Handling Introductions Properly
Remember how much you hated it when Aunt Myrtle kissed you? It doesn't hurt to let your child know that you hated it, too, but that you put up with it. Tell your youngster that the best strategy in handling this situation is simply to try to avoid it by sticking out his hand to shake. If that doesn't work, he can turn his head a little at the last moment so that the kiss becomes a brush on the cheek. This motion is also a way of communicating the fact that he doesn't like being kissed. But, no matter what, relatives are going to kiss kids, and it is uncool to refuse or to squirm around like an angry eel.
Also, it's okay for your child to tell you that Aunt Myrtle's gift is silly or ugly, but Aunt Myrtle must never know. Your response is that not everyone shares the same tastes and that the important thing is that Aunt Myrtle likes you and respects you enough to give you a gift. Explain to your child that he should, at the least, thank Aunt Myrtle and say, “It was really nice of you to think of me.” If pressed, the child can say, “Of course, I like it. You gave it to me.”
On the subject of gifts, keep in mind that youngsters are often discriminated against in stores. Teach your children to speak up for themselves in the right way. If they can see that they are being passed over in favor of adults, it is okay for them to politely say, “Excuse me, I think I'm next in line.” If they are being ignored when no other customers are around, youngsters can say: “Could you please help me?” Teach your child to ask for assistance, rather than to try to get someone's attention by coughing, for example.
If your child asks you whether it is okay to ask an adult to stop smoking, say, “It depends.” You can't ask someone to stop smoking in someone's home or in other private places where smoking is permitted. Tip: If ashtrays are available, smoking is expected and permitted. You can ask someone not to smoke in public places where smoking is prohibited, but you must do so correctly.
Here again, coughing is not an adequate way to let people know that smoke bothers you. Tell your child to say, “Would you please stop smoking?” but don't make a challenge or an accusation out of it. A good strategy is to tell the child to imagine that he or she is saying something like “It's raining outside” and say, “Would you please stop smoking?” with the same facial and vocal expression.
First Names and Introductions
Don't let your children be wall-flowers! Tell them that the most important thing about introductions is to actually make them. Even if they make a few mistakes in the process, trying to meet new people is a whole lot better than just standing there.
Using first and last names properly is an area that most kids goof up. Tell young people that it is rude, even for adults, to call strangers by their first name. Upon meeting someone new, a youngster should call an adult Mr., Mrs., or Ms. until the adult asks to be called by his or her first name. Sometimes this happens right away, sometimes it takes a while, and sometimes it never happens.
It's very confusing when parents of your children's friends ask to be called by their first names. It might take a bit of coaching on the parent's part to give the child confidence to reply, "Thanks, Mrs. Donovan, but my parents' rule is to call adults by Mr. or Mrs."
Learning deference is a pivotal lesson for children, one that serves them well later on in life. We must remember that traditions still prevail in general, and especially in other cultures. Now that just about all of us live in multicultural surroundings, this lesson becomes more important than ever. children addressing an adult of, say, Latino or Asian descent, by first name only makes the child appear disrespectful.
When your child decides to introduce you to one of his friends or finally decides that it's okay for you to meet her teacher, explain the cardinal rule about introducing people: The star of the show gets top billing. In other words, mention the most important person first: “Mom, this is my friend, Marjorie Matthews.”
Your child should learn to use honorifics when introducing adults to one another, including Dr., Captain, Mr., Mrs., and Ms. Here's an example: “Doctor Cooper, I'd like to introduce you to my father, Mr. Carter.”
When introducing a teacher to a parent, the teacher's name is used first: “Mrs. Bornson, I'd like you to meet my mother, Mrs. Eastwood.”
It helps to provide a little information about the people you're introducing so that they will have something to talk about: “Mom, this is my friend Frank Hales. We're in the glee club together.”
In introductions, dignitaries—congresspeople, clergy, elected or appointed officials, and so on— are mentioned first, to show respect for the offices these people hold. This practice does not mean that, as people, they are better or more important than anyone else.
When your child has that first job interview over lunch or has dinner for the first time with the parents of a romantic interest, both of you will be glad that good table manners were a matter of routine at your house.
But every meal doesn't have to be a lesson and eating should not be a chore interrupted by frequent admonitions. Children learn best through immersion and osmosis. In other words, if you have good table manners, it goes a long way toward assuring that your children will also.
The good news is that we are not talking about astrophysics here. Good dining etiquette requires only a simple awareness of the basics -- and the common mistakes to avoid.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Etiquette © 2004 by Mary Mitchell. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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