Kids Learn to Take Care of Selves, Respect Others

Community center answers parents’ requests for help teaching manners.

By Julia Nicholls for Lacey Today

Children Etiquette Classes
Toni L. Bailey/Lacey Today
Emily Bloom (left), 7, and Elise Hannon, 5, share personal information about themselves before taking turns introducing each other to the class during an etiquette workshop Friday in Lacey.

It’s not often that you’ll see a room full of 5- to 12-year-olds make disgusted faces and say “yuck” at the thought of not washing behind their ears.

Friday morning, 14 children did just that as they learned the proper ways to take care of themselves and how to respect others. The children attended the three-hour Young Ladies and Gentlemen Etiquette Workshop at Lacey Community Center.

I think it was good because people need to learn about manners. They’re helpful, and they help you make friends,” Darius Hicks, 9, said.

The children practiced introducing a friend, ate imaginary soup, worked on their handshakes, learned proper phone etiquette and practiced putting on hand lotion, among other exercises.

Lisa Fischer
Lisa Fischer

“Parents are looking for a resource that will come alongside of them and reaffirm what they’re teaching,” etiquette teacher Lisa Fischer said.

Lacey Parks and Recreation decided to contract with Final Touch Finishing School to conduct the class after parents called and requested that such classes be offered.

“We hold it once a quarter because it’s not the most fun thing for kids to do, but they’re surprised when they have a great time,” Kathleen Burns, recreation supervisor for the parks department, said.

Anne Selby, 8, was not surprised that she enjoyed the games and learning about manners.

“Well, I just sort of wanted to go,” Anne said. “If you don’t (have manners), it’s kind of hard to have good friends and all that important stuff.”

Beau Casebier wanted his 12-year-old daughter, Katrina, to learn the etiquette he felt incapable of teaching.

“I brought her to learn some girl manners,” Casebier said. “I’m a single dad, so she doesn’t want to act like Dad.”

The finishing school also offers more advanced classes for teens and adults on letter writing, dining, party planning, wardrobe building and more.

For now, the parks department offers only the class for younger children.

“We just haven’t gone there yet,” Burns said. “I think we will. There’s a strong need for it, and people request it.”

Carey Flannery brought her 6-year-old to the class because she feels manners are fundamental to communication.

“I want him to be gracious to others and to make others feel comfortable,” Flannery said.

Etiquette is becoming a lost art, Fischer said. She said she believes teaching children manners prepares them for life situations.

“When they get into a social situation, they’ll feel confident. They’ll have higher self-esteem, and they’ll stand out,” Fischer said.

Fischer told the class a story of a pre-teen brother and sister who attended an etiquette class at the finishing school. Afterward, their parents took them to Red Robin.

The siblings practiced the dining etiquette they had learned. They sat up straight, folded their napkins in their laps, cut their meat two bites at a time and said “please” and “thank you.”

During the meal, an older couple approached the family and offered to buy the siblings any dessert on the menu. The couple was impressed and surprised to see pre-teens acting so politely in a restaurant.

“People will notice when you choose to show respect and kindness for yourself and others around you,” Fischer said.

Common Courtesies

Here are some common courtesies to share with children:

  • Do unto others: When your child forgets to be considerate, ask him to close his eyes until he can picture himself standing in the other person’s shoes, literally. What does it feel like to be treated in the way he treated the person in question? What treatment would he want in the same situation?
  • Think before speaking: Children often react to conflict by calling another child a mean name. Nobody wins: both name-caller and playmate feel wounded. Children can respond to conflict with feelings and reason: “If you take two turns in a row, that doesn’t feel fair to me. Let’s trade off.”
  • Please reply: Children should be taught to RSVP to invitations in a timely fashion, whether or not they can attend. If a child cannot attend, a credible reason why not should be offered along with a reciprocal invitation. In the case of young children, parents are responsible for RSVP formalities with the same guidelines.
  • Be inclusive: Encourage your child to include shy or new children to join her group. Children should also make introductions between friends who do not know each other.
  • Know your surroundings: While it may be OK to talk during a DVD showing in the family room, it is not OK to talk during a movie shown in a public theater. Disturbing other people’s evening out is a no-no.
  • Eye contact: Not looking into the eyes of someone who is talking to you is tantamount to ignoring that person and just plain rude. A child’s shyness is often the culprit behind lack of eye contact; practice is the solution.
  • Happy to see you: Children often do not greet their friends in the way they have been taught to greet adults. A simple “Hi, Reginald” is guaranteed to be received more warmly than a grunt, or worse, no acknowledgement at all. And when a friend goes home, it is common courtesy to say goodbye at the door and thank him for the visit.
  • Clean up: Want to be invited back to play at someone else’s house? Help clean up before leaving, preferably before being asked to.

To learn more: For more information about the Young Ladies and Gentlemen Etiquette Workshop at Lacey Community Center, call 360-491-0857.