Manners and etiquette for children: Start early

January 30, 2016 08:03
Since good habits take time to form, start teaching your children early on manners and etiquette. Photo:,

I can still recall vividly some cultural-shock moments that I experienced when I started boarding school life in the United Kingdom.

Back then I was, for instance, impressed that people were keen on holding the door for others. Sometimes, I would embarrassingly find myself as the odd one out at a dinner table for not keeping my fork tines pointing down in my left hand.

Since good habits take time to form, I am fortunate to have received formal and traditional training when I was young.

However, it is getting more common nowadays to see children showing a certain lack of awareness of traditional manners and etiquette.

The situation is definitely getting worse, especially as parents and society are focusing more on children's academic achievements while neglecting many other important aspects of life.

As parents, we should shoulder the responsibility and become role models for the youngsters. Begin with these basic steps and children would pick them up naturally.

1. Greeting
Greet others using the appropriate title or name. Maintain good eye contact while talking. Keep wearing a smile to show that you are interested in the conversation.

2. Treat others with courtesy and respect
Start holding doors for others while moving into or out of a building. And step out of a lift only after others.

3. Dining etiquette
There are a few simple ones to remember. Always leave the table only after everyone has finished eating. Say "excuse me" when you have to visit the bathroom. Most importantly, always use the cutlery properly.

4. Express gratitude and thankfulness
Never forget to say thank you when you receive some help from others. Writing a thank-you card is warm and sweet.

5. Respect people's differences
It is the most difficult lesson for life. It's easy to be friends with like-minded people. But there are occasions, often many, where you find others hold ideas and values different from yours. Focus on the issue at hand and do not take it personal or adopt a hostile attitude toward others.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 28.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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