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Food allergies are becoming more common in society, as better medical tests are able to identify the source of a person's discomfort. Although they are more prevalent, the person with the "ailment" needs to become his/her own advocate in order to ensure that surrounding foods can be eaten. It might seem an uncomfortable situation to announce that anything with peanuts cannot be consumed at the dinner table, but it is better to refuse a food than go into anaphylactic shock. As a host or considerate citizen, there are several things that a person can do to prepare for such challenges ahead of time:

1) When inviting guests to a dinner party, ask invitees ahead of time if anyone suffers from food allergies (peanuts, sesame, gluten, dairy, eggs -to name a few). Those with eating difficulties will be thrilled that they will be able to participate in the meal without having to worry.

2) If a person with the allergy offers to bring an allergy-free food to the party, don't hesitate to accept the offer. That way, the person knows what is in the food and won't get sick, and others will have the opportunity to sample a new dish!

3) It is alright to ask about the allergy. For example, a person with Celiac Disease is oftentimes extremely happy to share details about the allergy/disease, as it raises awareness of the problem. Every question is a good question!

4) Consult with cookbooks or online recipes for easy meals that are allergy-free. It is a win/win situation, as new foods get to be sampled and everyone can eat!

5) Ask before eating suspect foods in front of others- especially children. So many children have severe peanut/nut allergies and can suffer from a serious allergy attack if they touch something contaminated then stick their fingers in their mouth.

Eating in front of children can be a difficult situation, as they often do not fully understand their "ailment." When participating in an event with kids, consider all allergies that a child might have and potential alternative snacks. At EtiKids, we recognize that this is a challenge, so we often try to provide two choices: fruit and vegetables. Dips are often provided as well, so the kids can experiment with healthy snacks in a way that can work for everyone. Best of all, no one is left out of the fun!

 
 
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(Forgive us friends, for we have been negligent. It has been quite some time since our last post... Better late than never!)

As the New Year approaches, it is a good time to review some of last year’s social highlights and check for areas to change, improve or tweak. When this year’s holiday parties come to a close for 2010, there is opportunity to evaluate and take note of the value of one’s social skills.

All month long there have been episodes of individuals’ double-dunking, licking fingers at the table and the best, eating crudités directly over the platter as excess sauce was drooled right into the dip bowl (Yuck)! There were observable first dates with conversation flowing in only one direction, missed appointments and inappropriate attire at parties and social gatherings. During a shopping frenzy at a local shop, acceptable behaviors were replaced with nasti-tudes, observed when two women got into a vulgar verbal quarrel.

Friendships were strained by inappropriate comments, breakdown in communication and lack of sensitivity. Families were lax in extending common courtesies to one another. Bullies ruled in schools as administrators were in a quandary of how to handle situations. Words such as please and thank you often were forgotten in conversations and feelings were hurt. Sorry was often too late.

Farting and other bodily noises increased, becoming much more visible and acceptable on TV, in the movies and in comedy shows. Radios blasted in decibels so high, they registered on the Richter scale. Guests and hosts forgot their manners by having unrealistic expectations and making impossible demands of time and resources.

As cell phone technology improved and use was on the rise, basic etiquette spiraled downward exponentially. It was not unusual to dine with people texting at the table, conversing in loud tones in quiet or public places, and checking scores at social functions.

Conducting business in the waiting room of a doctor’s office was one of the many examples of lack of consideration.

As we move into the New Year, EtiKids invites everyone to think about adding a resolution that gives latitude to gratitude by incorporating a new social skill. Here are a few ideas!

Have a conversation without using the word “I”. Give others the leeway to share their thoughts, ideas and experiences. Listen more.

Add the magic words please and thank you in conversation, especially when talking to children. According to research, it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Use the next month to assure the addition of those words to daily vocabulary. Set the example, model the behavior and watch the words appear in the child’s every day language

Make a commitment to learn table manners. Give yourself the freedom to enjoy social situations where etiquette will come in handy be it a first date, business dinner, formal fundraiser or casual celebration.

Take time for pampering oneself. Getting enough rest and relaxation fosters patience and politeness with others.

Book an EtiKids party or class for your next home or school function. Any EtiKids workshop is a welcome and fun addition to an organization’s meeting, professional seminar or business event. Programs are fun, entertaining and filled with strategies to include etiquette in a corporate culture and everyday life.

Please let us know how you are doing. We invite you to share a success story or tell us how your resolutions are progressing. May the year bring joy, good health and peace to all….Thank you!

 
 
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I recently did a survey on the EtiKids website. The question was “do you make children say please when you ask for something?” Out of the responses, 58.3% said they do “all of the time.” 16.7% said “not as often as I should,” and 25% had other answers, including, “I will when I have a child!” and “Yes- but they are not my children…” 0% of the people said never!

The word “please” is to be used when you want something: to ask rather than to demand. That “magic word,” as it is often referred to for children, changes the tone of the sentence. An ultimatum begins to resemble a request, and the demeanor between the involved parties relaxes. A person is more willing to get the job done (with far less under-the-breath muttering) should that word be included.

The results of this poll should show just how hard it is to enforce that 1 word into daily vocabulary. Although it is amazing that more than half of the pollers are diligent about regularly enforcing the use of the word please, the 16.7% were brutally honest in their “not as often as I should” answers.

From an article on Parents Connect, Nanny Stella gives great advice for teaching children to use the word please (and thank you) in 3 steps: “1) show by example, 2) praise the pleases, and 3) be a broken record.”

Children truly learn from behavior being modeled, meaning, they learn by watching those around them. Control the market by showing them the behaviors that you want them to exhibit in public. If you want a child to hand you the cup of water instead of spill it, you should say, “Please hand me the water.” When the child uses the language on his/her own, praise him/her repeatedly. Positive reinforcement, is a highly effective way to teach children behaviors that you wish for them to continue without negative repercussions. Finally, if the child doesn’t use the word please, do not provide them with what they want until the magic word is said. For children, their new language can become innate with a bit of consistent practice. They will get it.

Children love challenges, so provide them the opportunity to rise to the occasion. Count how many people said, “please” when they asked for something, whether in a restaurant, in a classroom, in a store. Let the kids listen for the magic word, and let them watch people’s reactions when it is and is not used. Children can learn from their own recognition skills: why politeness matters.

Please is the most basic of social etiquette; the politeness displayed by the courtesy will open doors with its usage. Teaching children this social skill at a young age will ensure mastery and give them the tools to succeed as grownups.

 
 
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Walking into a favorite department store with one’s best friend in search of a brand new pick-me up mood lipstick, two pair of eyes immediately scan for the cosmetics department. Blocking the path? A multicolored colossal flower-print dress and flashy gold handbag furiously gesticulate within the sight line. All motor and visual motion abruptly stops. In a flash palpitations patter feverishly, saliva drips from the sides of the mouth and an overwhelming sense of panic develops. As The Dress moves closer, it is apparent... You don’t remember her name. You should know it, as introductions will need to be made. But at this moment, it has conveniently escaped. Introductions will need to be made. NOW WHAT?

Introductions are an important part of making new friendships and keeping them. There are times when introductions can be a challenge. One of the most embarrassing situations can be forgetting someone’s name. Regardless of age, it happens to everyone at one time or another. An introduction has to be made, memory fails, and suddenly a person’s name remains perched on the tip of the tongue. When this happens there are three ways to handle this:

Fess up! One can sincerely apologize and say to the person, “So very sorry for the absentminded moment, but I just forgot your name”. They may get miffed for the moment, but more often then not, they appreciate sincerity. Honesty pays and there was no running and hiding in the clothing rack to avoid saying hello! As you age, this begins to happen with increased frequency, so most people will be understanding, forgiving and may even laugh! ** (Caution: This will not work if it is a relative, child, spouse or close friend!)

Investigate! Is there someone nearby who may know who the person is? One can approach another person and simply ask, “Who is the person wearing the flowered muumuu?” This must be done quickly and discreetly but usually yields a positive result.

The Sting! This operation is a bit more complex and works on the principle that when a person meets someone, there will be mutual introductions. “Hi! We met at lunch last week. I’m Jamie, and this is my friend, Brett”. The logical response for person C is, “Yes, I remember. I’m Sam. It’s nice to see you again, Jamie, and a pleasure to meet you, Brett”. In a variation, Person A sends over Person B to introduce themselves hoping that person C will also reveal their name. Person B then reports back to person A.

To avoid forgetting an introduction, one can use memory tricks to help reinforce names. This is done by assigning a trait to the person such as Jerry has a big smile. Because Jerry and merry rhyme, the word association becomes Merry Jerry. Parents can teach and help build word associations for the children.

