“Mary, Betty has such nice manners. I wish my children would behave like her when we go out to dine!” How often we hear a mother comment thus on some little girl who is “conspicuous” for her ladylike ways. Indeed, manners are to be valued as much in children as in grown people. These very little ones are later to be the grown people, and if their manners are to become a part of their everyday life, these graces and little courtesies must be encouraged to grow up with them, so they will reach perfection in later years.
I have in mind a mother who has made a special point of good manners in bringing up her six-year-old daughter. This does not mean that she wants the little one to have an affected society suavity, but that she wants her to reflect the charm and refinement of the household. The mother demands company manners every day in the week. She serves the dinner each night in the dining room rather than amid the informality of the breakfast room or kitchen nook, although she does her own work and it means extra household tasks.
This may seem a trivial step in manner making, but children respond more quickly to example and surroundings than they do to preaching and instructions. Dinner in the dining room, in this case, means that extra pains are taken to have the meal pleasant and attractive, and everyone is expected to help maintain this atmosphere. The mother may still wear her house dress, but it is sure to be spick and span and the little six-year-old is dressed late in the afternoon after her nap, ready for the evening meal. Her manners are practiced with the rest of the family, and she learns that politeness is not to be put on when going out to dine or having company, but is to be worn on all occasions.
Children usually do not intend to be rude, but the very novelty of a situation sometimes embarrasses and so surprises them that they do not know what to do. Consequently “acting smart” is their refuge, and too often it appears at the table. A little home practice would save all this humiliation for both mother and child. Eating in the dining room is just one means of teaching children that certain conventions help to make things pleasantly and that good breeding makes people welcome. As mothers train their children, so will they reflect that training as they go out into the world, and when they meet praise because of their conduct and manners, they will be grateful to her for the trouble she has taken. —Mill Valley Record, 1926
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia