This and other manners mysteries are revealed in an etiquette course for children

Manners Magnifique

For: Second and third graders (8- to 10-year-olds)

When: June 12-16, 4-6 p.m.

Where: Lakewood Elementary School, 3000 Hillbrook

Cost: $100

For information: 214-221-1322

Wondering whether children today know anything about good manners? Just spend one lunch period in an elementary cafeteria.

“A napkin never comes into contact with a child, I’ll see utensils not used, shouting across the table … and when there’s 30 kids sitting at a table, there’s not a lot of role modeling going on,” says Lydia Dickson, a Lakewood Elementary School counselor.

Before you judge, Dickson is not a prim and proper blue-hair who acts as the school’s self-appointed manners police. She’s a 31-year-old who knows that with all the pressures placed on parents and teachers these days, manners are not often a priority.

That’s why she and third-grade teacher Katie McMahon decided to spend a week of their summer break teaching Manners Magnifique, a crash course in etiquette for second and third graders. The hands-on class will cover everyday manners (such as phone etiquette and how to make introductions) as well as table manners, with a formal banquet on the final evening.

It won’t be all knife placement and salad forks. Dickson and McMahon plan to address the sticky situations that kids come across every day — what to do if you’re served a food you don’t like, what to say if the person sitting across from you has a piece of broccoli stuck in his teeth, how to react if somebody sneezes or burps, and how to excuse yourself to the bathroom.

“It’s how do you approach those situations and be polite — even if it’s your little sister,” Dickson says. “More than likely, they’ve heard some of these things before, but we’ll be reinforcing from another adult source.”

One lesson that will probably be geared more toward the boys is three things that should never be picked in public — nose, ears and teeth. Dickson and McMahon also will be reviving chivalry through their course.

“We’re not going to totally be on the top of women’s lib this week,” Dickson says. “There’s something to be said for a door being opened.”

The role-playing will help children brush up on their skills, McMahon says, such as buttering a roll, using a spoon to eat spaghetti instead of slurping it, and spooning dip onto a plate, “not double dipping — I learned that from ‘Seinfeld.’” The students will also learn how to act in a wedding or a religious service.

The class is open to all 8- to 10-year-olds, not just those who attend Lakewood Elementary, and if there is enough interest, an extra class may be added. The more the merrier, Dickson says, because “it does stand out when a kid says ‘yes, ma’am’ or opens a door for you.”

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