Whatever strategy one chooses to use, it is important to remember that people like to hear their names mentioned. Children can be taught to use the words ‘I’m sorry” or apologize for not remembering a name. That social skill is even more effective when made with eye contact! Role playing prior to a new social situation, where they are likely to meet new people, can help build confidence and increase the child’s level of comfort. Teaching children etiquette helps to prevent potentially awkward and uncomfortable situations. As we want children to meet success, we should prepare them (as best we can) for potential social mishaps and how to gracefully handle them.

OK… Now what were we talking about?

 
 
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Through EtiKids, I recently taught an etiquette class to a Brownie Troop in Bergen County, NJ, in which the subject of napkins came up. The question had been posed to the girls, “how do you know when to put your napkin on your lap?” The vivacious group of 22 looked pensive for a (brief) moment but quickly figured out the answer. “You wait for someone else to do it!”

That was a great idea, and according to some sources, correct! It is believed that one should wait until the host/hostess unfolds his/her napkin. The situation changes when not at a dinner party: in a restaurant, if the napkin is on the plate, the diner should immediately stick the napkin on the lap. As some restaurants start pouring drinks immediately upon being seated, it is a great way to prevent accidental outfit “water-staining.”

At a less formal dining establishment: as soon as ANY food is served would be an appropriate time to put the napkin on the lap. Since the napkin is often placed underneath the fork, it should be placed on top the lap as soon as the fork is lifted.

When getting up from the table, make sure to put the napkin on the left side of the plate (gently folded). As napkins are to be used for the purpose of wiping food away from one’s mouth, they should not be on the chair, where dirty bottoms are often placed.

Finally, one should not tuck napkins into the top of their shirts (resembling a bib). Using proper table manners (elbows off the table, no licking fingers, asking people to pass, chewing with lips closed) will prevent food from winding up down the front of one's shirt. As bibs are typically used for those who cannot feed themselves, it is inappropriate for a person to tie a napkin around their neck solely for the sake of preserving an outfit (unless eating lobster). When in doubt, don’t wear white. Meaning, don’t go to a restaurant that serves tomato sauce-rich foods, wearing light colors that will get stained.

These simple techniques for appropriate napkin use will help children and grownups alike in the present and future. As etiquette is meant to prevent uncomfortable situations by teaching people how to behave in social situations, teaching children these skills at a young age will ensure that they will have the knowledge of how to behave as adults.

Those Brownies were so excited to know an actual time as to when they should put their napkin on their lap and couldn’t wait to go home and teach their grownups. Watch out parents! The word is spreading…

 
 
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Whenever Rupert Rude had a birthday, he would never send thank you notes for the gifts he received. He always thought, “why bother? I said thank you when I opened it in front of them” (even though after the fact, he rarely remembered who gave him what). His friends, Jolly Jonny and Maddy Manners watched him play with the toys that they gave him, feeling sad that Rupert Rude never mentioned whether or not he liked the toys, let alone if he even knew where he acquired the gifts from. Staring in horror as Rupert Rude stomped on the super-cool action figure (that he may or may not have known was from them) in front of them, Jolly Jonny and Maddy Manners decided that they would never bring him a gift ever again. “It seems like he doesn’t care either way,” said Jolly Jonny. Maddy Manners tearfully explained, “we just thought that he would really like it because we know he likes blue!”

Did that situation ever happen to you? Have you ever felt like you have picked the perfect gift for somebody, only to wonder if the receiver ever liked it (or got it)?

It is ALWAYS important to acknowledge a gift with a thank you. If a guest arrives at your house with a picture that was colored just for you or a bottle of wine, you (the host) need to look the guest in the eye and say THANK YOU. A thank you note is not required for this. Up to your discretion: if you feel like a person brought you something especially thoughtful, an email is always appreciated. Of course, I wouldn’t discount the fact at how nice it is to be on the receiving end of a handwritten note of gratitude for a gift I have brought.

If the event is a special occasion, such as an engagement party, bridal shower, baby shower, or planned birthday party (to name just a few), handwritten notes are pretty much the only way to go. Although there are some schools of belief that an email is appropriate, the truly heartfelt "thank you" often seems to be in the form of a personalized thank you note. Yes, a gift means that there should be no expectation of anything upon receipt; however, people just want a testimonial of your pleasure.

