Before meeting Miss Crystal I thought etiquette classes for children would be stuffy and dull. After meeting Miss Crystal, I discovered that getting children to be polite and make a good first impression can be fun and engaging.
Crystal Bailey, the Director of the Etiquette Institute of Washington, came to my home to provide her signature in-home etiquette class to four children, two boys and two girls ranging in age from five to seven. We opted for the Primrose Perfection class, which gives children instruction in six areas: The Golden Rule; First Impressions; Saying Thank You; Netiquette; Being a Good Host; and Table Manners. From the moment Crystal walked through the door she began leading by example by demonstrating impeccable manners. The children were invited to sit down and were given workbooks featuring young Primrose Alexander, who guides them through each lesson and offers tips along the way.
Crystal was able to immediately engage the children by making a game out of demonstrating bad posture and good posture and a range of funny faces to show how body language matters when interacting with others. The children loved taking turns explaining what was right and wrong in “manners” flashcards showing examples of good and bad behavior, including whining and wearing muddy shoes in the house. Crystal also incorporated arts and crafts into a lesson on the importance of saying thank you, by asking children to write thank-you notes to someone who does nice things for them and allowing them to decorate their note with stamps and stickers. I am happy to report my son wrote a thank-you note to me.
The etiquette lesson also provided many opportunities for practice. All four children present at the lesson I observed had a turn introducing themselves to the group and sharing some things about themselves. Crystal did a great job of offering suggestions for improvement and praising the children when they did well. Crystal also asked the children to introduce themselves to each other using fake names (ninja code names and princess names were acceptable) to practice making eye contact, shaking hands, and speaking with confidence.
The most popular part of the lesson was the segment on table manners. When told it was time for this portion of the lesson to begin one girl even exclaimed “I love table manners!” Crystal started by showing the children how to fold a napkin the fun but formal shape of an ice cream cone. She then walks children through the proper way to set a table before getting into the nitty-gritty of demonstrating how to properly use all utensils and other appropriate meal-time behavior. Although all kids eat, they don’t always remember to keep their elbows down, put a napkin on their lap, and push their soup spoon towards the back of the bowl. All of the table lessons are imparted through role-play to hold children’s interest.
I was impressed with the way Crystal kept children engaged throughout the lesson, especially as my own children tend to roll their eyes when I remind them to say please and thank you. Crystal also took advantage of teaching moments during her entire time in my home, including reminding the children of the importance of covering their mouths when they cough as one girl did during the lesson and praising them for maintaining good posture even after the posture segment of the lesson had ended.
When I signed my son and his friends up for an etiquette lesson I was hoping they would leave with more confidence when meeting new people and in situations that required them to act more like grown-ups than they are accustomed to when running on the playground. Crystal taught them the skills they need to know to do so, but provided them with the opportunity to put their new knowledge to work immediately. Additionally, while like most parents, I teach my children some basic manners at home, I realized from observing the etiquette that I often do not tell my children why they are expected to behave in certain ways and how far this can go towards getting children to understand why they are expected to behave in a certain way.
For example, although my children know that it is not good to be late, I don’t think I ever took the time to explain to them that we might miss something important or make someone feel bad if we arrive late somewhere as Crystal did. Also, despite my best efforts, I feel that many of my attempts to teach etiquette comes off as criticism. While my son usually reacts stiffly when I remind him to sit up straight, after some practice with Crystal he agreed that it both looked and felt better to stand up the “nice and tall” way. I also think that having rules of etiquette explained by someone else got the message across that many rules, including not playing Angry Birds at the dinner table, are universally considered good manners and not merely rules imposed by a mean mommy.
The Etiquette Institute of Washington offers several options for lessons. In-home options include Primrose Perfection which covers several areas of etiquette as mentioned above and a customized package which can include particular emphasis on any of the lessons covered in Primrose Perfection or other areas of concern to families. As an example, some families that would like to focus on table manners will prepare a meal to serve during the lesson giving children a real-world and real-time opportunity to practice their etiquette. The cost of an in-home lesson is $150.00 for approximately two hours of instruction for 1 to 4 children. The Etiquette Institute of Washington also regularly offers group classes for $75.00. These classes cover the same material offered in Primrose Perfection. Both in-home and group lessons are appropriate for ages five through teens. Tea for Two party packages are also available starting at $149.00.
Soon you could be saying “thank you” to The Etiquette Institute of Washington for giving you a little help teaching your child good manners. I know I am!