Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Apology Letters from Children

Let’s pretend that your child knocked a baseball through a neighbor’s window. Even if the child apologized on the scene, a note of apology is called for. It should
  • Be prompt.
  • Acknowledge fault and apologize.
  • Offer to make amends.
It should also be written in ink and signed Sincerely. The envelope should have the sender’s name and address in the upper left, and the addressee’s name should be preceded by an honorific such as Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Dr. (These, by the way, are the only honorifics that are abbreviated.) The letter will look something like this:

Dear Mr. Smith:
Please accept my apology for breaking your window the other day. It was careless of me, and I feel bad about it. I know all the trouble it has caused you. If you would like, I will repair the window myself. If you have made other arrangements, please send me the bill so that I can pay for the damage.
Tommy Jones

Children and Thank-You Letters

The thank-you letter is probably the first kind of correspondence your child will send. Make the experience as comfortable as possible. A thank-you note from a seven year old does not have to be spelled and punctuated perfectly. It is all right for a note from a child to look like a note from a child. Praise any effort a child makes to correspond. But the basic rules apply even to the very young. The note needs a salutation. Mention the specific gift or favor. Sign with Love or other appropriate sentiment. Later, thank-you notes can include an acknowledgment of the effort behind the gift: “You must have spent the whole day baking these cookies.” You can also let the giver know how the gift will be used: “These cookies will be a big hit at my sleep-over party tomorrow.” And yes, a child must send thank-you notes for Christmas gifts unless the giver is present—and is properly thanked—when the gift is opened. Don’t allow your children to use preprinted thank-you notes. They defeat the purpose of giving personal thanks for a personal gift.

Children and Correspondence

Children who write notes and letters give a great deal of pleasure and have a better chance of experiencing the pleasure of receiving correspondence in return. More important, they grow up imbued with the knowledge of the power and pleasures of personal correspondence.
It is never too early to begin giving your children a respect for the written word and the ceremonies surrounding it. Even before children are old enough to write, they will be aware that writing letters is an important activity: “I’m writing to Aunt Nora to thank her for ….”

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Television and the Internet for children

Parents have the right and the responsibility to exercise some control over how much television children watch and what programs they see. Parental control of television is particularly important when children are young but also applies to adolescents. Resist the temptation to use the television as a baby-sitter during the early years and prescreen as many programs as you can during the later years. We have to accept the fact that our youngsters will be drawn to the computer screen and will want to explore the wonders of e-mail and the Internet. However, they must know some of the hard facts about the very real dangers involved. Your children will be excited by the idea of unlimited freedom of expression and seemingly unlimited access to information. Therefore, make sure they know the following:
  • Good manners apply even in cyberspace.
  • E-mail can be retrieved and traced to the sender. Pressing the Delete key doesn’t make e-mail disappear forever, so be sure to review what you’ve written before you click the Send button.
  • You cannot be sure that no record remains of what you download just because you move it from the hard drive to a disk. People have gone to jail on the basis of what experts have been able to retrieve from hard drives their owners thought were clear of incriminating material.
  • Some dangerous creeps live out there in cyberland. A correspondent who claims to be a 15-year-old cheerleader may be a 50-year-old pervert. People must be very wary of agreeing to meet a computer acquaintance in person, and never, ever meet such a person in a private place, such as a home or a secluded park.
  • They will encounter some new and perhaps radical ideas on the Internet about things like drugs, sex, race, God, and Satan. Let them know that the best way to react to an idea they find intriguing or disturbing is to find out more about it and get different slants on it. Talking with parents, clergy, or someone they trust at school is always helpful.

