saying "please" and "thank you" during Etiquette Camp at Modern Manners. "It's sort of like boot camp for etiquette and manners," said her father, Dave Moeslein.
While other children her age were enjoying sports or taking swim lessons last summer, Jessica Moeslein was learning the fine art of saying "please" and "thank you" during Etiquette Camp at Modern Manners. "It's sort of like boot camp for etiquette and manners," said her father, Dave Moeslein.
Like other parents, Moeslein wants his daughter to improve her social skills not just so she can learn common courtesies but to give her an edge in life. "As a society, we're getting further and further away from behaving properly," he said.
But for those children who understand the art of a proper introduction or the magic of table etiquette, it could mean the difference between getting that first job or even acceptance at the right college.
"I often tell my students that using good manners will open endless doors for them in school, in business, and life in general," said Nora Cline, owner of Modern Manners. "Many years ago when I was researching for my etiquette business," said Cline, "I read somewhere that children who have manners are more likely to get what they want (and ) people will be more responsive to their needs. So, being polite may bring you rewards."
"(A child with manners is) going to help them out-class the competition," said Cathi Fallon, founder and director of The Etiquette Institute of Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton.
You might think that children would scoff at the idea of setting a proper table for tea or learning when to write thank-you notes, but Cline finds that most of her young clientele enjoy the experience. "She loved it; she absolutely loved it," says Moeslein of Jessica's experience.
Much like any skill, though, children first learn manners at home from their parents. "Parents need to model what they want those children to do," Fallon said. And contrary to good manners, Fallon often finds that adults are not saying "please" and "thank-you" in everyday conversations, which means children aren't learning to be courteous either.
"You're laying the foundational skills," Fallon said, adding that with any new skill, it's best to start simple. "We start with the basics, which are the first impressions," she said.
She also recommends laying the foundations of proper etiquette while children are very young, even if your child at that age doesn't see the importance in eating with the proper fork or learning when to use a cell phone. "You just keep working on it. It's an investment in your child's future," she said.
Even with modeled etiquette behavior, young children still need simple reminders of proper etiquette from time to time. Before dining out, for example, remind the child of expectations and establish a secret code that will prompt them to proper behavior, Fallon said.
Cline suggests taking your child aside when undesirable behavior happens in public, and explain why the behavior is unacceptable.
"Don't reprimand them harshly in front of people. That causes embarrassment to the child and others as well," she noted.
And while it may seem that brooding teenagers are a lost cause, the experts say it's never too late to learn; it just may take longer and require more practice and repetition. Once instilled, though, etiquette and proper manners can become a way of life.
"If respect, politeness, and compassion are expected in the home, children are more likely to take those values with them when they go out into the world," Cline said.
Amber Stephens is a Columbus-area freelance writer and editor. She is also the mother of two young children.