Social Graces: Teaching Manners and Etiquette to Kids

I never went to finishing school and I was never given formal lessons on social grace, but when I was growing up, it was impolite to call anyone before 8am in the morning and after 9pm at night unless it was an emergency. Of course back then mobile phones hadn’t been invented and a ringing telephone woke up the entire household. We didn’t start eating until everyone had their food, although my family didn’t really observe this rule at home. Even when mobile phones entered the picture, it was considered bad manners to receive calls during a meal.

These days, it seems like anything goes. You can call after midnight, you can eat and leave first, you can take calls and ignore your companion during a meal, and nothing is said. It seems like all the rules on social grace have gone out the window. Or perhaps it is just another sign that times are a-changing once again.

I will never forget this story that my grandfather once told me… When he was a young man, wearing a tie was very important. Not having one on was like being improperly dressed. One day, he was out with a friend when they saw a girl his friend was keen on. Since they were casually dressed without their ties, his friend wanted to hide so the young lady wouldn’t see him because he was too embarrassed to be seen.

When I was in Uni, one of our lecturers told us that during his time, any student who attended a lecture without a tie would have be thrown out. How times have changed since then.

The rules are changing with every new generation and it seems we are getting more and more relaxed about them. So relaxed that we don’t realise how bad it’s gotten until we see pictures like these:

23 Pictures that Prove Society is Doomed

It seems that teaching our kids to say “please”, “thank you”, and “sorry’ isn’t really enough. Some parents have realised how bad it’s gotten that they have started sending their children to etiquette classes for children. Other parents believe that etiquette lessons should begin at home since we all know about the power of leading by example – it’s monkey see, monkey do, after all. As a mother of unruly kids at the dinner table, I identify completely with parents who are too embarrassed to eat out with their children. These days, I wear my extra-thick skin whenever I take the boys out and try to serve up an extra dose of manners on the side. Although I don’t think we need to specifically send our children for formal lessons, I do believe that social graces are important life skills all children should possess. Like all things that children learn, I believe that lessons should begin at home…


Here are some terrific articles on teaching social graces to your children:

Books on teaching children social graces:

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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