Frequently Asked Questions on Children Table Manner

Whenever I talk with children about table manners, they are full of questions. Some are delightful, some are difficult, and all are unfailingly interesting. Here are some of the most common questions:
  • What do I say if I burp? Say “Excuse me” to no one in particular and go on eating. Don’t make a big deal out of it.
  • Why do I have to act differently when people come to dinner? From the beginning of time, guests in one’s home have been given a place of honor and other special treatment. We are on our best behavior so that guests feel comfortable, special, and welcome.
  • What do you do if somebody at the table is a sloppy eater? The real question your child is asking is when to tell somebody that he or she is being rude. You can tactfully tell a good friend, out of the earshot of others, especially if you make light of it, but you can never tell a stranger. If you happen to be seated next to a slob, chalk it up to experience and set a good example yourself.
  • Which place setting pieces are yours? Your bread plate is always on your left, and your drink is always on your right. A good way to remember this rule is to remember that the word drink starts with the letters DR for “drinks right.”
  • What about finger foods? When it comes to fingers, use your head. Certainly, you eat things like ribs and tacos and corn on the cob—no matter what company you are in—with your fingers. For most foods, you will use cutlery. Some situations are not so clear-cut. In the Middle East and parts of Africa, for example, people still eat properly with their hands. The food of those cultures is designed to be eaten that way. So the best rule is “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Adjust to the standards and customs of the culture you are in. It might even be acceptable to eat with your feet, but only if you are dining with a family of baboons.
  • Should I help to clean up? Offer. Whether you are at a dinner party or a picnic, the offer is the important thing. Sometimes the host will not want you to help. If so, don’t insist.
  • What if I don’t like what is being served? If eating at someone else’s house or with guests in your house, do not reject food outright. Eat some of everything that is served. If you don’t like a certain food, eat some and move the rest around on your plate as if you were eating it. This skill will serve you well through the years.
  • What if you can’t finish your food? In restaurants, where you can’t control the portions, there’s no problem. Either leave the food or ask for a doggie bag. At someone’s home, never take more than you know you can eat and always leave plenty for the others. If someone is serving you, you can always say, “Just a little, please.”
  • Should I bring a gift when I’m invited to dinner? Yes, but something simple and small. Plants are nice because they remind people of the giver as they grow. Lovely paper napkins, small books, candy, and fine nuts are also good ideas. If you bring brownies or cookies, give them in a sealed tin and say something like “I thought you might like these for the weekend.” Cut flowers are lovely, but they require the host to take time out to find a vase and arrange them. If a youngster is just “going over to Sally’s house” and will eat while there as usual, a gift is not necessary.

Table Manners Basics

When your child has that first job interview over lunch or has dinner for the first time with the parents of a romantic interest, both of you will be glad that good table manners were a matter of routine at your house.
But every meal doesn’t have to be a lesson and eating should not be a chore interrupted by frequent admonitions. Children learn best through immersion and osmosis. In other words, if you have good table manners, it goes a long way toward assuring that your children will also.
The good news is that we are not talking about astrophysics here. Good dining etiquette requires only a simple awareness of the basics. Here’s a list of the most common mistakes that your child should learn to avoid:
  • Cutlery. The worst mistake is not using the wrong implement, but using it incorrectly—holding the fork in your fist like a cello or holding the knife like a dagger. In addition, after you use a piece of cutlery, it never goes back on the table. It is placed fully on the plate and not tipped like the oars of a rowboat with the handles resting on the table and the tips on the rim of the plate. The knife blade faces in, touching the inside of the plate; only the handle touches the rim of the plate. Never wave cutlery around to make a point.
  • Napkins. Never tuck. Place the napkin on your lap. Don’t flap it to open it. If you leave the table, leave the napkin on your chair, making sure the soiled part doesn’t mar the upholstery, and push the chair under the table.
  • Posture. Food doesn’t go down as well and you don’t look attractive when you slump. Sit up straight. You will actually be more comfortable. Keep your elbows off the table. If you don’t know what to do with your hands, put them in your lap.
  • Chewing. Chew with your mouth closed and don’t talk with food in your mouth. Also, don’t eat too fast. It’s bad manners and bad for digestion. You should try to eat at the same pace as others at the table: Begin and finish about the same time as everyone else.
  • The table. Keep keys, purses, gloves, and hats off the table. Nothing goes on the table unless it is part of the meal. Think of the germs they might spread and how unattractive it looks to have these objects on the table.
  • Breaking bread. Do not butter the whole roll or the whole piece of bread and cut it with a knife. Break off one bite-sized piece of bread or a roll at a time, and butter each piece before eating it.

First Names and Introductions

Using first and last names properly is an area that most kids goof up. Tell young people that it is rude, even for adults, to call strangers by their first name. Upon meeting someone new, a youngster should call an adult Mr., Mrs., or Ms. until the adult asks to be called by his or her first name. Sometimes this happens right away, sometimes it takes a while, and sometimes it never happens.
When your child decides to introduce you to one of his friends or finally decides that it’s okay for you to meet her teacher, explain the cardinal rule about introducing people:
The star of the show gets top billing. In other words, mention the most important person first: “Mom, this is my friend, Marjorie Matthews.” Your child should learn to use honorifics when introducing adults to one another, including Dr., Captain, Mr., Mrs., and Ms. Here’s an example: “Doctor Cooper, I’d like to introduce you to my father, Mr. Carter.”
When introducing a teacher to a parent, the teacher’s name is used first: “Mrs.
Bornson, I’d like you to meet my mother, Mrs. Eastwood.” It helps to provide a little information about the people you’re introducing so that they will have something to talk about: “Mom, this is my friend Frank Hales. We’re in the glee club together.”
In introductions, dignitaries—congress people, clergy, elected or appointed officials, and so on— are mentioned first, to show respect for the offices these people hold. This practice does not mean that, as people, they are better or more important than anyone else.