Thursday, April 28, 2011

Moments in history!

Ever wonder about our ancestors' early sense of manners?

Around 2500 B.C., "The Instructions of Ptahhotep" (sometimes called "The Maxims of Ptahhotep," or "The Precepts of Ptah-Hotep") was the Emily Post of the day - if Post had been grand vizier under the pharaoh Isesi, that is. There is some question as to when the wisdom of Ptahhotep (or Ptahhotpe or Ptah-Hotep) was recorded, and there are discrepancies between a papyrus version and texts of the instructions at the British Museum.

That said, the basic idea is clear: this is a collection of ancient advice given to young men who wanted to get ahead in life. Important topics include ignoring rumors, proper leadership, and taking the high road:

• "Do not repeat any extravagance of language; do not listen to it; it is a thing which has escaped from a hasty mouth. If it is repeated, look, without hearing it, toward the earth; say nothing in regard to it."

• "Inspire not men with fear. Let one provide sustenance for them in the lap of peace; it will then be that they will freely give what has been torn from them by terror."

• "If you are powerful, respect knowledge and calmness of language. Let not your heart be haughty, neither let it be mean."

• "If you desire that your conduct should be good and preserved from all evil, keep yourself from every attack of bad humor. When a man has established his just equilibrium and walks in this path, there where he makes his dwelling, there is no room for bad humor."

• "Grumble not over your own affairs."

• "Let your countenance be cheerful during the time of your existence."

Sometimes the best advice is old advice! More moments in etiquette history to come!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hunting Easter eggs & good manners

We’re at the tail end of prime Easter egg hunting season — the big day is this Sunday. But it’s not too late to talk about etiquette for the cluster of last-minute hunts and get-togethers.

For your consideration:

• Those who receive invitations to an egg hunt should not only RSVP promptly, but ask if they can help prepare, such as offering to bring pre-filled eggs. It’s very likely that the hunted eggs will be of the plastic variety, which are both inexpensive to buy and easy to fill. If you would rather not buy plastic, you can take an egg carton, cut out two cups, and tape them together. You don’t have to spend a fortune on treats, either—very small children are happy with candy, stickers, even coins (as in pennies!). One child we know was very pleased with the small stone painted like a ladybug that he found in an egg.

• Even though there are enough eggs to go around, there’s always some small skirmish over an egg for which two tiny hands reach at once. This is a good time to gently remind your child of the importance of sharing.

• The impulse to dress your young children impeccably may be strong—this is wonderful photo opportunity, after all. But remember that egg hunting involves being outside and rummaging around in the dirt and grass (and who knows what else). Go for clothes that can get dirty or stained without any heartache.

• Make an egg hunt part of a larger event, like an Easter brunch, lunch or dinner. This is a fantastic idea, especially for those who may be without family during the holidays. Invite co-workers or classmates who would otherwise spend the day alone.

Happy hunting!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Holding Your Breath #4

A friend of ours admits that using heightened manners around her preschool-aged daughter sometimes feels a little strange.

It's not that she and her husband are usually rude to each other — although she jokes that, if alone, she’d be much more likely to tell him "Move!" than the measured "Excuse me," she uses around their child. Our friend makes an effort to model good behavior, always saying "please" and "thank you," and they tell their daughter that they're proud of her when she behaves well.

"It's the parents' job to teach their child how to be kind toward others and good manners are a part of that," she says.

All that hard work paid off on a recent trip to the library.

Our friend's daughter was playing with a toy there; an older boy bossily told her that she couldn't play with it (which wasn't true). Our friend stayed out of it, watching to see what would happen.

"Instead of yelling at him or being rude, she said, 'But I’m playing with it,' in a very calm voice," says our friend. After this exchange happened several times, with the child only repeating calmly that she was playing with it, the older boy "just look confused — I guess because she didn't yell or get mad," says our friend.

"I think teaching good manners is very important," she adds. "I feel by teaching manners you are preparing your child for life."

Sometimes, when you hold your breath, you are pleasantly surprised.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Working with the Ron Clark Academy

Referencing a 1945 edition of Emily Post's Etiquette!

Does the name Ron Clark ring a bell?

It might — Clark won the 2001 Disney Teacher of the Year award, appeared twice on the Oprah Winfrey show (Winfrey named him her first “Phenomenal Man”), and had his story made into a TV movie (starring Matthew Perry) in 2006. Clark is also the author of “The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator’s Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child” and “The Essential 11: Qualities Teachers and Parents Use to Motivate, Inspire, and Educate Children.”

The private, non-profit Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta opened in 2007, teaching fifth to eighth graders from a wide range of backgrounds.

We have the total joy of working directly with these students.

Since 2009, we have driven from Athens every Tuesday to teach etiquette in the after school program. Ron Clark students learn that table manners are applicable even to afternoon snacks. They keep leadership journals and learn the innate reward of doing things for others, even without acknowledgment. We teach social dance, and the joy of learning new steps — even if it’s a cha-cha or waltz — is universal, regardless of the background of each student.

On our website, Clark has been kind of enough to speak of our relationship with the academy.

“ELI's classes teach our students how to have a high ‘civility I.Q.,’ and they play a supporting role in preparing our students to be future leaders,” he writes. “Their creative, fun and hands-on teaching is relevant and valuable for our students as it teaches them how to be good global citizens, and the students and staff couldn't be more pleased with the results of the program. Truly outstanding!”

We would like to say a big thanks to Ron Clark — not only for his kind words, but for his amazing work, and for the opportunity it gives us to work with some exceptional youth. The pleasure is all ours!