Mind your manners
Essential etiquette or needless parental nagging? Time Out finds out if good manners are a thing of the past
• A marketing manager before moving to Umm Sequim 18 months ago, UK-born Emma Collins has three children: Rosie, 10, Jemima, eight and Ted, aged four
• Alexandra Dumont is a full-time mum to Sophia, five, and Vadim, two. Originally from Russia, she lived in Switzerland before moving to Dubai’s Jumeirah Islands three years ago
• Mena Press is originally from Bogota in Columbia. A trained nursery teacher, she is mum to Sebastian, seven, and three-year-old Matilda. She lives in Arabian Ranches and arrived in Dubai in 2005
• Mother to Dali, 10, and Quito, aged 13, Theresa Tsui is a part-time marketing manager and stylist from London. She moved to Dubai three years ago and lives in The Lakes
What got us talking
No child is perfect, but we all want to raise kids who are polite and a pleasure to be around. Let’s face it, they’re not going to get far in life if they eat with their mouths open, pick their nose and never say please or thank you. Dubai is a city of contrasts, and its youngsters can surprise us with their impeccable courtesy one minute, only to astound us with their rudeness the next. So, how do you instill good manners? Is it difficult to hammer home proper conduct in an expat environment? And when should kids stop viewing soup as finger food? We gather four mums at Baker & Spice and, over coffee and carrot cake (elbows off the table please), quiz them on how their families mind their ‘p’s and ‘q’s.
Are kids’ manners today better or worse than they used to be?
Theresa: Definitely worse. I always say to my kids, ‘In my day we behaved like this...’ then I think to myself: Shut up, I’m turning into my grandmother!
Emma: Yes, there’s that ‘not in my day’ attitude, but I sometimes think when you say that to your children, you’re looking back at your own childhood and remembering yourself at an older age and so you’re perhaps expecting more from them.
Mena: But I do I think we were better behaved than our children are today because our parents were less tolerant. Manners start in the home.
Alexandra: I agree. I think there is much less discipline these days.
Theresa: My parents were disciplinarians. We knew where the boundaries were and we knew not to go past them – or even near them actually (laughs). Our parents were more frightening to us than we are to our children.
Emma: But my parents weren’t strong disciplinarians and neither am I, but I think it depends on individual families and how manners are taught. If you look at some teachers, and some parents too, the best ones don’t need to get cross or raise their voices with the kids. They just have a natural authority. I think that’s what my parents had.
Mena: That’s true; but some teachers here in Dubai are too ‘matey’ with the kids, or they worry about telling a child off because they fear the repercussions – that the mother will come in and complain.
Do manners vary between different cultures, and is this a problem for parents in Dubai?
Mena: One of the mums in my daughter’s class – I’m not sure what nationality she is – told her daughter that if anyone comes near her she must hit them. So that’s an example of how background can certainly shape a child’s manners. Her mum doesn’t want any strangers to approach her daughter, so this is her way of teaching her daughter to protect herself.
Alexandra: No! Really? I’m surprised by that; but I don’t think that’s a cultural issue – it’s a question of education. I’m amazed that a mother would teach their child to be so unsociable. It’s just not rational as strangers are a part of life. And children need to learn how to respect each other and their elders.
Theresa: I agree, but different cultures do have different ways of doing things. I come from London and we have a habit of making sure our children stand up when they’re on a bus to offer their seat to an adult who is standing. But I’ve lived in Hong Kong – and that just doesn’t work there. If you get up to offer your seat to somebody, before you’ve even turned around, they’ll be somebody else in your seat. Nobody gives up a seat in Hong Kong because it’s such a packed place. My daughter got up to give her place to a heavily pregnant lady and, straight away, a man jumped into the seat. She told him it wasn’t for him, that it was for the pregnant lady, but he still refused to move.
Time Out Dubai,