Young students learn how, why to use good manners

OLYMPIA — Manners aren’t dead for Alexandra Rivera, 8, of Lacey.

By Venice Buhain, The Olympian

“This is Dani,” she said, introducing Dani Collazo to the rest of the Manners Matter class, held at The Olympia Center last week. “She is seven, and she likes to play basketball.”

The girls were among 20 students ages 6 to 10 in the “Manners Matter: Young Ladies and Gentlemen” class, taught by Lisa Fischer of Final Touch Finishing School, which offers workshops on manners, etiquette and behavior. The summer class was administered by the parks and recreation departments of Lacey and Olympia.

While the United States has become a casual society, parents still want their children to know that being well-mannered is important, Fischer said after class.

“It used to be reinforced in the schools and reinforced in churches,” she said. But in a more casual society, “parents tend to wing it, and they just expect their kids to wing it.”

In class, the students learn why it’s important to make eye contact, speak clearly, and learn to address adults and be polite on the phone.

“Instead of the attitude, ‘I have to do this,’ it becomes, ‘I want to do this,’ ” she said.

Fischer emphasized to the children that having good manners is a matter of respecting other people and property.

“You’re not supposed to blow hot soup, because what would happen if I blew on the soup?” she asked the class during a table manners demonstration. “There would be little droplets of chicken noodle soup all over her pretty dress.”

Alexandra said after class that she wanted to take the class because she felt manners were important.

“If everyone could use good manners, then everyone could get along, and they would all just be friends,” she said.

Important to parents and students

Fischer said there’s a difference between etiquette and good manners.

“Etiquette has to do with knowing the rules,” she said. “Manners is about having the right attitude.”

She said that being sincere and smiling goes a long way in conveying the right manners. She said the rules of etiquette can change according to situation and country, and it’s a good thing to learn about different situations before being in them.

“Telling a child just say please or just be nice isn’t enough,” she said. “It’s really about learning additional information about (communicating) ‘what’s my body language?’ ”

Fischer said that for her students, manners are reinforced by practicing it, and children get it after seeing other children practicing it with themselves.

Thomas Traulsen of Lacey said he wanted his daughter, Hana Mei Traulsen, 6, to meet other kids who were using etiquette.

“I wanted her to see other kids and see that it’s OK to use good manners,” he said. “Sometimes it’s easier to hear it from another person instead of daddy and mummy.”

Debbie Starret-Fry of Lacey also said she wanted her son, Jarod Fry, 10, to learn that manners wasn’t just something his mom cared about, but something that will help him know what to do in different situations in life.

“Learning table manners, how to introduce someone, working with those things to help him build up confidence in himself,” Starret-Fry said. “And, he’s going to go out with girls in a while, and I want him to have good manners in that, too.”

Jarod said that he learned new things about why people use protocols and etiquette.

“It makes everything go smoother,” he said.

He said that sometimes it’s hard to use manners when others don’t, but it’s still important.

“Sometimes it’s hard, when someone is giving you a hard time in the playground,” he said. “But if you don’t use good manners, you can get into an argument. That wastes your recess, and it’s not fun for you.”

Venice Buhain covers education for The Olympian. She can be reached at 360-754-5445 or