From greeting guests with a smile to mastering dining skills, Diana Mather and Maggie Moore, tutors from The English Manner, tell us about the importance of good manners.
Why do you think etiquette is important for kids?
Diana: It’s not so much etiquette as actual social skills which are really important. If we are going to get on in life, what we teach is the importance of good manners, and that is treating others with kindness, consideration and respect - these are ageless, priceless, and cultureless and everyone should have them. It’s thinking about other people first, not snatching the last chocolate on the plate, offering things around – generally being kind and thoughtful makes people nicer.
Your course The Little Prince and Princess is geared towards kids aged four to six, is it challenging teaching that age group – how do you keep them focused?
Maggie: At that age, parents or nannies come along to the course with them. I think children are capable of thinking and actually have more fun doing it.
Diana: We do put books under their arms and make them walk with a book on their head which helps posture.
What’s on offer in Young Essentials Stage 1 and Stage 2 and what is the most valuable lesson kids will learn about etiquette?
Maggie: We spend a lot of time talking about posture and deportment and image. It’s really a confidence building exercise, teaching them how to be confident without being arrogant.
Is there an aspect that kids enjoy the most?
Maggie: Every group of children is very different; they’re all personalities. Our job is to help them develop their personality.
Diana: Some like learning how to curtsy or bow and others like walking with a book on their head.
Do you notice a difference in the behaviour/manners of kids attending your courses in the UAE compared to other countries you teach?
Diana: I think China is very different because Chinese children don’t ask questions. It’s very difficult to get them to actually say what they feel because they’re used to being taught in a much more regimented manner. As far as European and Middle Eastern children there’s not much difference.
Do you both have a personal pet hate when it comes to manners?
Maggie: A child who interrupts incessantly ‘Mummy, Mummy’!
Diana: Children who don’t say please or thank you.
Do you think that schools play an important role?
Diana: Some parents are inclined to leave a little too much to the schools and it must start at home - but obviously it’s important that kids play their part at home too.
What are the basic do’s and don’ts that every child should know about manners in a social situation?
Maggie: Always saying please and thank you and not being rude while adults are talking. I don’t want to say children should be heard and not seen because I do think children should participate but they should also know when it’s inappropriate.
Diana: I think children expecting what they want when they want it because the world doesn’t work that way. The do’s are that they should appreciate what they’ve got, say thank you and not whinge when they can’t have things. As a grandmother of five I know how difficult that is!
Have you ever encountered a troublesome kid who refuses to learn, how do you deal with them?
Diana: I have in the UK; I had to take one little boy out to find out what was wrong, it was a deep seated problem; often we become like counsellors in some ways. Children in the Middle East have been very lovely, sunny children.
What’s the first thing you notice on meeting a child that shows they are well mannered?
Maggie: Whether they can look at you and smile, I think that’s very important.
What’s your favourite part of teaching kids?
Maggie: I can remember with my own children, waiting for them to be aged 10 or 11 so I could take them out with us for dinner in restaurants when we went on holiday. It’s really nice when they sit down and know how to behave and have a sensible conversation.
What is the most difficult part that most people have trouble learning?
Diana: Dining etiquette is one of the things we get asked about most. Public speaking is also something that still needs teaching after all these years - and we bring etiquette into everything we teach.
www.theenglishmanner.ae (050 850 8459).