Moving past the “should you” or “should you not” send a thank you argument (you should!), the ever-burning question of turn-around time: how long should you wait to send a thank you note? According to some wedding etiquette books, the time line is 6 months. I feel very strongly about the fact that a THANK YOU NOTE MUST BE WRITTEN BEFORE A CHECK IS CASHED, GAME IS PLAYED WITH, JEWELRY IS WORN OR THE GIFT IS USED!

Even young children can learn the art of a thank you note. By the time a child is two years old, he/she is capable of creating a drawing of the present received. The grownup can write the “thank you” for them. Once writing skills are developed, they can be incorporated into the picture. For example, if the child can write his/her name, add that to the drawing of the picture. The message to be taken away is that young children can learn to express gratitude for a gift (or time spent): people of any age can learn to say “thank you.”

Dear Julie can help you write the appropriate Thank You Note for each occasion.

 
 
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I was recently reading a posting on Facebook: someone was wondering proper "door etiquette." Although some responses were "to never hold the door for anyone" and "keep walking so as to avoid any sort of uncomfortable situation," I thought that it would be helpful to know how to handle the door scenario... After all, how else could we help raise a nice group of young girls and boys without modeling the appropriate behavior for them?!

First and foremost, it is always polite to hold the door for the person behind you. Period. As the image of doors getting slammed shut in one's face is not a pleasant one, taking an extra 5 seconds of your time will brighten someone else's day and you will have gone one step closer to fulfilling your good-deed quota of the day. Of course, if someone holds the door for you, don't forget to say Thank You!

Second, let them out before you go in. This rule can be applied to subway turnstiles as well. I know it seems like common sense; however, that rule is forgotten by many. A person has a much easier time exiting through an empty space, rather than maneuvering through a crowd. After the person is allowed through the door, the passer-by-er should hold the door for those entering.

Now, the age-old question of gender and door holding. Modern times dictate that chivalry is no longer an integral part of society. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune (written by Nara Schoenberg) modern etiquette has a twist with "Etiquette for Dummies" by Sue Fox. When someone crosses to the door, the first person to arrive is the one who will hold it open, regardless of gender. A person's age may be taken into consideration.

The same is true for a revolving door: the first person to enter is either the first one to reach the door or the stronger of the group, if the door is not in motion.

Regardless of gender, teaching your preschool child to say "thank you" every time a door is held for him/her will cause pleasantly surprised looks from the grownups around. Everyone will notice "Paul/Polly Polite". Not to mention that young children like to have responsibilities. By assigning them a job, such as "door holder," children learn the skills of dependability and reliability, which will only help them in their future endeavors.

And of course, encouraging them to complete any task, regardless of age, race and/or gender is a valuable lesson to teach children (and one that we hope will stay with them for the rest of their lives)

 
 
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I promise to clean my room. I promise never to grab. I promise to take you to the game.
PROMISES are made daily.  A promise lets someone know that something will or will not be done.  Robin Thompson, author of Be The Best You Can Be – A Guide To Etiquette and Self Improvement for Children and Teens says “one of the best compliments to receive is that you keep your word.”

A promise is a pledge to oneself or someone else.  According to "Why Keeping Your Promise Is Good For You" in Psychology Today, an unkept promise to someone may be misinterpreted or can communicate a negative message.  Something else trumped the commitment. Others may perceive one is not responsible or dependable, even if the promise broken is small. Enough forgotten promises can spoil a relationship.

Sometimes a task or expectation may be overwhelming.  Responses that utilize social skills may sound like, “I’m sorry I can’t,” “I apologize, but I am not comfortable with that,” or “I just won’t be able to take the time at this moment.” Make promises that can be kept or assure someone something will be completed only if that is the true intent.  It is easier to let others know ahead of time that the task cannot be completed, so alternate plans can be arranged.  Using manners to politely decline an invitation shows appropriate social etiquette as much as accepting.

Simple steps from ehow.com to work on keeping a promise:
Assessing the situation, whether taking out the garbage or a deeper emotional commitment, one must ask if a conclusion will be possible.  Next, make a list of what is needed to follow through to completion or integration into daily activities.  Using a checklist can help one visualize accomplishments along the way; while notes help chart development.  Finally, anticipating changes and communicating progress with others allows time for assistance if required.

