Tina knew how she wanted her son to behave, but with a busy schedule and advice from more sources than she could handle, Tina wasn’t sure how to get him to actually behave. That is when she first contacted me and the Bay Area’s Junior Manners Cotillion.
Junior Manners Cotillion helps parents guide their children in social skills and everyday manners. I am not the children’s parent, and I don’t see them everyday, it’s often easier to have kids listen to me when I tell them what to do and how to act in certain situations.
For many students, manners mean nothing more than sticking out your pinky when drinking tea or acting like the Downton Abbey cast. And to be sure, when they first hear my British accent, they definitely think tea will be on the menu. However, I quickly dispel that myth by letting them know that manners isn’t about how you take your tea, but how your treat other people and how you treat yourself. Our classes start from these two principles each time.
Manners Are About Others
Manners aren’t about us at all, but about how we make the people around us feel. Are we respecting them? Are we considering their feelings? Are we making them feel included? For example, while talking with our mouth full might not bother us, it is a pretty disgusting sight for the person we’re talking to. And, if we don’t include someone in the group, we will feel fine, but they will feel excluded or ignored. If we shout when we should be quiet it hurts those around us, not just ourselves.
Manners Mean Confidence
If we learn the correct manners for any situation and practice them enough, we empower ourselves. Knowing the proper behavior to use regardless of the circumstance builds confidence. Not only do we eliminate potential embarrassment, we gain stature of those around us, whether they are our friends, our peers, or our employers.
For parents, Junior Manners Cotillion is a helping hand, a resource for making connections with their children and reinforcing life lessons they are trying to teach. We put these lessons in a relevant, modern day context for students that illustrates why manners are important for them.
Where the “chalk talk” quickly draws yawns from today’s students, our emphasis on interactive and experiential learning works with students’ natural curiosity and shows them how and why to apply certain behaviors.
One student this year was stunned to learn a handwritten thank you note was expected after getting holiday gifts. She couldn’t understand why an email wasn’t enough. Then I asked if she got birthday cards or birthday emails from her friends. She thought for a moment and replied “cards.” Once the idea was framed in a context relevant to her, she got my point. That same student wrote a wonderful handwritten thank you after our gala.
Talk to a student about Internet safety and manners and they will tune you out. After all, anyone over 20 is too old to understand their world, right? However, drop a red feather on a table and have them try to control where it goes as they blow it to their friends, and it opens a discussion with them about how unpredictable digital messages can be.
Manners are about much more than which fork you use. And, when placed in a fun environment with their friends, students not only learn how manners apply, they actually remember to apply them.