Articles

Children Learn Manner of Speaking

By Diane Brooks
Times Snohomish County Bureau

Snohomish County Recreation Article

Lisa FischerSTEVE RINGMAN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Lisa Fischer demonstrates proper greetings and handshakes during an etiquette class at the Frances E. Anderson center in Edmonds.

Jennifer Jungmann realized her children needed etiquette lessons during a family visit to Florida, when her father took them to dinner at his Naples country club.

“Lucas asked if he could wear his ‘party hat,’ ” she recalled. “It was his napkin.”

When the family gets together again at Christmas, for a cruise from Miami to the Florida Keys and the Bahamas, Lucas Jungmann, now 7, will know what to do when he finds his dinner plate topped with a fancily folded cloth napkin.

Table manners, including the proper way to place and use a napkin, were among a range of topics covered during a three-hour etiquette class sponsored last week by Edmonds Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services. Twenty kids ages 5 to 10 learned about telephone manners, the proper way to introduce people, table settings, dining etiquette and personal hygiene.

Some of the lessons taught by etiquette consultant Lisa Fischer might surprise adults who think they already know all the basics.

For instance, where does a name tag belong?

Below the right shoulder, so when you offer a correct handshake ­ always with your right hand, even if you’re left-handed ­ your name is in the other person’s direct line of sight.

Etiquette Classes

Several local cities offer etiquette classes for children through their recreation departments. Most are taught through the Final Touch Finishing School. Upcoming classes include:

Aug. 28, Art of Dining for Children, a four-hour class at Embassy Suites, 20610 44th Ave W., Lynnwood, offered by Final Touch. Cost: $69. Information: www.finaltouchschool.com or 877-808-2078.

Sept. 25, Young Ladies and Gentlemen, a three-hour class for ages 6 to 11 offered by the Edmonds parks department at the Frances E. Anderson center, 700 Main St. Cost: $40. Information: 425-771-0230.

What’s the correct way to eat pizza?

Usually one eats finger foods with one hand, using only the thumb, index and middle fingers. But with pizza, that “three-finger” rule allows the use of both hands ­ three fingers holding the tip, and three fingers holding the crust ­ until the slice is small enough to manage with just one hand.

How do you cut a steak or waffle?

Each bite involves an eight-step process, switching utensils between hands, holding them just so and then placing the knife back into its correct position on the plate before placing the morsel into one’s mouth. Never “saw” the knife back and forth; choose one direction and then repeatedly slice the target.

The foundation of good manners is kindness and respect, Fischer told the class of eight boys and 12 girls. That includes respect for oneself, other people and property.

Fischer had the kids out of their seats often, play-acting and illustrating their lessons. She began with introductions, first pairing them up to chat and then asking them to introduce each other to the class.

It’s important to tell people something interesting about each other so they don’t have an awkward silence if you walk away and leave them alone together, she said. When speaking in public, stand up “tall, bold and courageous,” and talk slowly and clearly, Fischer said.

Aidan Surowiec, 6, got mixed reviews when his turn came.

“This is Olivia. She likes swimming, and she’s 6 years old,” he said, introducing a little girl in pink.

Aidan looked confident and spoke in a clear, loud voice. But he stood with his hands shoved into his shorts pockets, a no-no.

Fischer told a lot of stories, including a long one about a boy she had known in fourth grade. He was the most polite boy in class, she said, but nobody would play or eat lunch with him or pick him for their teams because of his lack of personal hygiene.

That led into lessons about tooth brushing, hand washing, and the importance of wearing clean clothes and deodorant.

On a brighter note, she recounted the experience of a boy and girl who took her class and then went to Red Robin for dinner with their parents. They dressed appropriately ­ a shirt with buttons for boy ­ and used all their new table manners.

An older couple sitting nearby came over.

“They said: ‘Excuse me, but we’ve been noticing what amazing dining skills your children have. Most children we see in restaurants are kind of wild and out of control. Could we buy them a dessert?’ ”

When it came time for the graduation ceremony, parents were invited into class to watch. One by one, the children rose from their seats, exited to the right, pushed their chairs back in and walked to the front of class.

With an occasional word of coaching from their teacher, they extended their right hands for a firm handshake, accepted their papers with their left, made proper eye contact and offered a pleasant social smile.

Then they turned to tell the class their favorite part.

Half the boys, including Lucas, named candy-bar munching as the best lesson. They’d carefully peeled back the wrappers on their Three Musketeers bars to expose small sections, holding the wrapped ends with the proper three fingers as they ate.

“Usually, I use my whole hand to shove it in my mouth,” Lucas explained, after class.

His mom had to drag him to class, which he attended with his 5-year-old sister, Maya.

“I pictured it being a television show, [like] ‘The Simpsons.’ I’m like Bart,” he said. “When I walked in, I thought the whole thing was a big foamy joke.”

It was surprisingly fun, Lucas said. “And now I know the difference between a napkin and a party hat.”

Diane Brooks: 425-745-7802 or dbrooks@seattletimes.com