Since the inception of modern society, the basis of good manners has remained the same – that is, made up of respect, kindness and consideration. However, what actually occurs in today’s society is “more casual and relaxed” than years passed, says Louise Fox, Canada’s etiquette expert.
“There is a new type of etiquette parents should be aware of now,” says Fox. “The family dinner used to present an opportunity to engage in conversation with family members. Today, if families do eat together, they eat lined up at an island where they don’t have to look at each other chewing with mouths open or licking, slurping and burping. They watch TV or listen to an iPod while eating. The result is children are not only lacking in table manners they are lacking in basic conversation skills.”
Besides the fact that few meals are eaten around the family dinner table, Fox notes a host of other mannered behaviours that are no longer the norm.
“Chivalry [and] showing deference for women is no longer expected, especially in a business setting where women are considered equal and etiquette is gender neutral. Men are no longer expected to tip their hat to a woman or stand when a woman approaches the table or enters a room,” Fox says. “Technology has changed the way we communicate and interact today. There were no rules governing use of technology 10 or 15 years ago.”
In response, Fox suggests such actions as making a concerted effort to eat family dinners together whenever possible. In addition, parents should inform themselves and discuss with their children what is appropriate when using cell phone and other technology – including when texting or talking on the cell phone when with others, at the dinner table, and other situations.
So why the change in social etiquette?
“It seems that a generation has skipped learning manners because they somehow thought they were at odds with being themselves or being real,” believes Fox. “Manners constituted elitism or snobbery…[and] may have been neglected in the home today as parents concentrate on developing their children’s talents and self esteem.”
To combat the potential damage done by years gone by, Fox says that parents need to “teach manners by example. Walk the walk and model good behaviour yourself. You can’t expect your children to have good manners if they don’t see any.”
To begin revamping your family’s manners, “teach a few skills at a time and, when those are mastered, introduce others,” says Fox. “For example, start with a small child by saying please and thank you.”
By observing mannerly social behaviour, Fox explains that children will be at an advantage both during their childhood and into adulthood – helping kids to reach their full potential when meeting new people, doing new things, and going through daily life.
“Your child may not end up having a meal with the prime minister,” says Fox. “But if you begin teaching children [manners] at an early age, if they do, they will be prepared.”
Louise Fox, Canada’s etiquette expert. Louise is the owner of The Etiquette Ladies, Canada’s Experts in Children, Youth, Teens and Social Etiquette and the director of Louise Fox Protocol Solutions business etiquette. She has been trained and certified in Business
Etiquette and International Protocol at the prestigious Protocol School
of Washington and Children’s Etiquette at the International School of
Protocol In Baltimore.
If you missed part one and two of our manners series check them out here: