday, I spoke at an Intel-sponsored High Tea and High Strategy event at the Mom 2.0 Summit in New Orleans, a conference for some of the most focused and engaged bloggers I’ve ever met. At the end of February, initial findings from Intel’s “Mobile Etiquette” survey were released, focusing on general statistics related to mobile manners of Americans across the nation. At the Mom 2.0 Summit, I shared a first look at findings from the survey that related specifically to how parents and children are using their mobile technology devices (laptops, netbooks, smart phones, tablets), and how it impacts their relationships.

The topic of mobile manners is one that we are confronted with at The Emily Post Institute on a daily basis. The rapid pace of new technology is evolving faster than new social norms for using it. Mobile devices connect us, but if they aren’t used appropriately can distract us from the people we are with. The findings from this “Mobile Etiquette” survey by Intel provide us with an opportunity to understand how people are using mobile technology devices, and how their behaviors impact others around them.

I think we can all agree that the premise of etiquette and how we socialize with one another is not a new concept. However, it seems parents and children are discovering that when it comes to using their mobile devices, what makes for good manners is not always clear.

A few key findings related to how parents and children use mobile technology:

  • Overall, it seems that we’re seeing younger and younger aged children with their own mobile technology devices these days. The Intel survey included responses from children 8-17 years of age, and 50 percent of the children that are just 8-12 years old reported they had at least 2 mobile technology devices.
  • And, we’re seeing that children are very connected to these devices. Children 8-12 years old reported spending approximately 2-3 hours per day using their mobile devices. And, one of the most surprising statistics (in my opinion) is that one-third of children report that they would rather go without their summer vacation than give up their mobile device for one month.
  • Children continue to look to their parents as examples. 94 percent of parents agree they must set a positive example if they expect their children to practice good mobile manners, but 59 percent of children have witnessed their parents commit common mobile infractions, including: use of a mobile device while driving (59 percent), at dinner (46 percent) and during a movie or concert (24 percent). It’s no wonder that nearly half of U.S. children (49 percent) say they don’t see anything wrong with using a technology device at the dinner table.
  • Ninety-four percent of parents believe it is important to establish ground rules in the home about the proper use of mobile devices; some parents are already doing so by prohibiting use of mobile devices in certain places like at school, or setting limitations on how the devices are used by their children, but those rules aren’t being set in overwhelming numbers – for example, less than half of the parents surveyed are setting general guidelines for use of mobile devices during family time.
  • When used effectively, mobile devices can better connect parents and children. According to the recent Intel survey, 70 percent of teenagers and 75 percent of parents believe that their mobile devices allow them to better connect with each other, more often.  That being said, there are still 50 percent of parents who feel guilty for using their Internet-enabled device when they feel they should be spending time with their children.

Top Tips for Children and Parents to Improve Their Mobile Manners (and for Parents to Say Goodbye to Guilt):

  1. Use technology to engage with your children. Ask them to give you a tour of their Facebook page and show you who their friends are. Your daughter is into American Idol? Look up the website together.
  2. Location, location, location: Designate when and where the computer should be used, and choose a location that is in a central spot so kids aren’t isolated when using it.
  3. Determine house rules. As a family, discuss ground rules for how you’ll each use—or not use—mobile devices. Talk about places like the dinner table and homework hours, and the car, restaurants, and special events. Parents, be willing to limit your behavior, too, such as, “Mom, no texting during my soccer games,” or, “Dad, no calls during family movie night.”
  4. Don’t feel guilty about using a “digital babysitter”: iPads instead of crayons at the restaurant, DVDs instead of “I Spy” games in the car, and smartphone apps instead of a book in the waiting area are all fine. Don’t feel guilty about allowing your kids these distractions, just set a time limit and participate with them when you can.
  5. Be a good role model. Parents, kids look to your example in all things, and how you use technology is no different. Hop off the phone when checking out at the grocery store and don’t text while driving.

Third Party Resources / Articles:

Survey Methodology:

The “Mobile Etiquette” survey was conducted online within the United States by Ipsos on behalf of Intel from Dec. 10, 2010 to Jan. 5, 2011 among a nationally representative sample of 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The margin of error for the total sample is ±2.2% at the 95% confidence level. The study included the following audiences: 286 parents of children ages 8-17 (margin of error +/- 5.8%) and 500 children ages 8-17 (margin of error +/- 4.4%).

Commitment to Courtesy II

From the left: sitting - Cindy and Nancy; standing - Lisa, Olivia, Staci, Heather, Suzanne, Meredith

Meet our newest “etiquette experts” heading out to teach children, parents, and teachers essential social skills necessary to building a truly civil society. At our Train the Trainers – Children’s Program at the end of March seven vibrant, committed women (I’m still waiting for the first man to come to a training) completed the Emily Post Institute’s program developed to train folks to teach etiquette classes for children. In 2009 I wrote a post celebrating a commitment to courtesy.

“Over the past two years I’ve had the distinct privilege of working with women (men could come but they haven’t) who think it’s important to teach etiquette in their communities. We call it our Children’s Etiquette Train the Trainer program and it’s one of my favorite things to do. Women from San Diego, Los Angeles, Scottsdale, Annapolis, Chicago, Hartford, Greenwich, Detroit, New Jersey, Atlanta, New Orleans, Birmingham, Orlando, Jacksonville, Dallas, Houston, Washington DC, the Bahamas, Bahrain(!) and more want to teach parents, teachers, and kids of all ages the manners that can help them get along at home, school, and in the community.”

