Eat, drink and behave

San Francisco parents are outsourcing table manners, reports the New York Times. Well-to-do parents like to eat out, but they’re not good at teaching their children how to behave in public.

It’s dinnertime, and 6-year-old Joaquin Hurtado is staying in his seat. He hasn’t stood up, run around the table or wrestled with his little brother. Good thing. It wouldn’t take much unruly behavior to shatter the dishware or the mood in this upscale restaurant.

“This is a place where you come to eat,” the boy says softly, explaining nice manners. “It’s not a place to play.”

The place is Chenery Park, a restaurant with low lights, cloth napkins, $24 grilled salmon and “family night” every Tuesday. Children are welcome, with a catch: They are expected to behave — and to watch their manners, or learn them. Think upscale dining with training wheels.

Some parents pay for etiquette classes. Robin Wells, the founder of Etiquette Manor in Coral Gables, Fla., teaches children to use forks and look the waiter in the eye.  She charges $285 for five one-hour lessons.

She often exhorts her young students: be polite to your mother because she’ll be happier, and if she’s happier, you’re happier.

I did this with my daughter when she was two, explaining that if she whined, nagged or sulked, she’d have a mean, crabby mother, but if she refrained from whining, nagging and sulking, she’d have a nice, cheerful mother.  It worked — and lasted through her teen years. Didn’t cost a dime either.

Many families eat with the TV blaring in the background. Parents and kids are checking social media instead of talking to each other at the table.

Modern children don’t want to hear about “manners” or “etiquette,” says Faye de Muyshondt, the founder of Socialsklz, which teaches workshops in New York City on etiquette and social skills. She teaches children that they are “building the brand called ‘you,’ ” reports the Times.

Hmmm. Well, I did tell my daughter that I wanted her to behave well at her friends’ homes so their parents would say, “What a well-behaved child. She must have a wonderful mother to raise her to be so well behaved.” This worked too. I

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  1. Modern children don’t want to hear about “manners” or “etiquette”

    That’s hilarious. At what era in the past did children want to hear about those things?

    • Crimson Wife says:

      I don’t think it’s the children so much having an issue with the word “manners” so much as the adults. There are still a lot of Baby Boomers who have issues with authority even though they now ARE the authorities as parents.

  2. The thing is that in times past, children were expected to mind their manners and behave, especially in public. Now, all too often parents make excuses for kids who act up, rather than read them the riot act.

    I would also add that it’s not merely children who act inappropriately in public – there are plenty of so-called adults who behave boorishly as well. (Of course, Joanne’s community of commenters is exempted, for the most part 😉 .)

  3. I once worked a well-known office supply retailer, and back-to-school time was always interesting. The little kids were exquisitely polite; the parents, in general, were atrocious. Always found that interesting.

    Teaching kids manners is probably considered “oppression” in many quarters. And taking responsibility for your own kids is usually too much work for many. Bad parenting indeed.

    I also find it interesting that this article says that “well-to-do” parents aren’t good at teaching their children manners. The writer should probably spent some time around poor people and see how THEIR children act.

  4. When our daughter was growing up, we had fine dining nights, first at home where we practiced our manners, and then at fine restaurants where we dressed up and put the practice into use. When she was in college, she and her friends were invited to a very formal dinner where she knew how to use all the silverware, stemware, and plates. A table mate asked her how she was so comfortable doing this. Took our daughter a moment to think about it, because it seemed like second nature to her. “I guess it’s because my mom taught me how.” She learned by doing.

    • We did the same thing with our kids and they helped with both the meal planning and the preparation. Time spent studying cookbooks also taught them how to understand menu terminology. When my daughter went to the Barristers’ Ball at her (southern) college, she was amazed that she was the only one at her table of 8-10 who knew the whole table setting; the others all assumed that she had “been to Cotillion” and were amazed that she had learned it at home.

      Bottom line; parents who aren’t willing to civilize and socialize their kids should not have them.

      • dkzody & momof4:

        That’s great….but my parents were never taught those skills and so were unable to teach them to me…..I’d venture to guess that there are far more families that resemble mine than yours.

        So what do we do about us?

        • Stacy in NJ says:

          What to do with us barbarians?

          Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to ape good manners. Go out to dinner with someone you suspect of quality table manners and monkey see monkey do.

          The only time I ate dinner at a table with my mom (I didn’t know my dad) was on a rare Thanksgiving when she hadn’t passed out before dinner was actually cooked. She wasn’t overly concerned with my use of a salad fork in place of an entree folk. By the time I hit my 20’s I could knew not to dig in with my fingers, though. 😉

        • There are etiquette books and there are lots of old movies and BBC series. Go to Noodles , Whole Foods or Boston Market, and look around; some people even bring their good manners there.

  5. Kids! I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!
    Kids! Who can understand anything they say?
    Kids! They are disobedient, disrespectful oafs!
    Noisy, crazy, dirty, lazy, loafers!
    And while we’re on the subject:

    Kids! You can talk and talk till your face is blue!
    Kids! But they still just do what they want to do!
    Why can’t they be like we were,
    Perfect in every way?
    What’s the matter with kids today?

    • Plant a radish.
      Get a radish.
      Never any doubt.
      That’s why I love vegetables;
      You know what you’re about!
      But if your issue
      Doesn’t kiss you,
      Then I wish you luck.
      For once you’ve planted children,
      You’re absolutely stuck!