"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
May 21, 2012
Ps and Qs: Alive and Well, or a Lost Art?
by Melissa Howell

Please and thank you. Do you hear them much? As much as you'd like to? Manners are becoming a lost art, or so it seems. I am quick to compliment a child who without prompting ends a request with a please, or when given something proffers a word of gratitude. I'd like my own children to be as well trained to respond with appropriate manners in any given situation as Pavlov's dogs to the bell.

Undoubtedly, some of the rules have changed. My grandma has told me many times that when she was young, children were to be seen and not heard at the dinner table. Now, the dinner table provides the perfect opportunity for families to come together and share news and events of the day, and to enjoy one another's company. But there can be certain expectations.

As with anything else, if we expect children to understand the importance of manners - and use them - we need to teach them.

After our family had the elders over for dinner one evening and the children were loud, demanding and frequently interrupted the conversation, my husband and I looked at each other, mortified, and said, "We need to do something more about manners and how to act." With memories of the debacle firmly planted in our minds, we decided it was time to up our etiquette game.

An April 2012 article in the Liahona by the Young Women General presidency, titled "Advice to Young Women on Dating," included this suggestion: "Improve your social skills. Be kind, inclusive of others, and considerate of others' needs. Practice communicating in person. Learn proper etiquette and manners. All of these things will help you become the kind of person others will want to be around."

Of course, this sound advice can apply to anyone, young or old, male or female. And even though my children are not yet of dating age, it's never too early to teach the importance of manners and etiquette.

One evening I made invitations to attend the Family Etiquette Dinner, and rested them on top of their pillows. As the children went to bed that night they discovered them and tore them open in sheer excitement. The joy level certainly could have rivaled that of Christmas morning.

Everyone was invited to show up to the table at 5:30 sharp, dressed in their best attire. The boys were required to escort the girls to the table, and then to seat them.

I set a full and proper table, and my husband and I taught/reviewed how to put our napkins in our laps. We also explained the purpose of each plate/utensil. We reviewed manners pertaining to specific situations, such as what to do if you're at someone else's house or a restaurant and you don't like something on your plate (hint: it doesn't involved yelling, "YUCK!" and spitting it out). We reminded the children how to say "excuse me" if adults are talking and you'd like to get their attention. We practiced cutting our meat quietly and neatly. We talked about how boys and girls should treat each other now, and when they start dating.

The children thought this was a lot of fun. My husband and I thought it was effective. We had the elders over for dinner just last night, and it was a perfectly delightful experience. My 6-year-old whispered to me and asked to be excused when she needed to use the restroom. My 9-year-old conversed wonderfully with the elders, listening to their stories and asking questions.

My 4-year-old belched loudly several times and laughed. Some things are just a work in progress.

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About Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell was born and raised in the woods of northern Minnesota. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

As a single 20-something, she moved to Colorado seeking an adventure. She found one, first in landing her dream job and then in landing her dream husband; four children followed.

Upon becoming a mother, she left her career in healthcare communications to be a stay-at-home mom, and now every day is an adventure with her husband Brian and children Connor (9), Isabel (6), Lucas (5) and Mason (2).

In addition, she is a freelance writer and communications consultant for a variety of organizations.

Melissa serves as Assistant director of media relations for stake public affairs and Webelos den leader

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