Now it’s been another two years and I have continued to train women to teach etiquette to children and youth. We’ve added North Carolina, Virginia, New York, Missouri, Maryland, Alabama, and Tennessee to the list of states represented by our trainees. The backgrounds and motivations are as diverse as the women: teachers, social workers, counselors, parents, coaches, editors, and business people looking for a change or planning to enhance what they are already doing. My admiration for them all grows by leaps and bounds. I may have a lot to teach but equally exciting for me is what I learn. And when the training is complete, we’ve expanded the family of people committed to courtesy. I look at the pictures of the graduate trainees with pride and hope for them great success in their endeavors. For every one of them there is the potential of a gang of children and youth who will be exposed to the way of civility and graciousness.

What I said two years ago still stands!

“I want to express my appreciation to all of you who have spent your time and money to follow through on your commitment. Not only will you enrich the lives of youngsters in cities and neighborhoods across this country, but you have enriched my life. For both, I say, “Thank you!”

Try leaving it in the car…

Have you ever had your cell phone ring when you’re at a concert or in church? Oh my gosh – how embarrassing!

Have you ever checked to see who just sent you a text when you were in a conversation with someone at a social event? How rude could that be?

I wonder who's calling!

It is so hard to ignore the signal that you have a call or a text. Who could it be? What important message might you miss? The temptation to answer or, at least , look is great.  I was talking with a friend about this very temptation and she said, “I know – that’s why I just leave my phone in the car!” What a great solution. Remove the temptation! Now if I don’t want to be interrupted or don’t want to risk forgetting to shut it off, I leave my phone in the car.

If I had  teenagers at home, I could set a good example. They might get the message that the person or the event of the moment is more important than a phone call or a text message. Those will wait. That’s why we have voice mail.

So the next time you’re heading into a concert, a movie, or a social event, try leaving your phone in the car. You won’t miss it, I promise!

IT’S A SNOW DAY!

As we face the final days of winter, every snowflake can be a cause for moaning and groaning. This is not always the case: remember when a nighttime snowstorm could mean freedom?

This past winter has been a crazy snow winter. So many of us have been blanketed by snow in blizzard-like conditions. I think almost every school in the snow belt has used every snow day.  And now even many districts south of the snow belt  have to have “make up” days for the days they had to close because of snow.

All over this country, thousands of children woke up to those wonderful words, “No school! It’s a snow day.” Depending on who you are, those words carry a different meaning:

  • Teachers – Although an unplanned day off is certainly a treat, it also represents a concerted effort to make up the time. Perhaps there were some important tests scheduled, maybe a speaker was scheduled for fourth period, maybe kids were doing presentations all day. Whatever was planned, a snow day throws a wrench into the works.
  • Parents – Oh my gosh, who’s going to watch the kids? A snow day may mean a mad scramble to set up child care.
  • The kids – Need I say anything? You wake up and someone says, “Guess what?!? No school – it’s a snow day!” Who doesn’t remember that whoooopeeee feeling? there’s nothing like a snow day!

A winter storm brings trials and tribulations. Work is disrupted. Cars slide into ditches. The power may go out. For the adults in the house a snow storm means trouble. But for the kids……a snow day! It’s unplanned; it’s a function of the weather and can’t be changed; it’s a change in the routine; it’s just the best!

Middle School Kids Ask Questions About Etiquette

question mark imageOne of my favorite activities is talking to middle school kids about etiquette. I always start with the King Louis story, then together we think about what makes magic words magic, we usually do some sort of meet and greet etiquette, and finally I give the kids an opportunity to ask any etiquette questions they may have. Asking middle school kids if they have etiquette questions always prompts a great discussion.

The first time I ever did it was in Brooklyn with a group of fifth graders. I had done a talk about etiquette with about seventy students and then I asked if they had any questions. I did not expect them to have any (middle schoolers with etiquette questions?) so I had actually given them a series of cards with tricky situations that would provide material for this question and answer time.

When I asked for questions one little hand in the middle of the crowd went up. “My best friend’s father died a year ago and I didn’t know what to say so I didn’t say anything. Now I feel bad. Is it too late and what should I say?” At first I was almost speechless. It was so poignant and unexpected. I was able to comfort him and told him “It’s never too late. And you can just tell him how sorry you are and that you didn’t know what to say then but you want to say something now.” He nodded his head and said he would do that.

Another middle schooler (sixth grade this time) wanted to know how she could “disinvite” someone who had accepted her invitation to her birthday party. Her best friend had said “No” and then discovered she could come after all. In the interim the girl had invited someone else who had accepted. Her mother told her she could not have more than a certain number. She wanted to “disinvite” the second girl and have her best friend come. Of course I told her she could not do that. You never “disinvite” someone who you have invited and they have accepted. I also suggested she let her best friend know and plan something special with her on another day.

Many of the questions involve relationship issues. A kid you don’t like keeps asking you over. What can you say? Someone you have been friends with doesn’t like the same things you do anymore. What should you do? You go to your friends house for dinner and don’t like the food. What should you say? The list is endless and clearly shows that kids care about these things. Once they realize this is what etiquette is about, it’s like turning on the faucet. The questions do keep coming. And if they don’t have their own, they love to use the ones I suggest. I call them So You cards:

So you… “borrowed” your sister’s sweater without asking and now you’ve spilled grape juice all over it. You would…?

So you… are caught at the dining room table with your crazy Aunt Ellie who is boring you to death. You would…?

So you … notice that the new kid in your class always sits alone at lunch. You would…?

So you … are going to visit your grandmother in the hospital. You are nervous about what you will say and do. You would…?

I have pages of these. I give them out to the kids and ask if anyone has one they would like to read. They always do. I have had the best conversations with kids using these So You cards. Come up with some on your own and engage your own kids in the discussion. For teens I just pick situations they might encounter. Sometimes there are clear answers – you never “disinvite” someone – but many don’t have a clear right or wrong answer and the conversation gets kids thinking about interactions and what you might want the outcome to look like.  Try it!