Feeling at Ease in Social Settings

By Lynn Murtagh-Hartje

Often, when I teach parent classes, I don't spend much time on Skill #5, Social Skills. I know that most parents teach social skills, such as when to say please and thank you and I don't want to insult them by assuming they don't teach these basic skills. However, as I was preparing this article I wondered seriously about how well we all teach social skills. I have noted some examples of our omissions:

  • Very few of my friend's children address my husband and me as Mr. and Mrs. and insist on calling us by first names even though we haven't offered that option.
  • Some dinner guests of my children don't know how to set a table with the fork on the left of the plate and knives and spoons to the right. I noticed if I set a formal table with more than one fork, even the adults are confused.
  • The language society presents to our children limits their adjective and adverb use to only few words that I choose not to list here. We are against a strong adversary-societal norms that are very casual.

In light of this, I recently had the opportunity to enroll my sixth grade son in a Junior Assembly Etiquette Program. This 8-week program will reinforce many of our home lessons and includes: learning skills of etiquette, how to make introductions, what to do when escorting another person or when you are being escorted, conversation skills, how to discuss difficult topics, how to be a good host, how to write thank you notes, table manners, telephone etiquette, and much more.

The young participants in this class will also learn basic dances such as the waltz, tango and swing.

Though my son is a willing participant in this program, I am much more excited than he is about what he will be learning. It was a thrill for a set of 30 parents as we dropped off our preteens who were "dressed for success".

I encourage all teachers and parents to not be too casual in teaching social skills to children of all ages. We can give our children a great life-long gift by equipping them to know how to feel at ea

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Discipline With Purpose
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