Today my son’s grammar lesson involved handwriting a snail-mail letter. As we went over the process, I showed him how to address the letter he had chosen to write to his grandparents (Mr. and Mrs. Male-Name Evans). Now, my mother is not the least offended being called Mrs. Husband’s Name. But plenty of my college friends would be. And I couldn’t help thinking, am I teaching my son something that is obsolete?
What role do manners and etiquette play in the twenty-first century? Tea Party Girl wants to go on record as saying they play the same role they always did: to help us show preference and honor to others over ourselves. Good manners will never be obsolete and it is correct, for example, for my son to address his grandparents a way they are comfortable. “Hey, Pops!” does not work, on an envelope or to their face.
I’m always a little amused how many adults I have tea with who feel uneasy about their manners and make a comment about it. Teatime is not meant to be stiff and awkward, but somehow adults know it’s not a time to let it all hang out, either. So they worry about the minor things like whether they’re supposed to stick out their pinkie (you’re not! Unless your goal is to make fun of tea drinkers). But they’ll take a cell phone call during the tea or place their purse (that’s just been on the car floor) on the table and not think anything of it.
Do your children a favor, learn basic meal etiquette, and then teach it to them in the evening at the dining room table. A children’s tea party is an excellent, fun way to teach etiquette as well. But children need some of the basics reinforced over and over and over again (unless your children are different from mine in this regard).
So here’s some basic fundamentals of mealtime etiquette, modified from Emily Post’s The Guide to Good Manners for Kids. As a mother and Tea Party Girl, I’ve chosen the top seven I wish every parent taught their child.
Arrive at the table with clean hands and face. I admit, I did not do this every time when my children were very little. Now I regret it because I have to remind them all the time. It’s not a habit. Do you have the habit of washing your hands before you sit down to eat? Do your children?
Start eating when the host begins, or when everyone else does. Even in your own home. It breaks my heart to see hard-working mothers serving their families only for the other members to chow down before she can even sit down. She deserves her work to be respected by waiting.
Don’t criticize the food. Oh, that my children would never do this when at other people’s home.I can’t stand it when other children do it to me. Serving a meal is a labor of love and the one receiving it should never criticize it. My children are not allowed to say, “I don’t like…”
Talk with everyone at the table. We don’t live in a society anymore where children are seen but not heard. I don’t think, however, that they should be allowed to talk on and on with their brother about the latest video game, either. I am trying to teach my children to ask questions of others and listen to one another. I do this because as an adult, I have sat by many a dominating or exclusive conversationalist.
Thank the person who prepared the meal. I have served countless, thankless meals in my home to other people’s children and my own. This is another manner I wish I had enforced more consistently when they were really little because they constantly forget. It means a great deal to me as a host when another child thanks me for serving them food.
Tea Party Girl Asks: Anybody have an etiquette lesson they’d like to add to the list?
Please leave a comment below.