Do your children groan when you tell them to get their elbows off the table? Do they roll their eyes when you remind them of one of the etiquette rules? If you say yes to either of these questions, they're probably suffering from manners lecture overload. If this is the case, you might want to consider turning their manners lessons into a game.
Like most parents, you probably get tired of saying the same things over and over to make sure your children don't forget proper etiquette. "Say 'please' and 'thank you'" can be heard all over the place as moms and dads use real-life experiences to reinforce good manners.
You probably wish you never had to feel like a bad recording ever again, but that's not the case. However, there are some activities and games you can do with your children that will make learning proper etiquette more fun. You might even be surprised to see them teaching these things to their friends when they don't think you're watching.
There are several advantages to playing these games: They'll learn manners in a fun way; these are great activities for quality time with the children; and the games will have them actively thinking about how to improve their manners. All of those things will help keep proper etiquette in their minds in a positive way.
What Would You Do?
Make a list of scenarios and jot them down on notecards. Shuffle the cards and have each person pick one from the stack. Take turns reading the scenarios and have the person holding the card come up with as many possibilities as he or she can think of. Then open the discussion to the rest of the group.
Here are some ideas for scenarios with links to references if you need help:
- You see a woman struggling to open a door because she has a squirmy baby on one arm and a shopping bag on the other. What would you do? See Courtesy and Acts of Kindness.
- A man in a wheelchair is sitting in the grocery store aisle looking up at a shelf he can't reach. You think he might want something from that shelf, but he's embarrassed to ask. What would you do? See Disability Etiquette Tips.
- Some kids at school made fun of your best friend's new haircut. What would you do? See Tips to Maintain Your Friendships.
- A new family just moved in next door, and you've noticed that one of the children looks to be about your age. What would you do? See Neighborhood Etiquette.
- You just heard a juicy piece of gossip about one of the girls in your class at school, and you're itching to text your best friend and share the news. What would you do? See Avoid Toxic Gossip.
- Your family is at a dinner party with some friends, and you accidentally spill your drink. What would you do? See Proper Etiquette for Handling Mealtime Mishaps.
On small slips of paper jot down some actions considered "good manners" and another one of "bad manners." Fold the papers and drop them into a bowl. Divide the group into teams. Have the teams take turns drawing from the bowl and acting out the action. The opposing team first has to decide whether the action is "good" or "bad." Then they need to guess what the action is. See 10 Quick and Easy Tips for Everyday Etiquette.
Setting a Table
Give each person a full table setting (dinner plate, glasses, soup bowls, bread plate, forks, knives, spoons, glasses, coffee cups, and dessert dishes). Set a timer for five minutes and have each person set a proper table. If you have a large group, divide them up into teams. See How to Set a Table for a Formal Dinner.
Reverse the roles of the children and adults during dinner. Have each adult and older child do one or two things that are obviously bad manners and give each younger child a point for calling them out and stating what they should have done. When you play this game, make sure that the bad manners don't hurt anyone or damage property. See 8 Most Common Etiquette Mistakes.