Maybe etiquette is the last thing on your mind as school approaches, but did you know that etiquette is really about making others feel comfortable, respected and valued. Now that’s something we can all get behind. And etiquette matters in all arenas of life including school. Sunita Padda, the well-mannered mother behind TableSmarts outlines five areas where manners matter.
Five areas where manners matter
During the summer many routines are overshadowed by lazy evenings on a patio, or cooling off in the pool for most of the day. I recommend parents create (and instill) a back-to-school bedtime routine a week before school starts. That way if you have some “off” days during the transition, it won’t affect your child’s ability to get to school on time. Our family recently invested in the Gro Clock (and book), which has taught my child that if we don’t go to sleep when we are supposed to, it will affect our mood and ability to interact the following day.
Respecting other people’s time is a skill that should be taught at an early age as it can be a very difficult habit to break later on in life; I’m sure we all have friends who are notorious for being late! This is an important social skill because it reflects the level of respect you have for the person waiting on the other end.
If your child is too young to read a clock, you could introduce a timer to help them get ready in the mornings. Alternatively, you could let them know when there is 10 min left, and 5 min. and so on.
The first day of school often brings new faces to the classroom with many families moving over the summer months. Remind your child what it felt like when they were the new student, or what it might feel like to have left all of your friends and to be in a new classroom with unfamiliar faces. Discussing these emotions are an important part of building empathy both in and outside of school. These skills will be appreciated by everyone who meets your child, and will reflect on the values you instill in your home. Practicing some go-to phrases such as “tell us about your old school” or “come and play with us” can make a world of a difference to a new student.
Respecting the rules of the classroom
Ask your child what the rules of school and classroom are. In our Dining + Social Etiquette class we spend a large amount of our session discussed the “why” behind social rules. Children are far more likely to retain, and implement, a rule if they understand its impact. If your child lists one of the rules as no running in the classroom, you could ask why that’s an important and safe rule.
The thought of fitting after school activities, homework, cooking dinner, baths, and a bedtime routine into a few short hours before the evening is over seems daunting. Which is why the thought of a regular sit-down family dinner each evening is close to impossible for families. Although I stress the importance of sit down meals as a way to connect with every member of your family, discuss your days, and solidify family bonds, it doesn’t always have to look a certain way.
In our home, we have implemented fun meal themes such as “Waffle Wednesdays” for breakfast and “Pizza Fridays” for dinner.” Whipping up waffles with your kids can be the time you spend chatting about your upcoming day and what you hope to achieve. Meanwhile, if we can’t make every dinner an entire-family meal, we know that Fridays are reserved for everyone to sit together. You can do this with activities such as weekly family meetings, or games night with the kids. If you’re looking for in-depth conversation starters that not only help your family get to know each other better but also develop confidence in your child to have appropriate conversations about world events, I recommend TableSmarts’ TableTalk cards.
Social media and bullying
Depending on the age of your child, social media use will most likely play a big part of the social interaction with their peers. It’s important to remind students that what is put on, or sent through, the Internet can be copied and saved. Depending on the age and maturity level of your child, you can have an open discussion of cases in the news where children have been bullied over social media. Discuss where your child can turn to for help if they ever become a victim of any type of bullying. Making them aware of all of their sources of support, both inside and outside of school, can give students more confidence to select a source they feel most comfortable with based on their specific situation.
AT THE DOOR
Drop off’s at the door may be stressful for your child for many reasons. They are (potentially) saying goodbye to you and entering a home that they may or may not have visited before – making it unfamiliar territory! If your child is feeling nervous and the playdate doesn’t involve parent participation, I suggest sticking around for part of the playdate, even if it’s only 5 minutes, to help your child adjust to the situation. You could make your extended presence even more beneficial by asking the host parent what the kids will be up to during their playdate – your child will feel much more assured once they know the itinerary of their date.
If your child is feeling nervous about saying hello to a new adult (their friend’s parent) I suggest practicing with some go-to phrases that your child can memorize and whip out when feeling nervous. In our Dining + Social Etiquette class we call these our “elevator pitches.” A good one to start with could be a simple: “Hello” with a smile. Slowly, you can work your child up to a: “Hi, its nice to see you again.” Remember, this may be really difficult for your child at first, try not to show disappointment if they forget or become too nervous to use their greeting.
First, find out if the playdate involves parent participation, which is usually the case with younger children. If you prefer to stay, perhaps to calm your child’s (or your own) nerves about being apart, you could always bring dessert and suggest “tea and cake” with the host parent as a way to socialize while still being near your child.
Second, if you are dropping off your child, it is your responsibility, as the parent, to be clear about expectations during a playdate. If you prefer that your child not consume any “junk food” or refrain from watching TV – be sure to let the host parent know this to avoid any disappointments. Further, if your child has a specific diet (gluten-free, vegan, etc.) it is best to be prepared by packing a few items – especially if the host parent has not inquired about your child’s food preferences/restrictions prior to the playdate.
Third, once you find out what time the playdate is ending – be sure to be on time! If you’re running late, communicating with the parent via phone or text is appropriate so that the host parent (and your child) are in the loop!
Finally, be sure to reciprocate the offer by hosting the next playdate!
PLAYING WITH TOYS
Remind your child that when visiting their friend’s home its important to be mindful of which toys are open to play with. Giving examples of some of their sentimental toys can be a good way to illustrate boundaries.
In most cases, food will be a part of your child’s playdate either in the form of a quick snack or a meal. This can be a new experience for your child – eating in a potentially unfamiliar environment with potentially unfamiliar foods! In our Dining + Social Etiquette course we encourage children to try everything once, even a very small amount, since every new food is a new experience. Let your child know that by trying a little bit of the food they can finally discover where the food lands on their “favourite foods scale.” Further, remind them that every dish tastes different based on how it is cooked. They may not have enjoyed spaghetti at last month’s restaurant, however, it could taste very different when made at home by their friend’s parent. The exception to this rule, of course, is restricted foods or allergens. In which case, your child can politely say: “I’m sure it tastes wonderful, however, I can’t have _______.”
When you arrive to pick up your child, don’t be afraid to ask your child and their friend if they had a chance to clear up their toys together. By asking both kids, you aren’t singling out your child and potentially making them feel uncomfortable. Further, you are showing that you place importance on your children cleaning up after themselves – especially when at someone else’s home. If the kids haven’t cleared up, encourage them to do so while you wait and chat with the parent.
SAYING THANK YOUPhrases such as: “Thank you for hosting our playdate,” or “Thank you for having me,” is an important phrase for your child to learn especially as they practice speaking to adults. If your child is still developing their confidence, a shorter phrase such as “Thank you” with eye contact is a great start!