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Mon, May 31, 2010
The Straits Times
Parents, mind kids' manners

I refer to the report Please Read This, Thank You (LifeStyle, May 23).

With more children taking etiquette classes, are today's children more polished in social graces?

My view is that the effort to impart such skills needs to be continually reinforced. Etiquette classes are great places to start with. However, beyond the skills learnt, parents need to consider what the longer-term objectives are.

These skills are great as a one-off experience. However, the deeper issue lies in the management of a child's attitudes and reasons for good behaviour.

When the reasons for making a certain change are strong enough, a child will feel more of a natural inclination to make those shifts in behaviour and attitudes.

The social-emotional aspects must also be considered. When a child's emotions are not well adjusted, he will find it hard to know how to react or behave in a social setting.

All parts of attitude and behaviour change must be implemented as a whole. I would like to see more children be able to explain the reasons for doing certain things or displaying better behaviour because they want to and not because they have to.

There is a difference.

The key difference is what motivates a child to behave better or have a better attitude in life. This then leads to lifelong passion in working at being a better person.

Parents need to consider the views and wants of their children and start teaching them responsible decision-making from a young age, so that when they become adults, this mindset and good behaviour is already ingrained in them.

Social graces come from the change in an individual's attitudes and behaviours, and not because he was told how to behave, especially in a social setting.

Children need to have a well-adjusted awareness of self and society before moving to the 'action', such as eating properly at the dining table.

Manners and respect come from learning over time. This includes experiencing first-hand a particular situation and learning how to make responsible choices.

When a child learns that, then social graces will become a permanent part of his life. Parents also need to be mindful of the reasons why they want their children to attend such programmes.

One reason could be that they see their children as successful if they display social graces.

Parents should also ask themselves this question - is learning lifelong skills more important than academic success, which carries a child through only in his educational journey?

Lisa Tan-Koh

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