In conclusion, children learn by example. Unfulfilled promises send inconsistent and mixed messages. Keeping our word builds character and reinforces concepts of responsibility, strong values and dependability. Promising a child a trip to the movies only after the toys have been cleaned up can work. I promise!

 
 
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According to an article written by Jess in When Harry Met Sally, "restaurants are to people in the 80's what theatres were to people in the 60's." Dining out has become a social situation, a way for people to (re)connect with friends. The meals are filled with laughter and conversation; reminiscing about the past and fantasizing about the present. The only lull in the evening occurs at 1 awkward moment: how many plates must be served before one can and should start eating? Knowing that the food in restaurants is rarely brought out at the same time, does everyone need to have a dish in front of them before beginning the meal?

Different behaviors are revealed in the moments when the server brings out the first plates. Some of the people begin eating the moment their food arrives, carefully avoiding eye contact with the hungry stares around the table. On the flip side, others are adamant about waiting until all people at the table have been served, whether there are 4 people or 20. Which is correct?

To answer that burning question: neither is correct. Like many situations in life, the topic of "how many people need to be served before eating" falls into a gray category, with several aspects that need to be considered. First of all, how many people are sitting at the table? Second, is the meal a dinner salad or an entree? If the table has six people or less, all occupants should receive their food (hot or cold) before someone takes a bite. The only time it would be acceptable to begin eating earlier would be if those without food insist that the lucky folk start their meal instead of waiting for the rest of the entrees.

If the table has more than 6 people, statistics and math skills come into play... 3 "hot" plates (entrees, pastas, secondi) should be served before taking the first bite (dinner salads are not included in this). Of course, it is polite to provide permission for those with hot plates to begin immediately, as no one enjoys eating cold steak. If the table has more than 10 diners, it would be preferable for 4-5 hot plates to be served before delving in. Typically, one-third of the table should have their food... However, the most appropriate table etiquette would be to wait until permission to eat has been granted by those without plates (the conversation being, "no, please go ahead and eat. I insist!").

And of course, this manner can be taught to children that are of the preschool age and older. To utilize developmentally appropriate math skills, the child must count how many "hot" plates are served before they can begin. Sorting out the types of food that are "hot" versus "cold" enables the child to practice placing items into separate categories. Using one to one correspondence (assigning every meal a number) will keep the child entertained for a few moments. When the preschooler becomes a working adult, this skill will ensure that he/she will not become the "rudie" at the business dinner, who started eating before all of the bosses. Knowing how many plates should be served before eating is a practice that will help children in work and social situations in the future.  Visit the Dear Julie section of our website for answers to other questions you may have.

Bon Appetit!

 
 
Social skills are ways to teach people how to effectively integrate into society and must be practiced on a daily basis to obtain proficiency. Learning the proper way to conduct oneself in public will be helpful when first entering school, as well as maneuvering through the working world. Mastery of proper etiquette at an early age ensures that the behaviors will become innate, as children are capable of retaining vast amounts of information. One is never too young or never too old to obtain and relay good manners. 4 Social Skills to Teach Children:


1) Ask and You Will Receive…
Nobody wants to play with Griffin Grabber! Imagine that you are making the world’s tallest tower (the Freedom Tower won’t even compare!). You use the special arced blocks to create an archway at the base and are so excited to show this to your friends. Griffin Grabber comes along and gasps because HE wants the arced blocks that are at the base of your building. Instead of asking, he thrusts his hands forward and takes them from the bottom of your building; thus, the building falls down, as the weight of the top was no longer being supported. At this point, you are pretty frustrated because there were two other arcs that he could have used for his construction, and you surely would have given them to him if he just ASKED for them.

That skill is important to learn at an early age, as it is extremely important in the years to follow. To a 4 year old, knocking down a block structure is an absolute travesty. Relating to adult terms, taking/grabbing an item from someone else will create a very sticky situation, which can be interpreted in a myriad of ways.


2) Chew With Your Lips Closed
“What am I eating? Sea Food! Get it, SEE food?!” (Show the food in your mouth). Totally unnecessary and unpleasant. When something is in your mouth, whether it is food or gum or ANYTHING, make sure to close your lips when you chew. There is a reason the human body was designed with lips that are extremely flexible flaps of skin that are able to conceal your teeth- even when they are apart. People are meant to cover their mouth with their lips, so the churning food is not visible for all to see. It also prevents one from talking with their mouth full, which is a choking hazard! Finally, it ensures that food does not wind up on the person across the table by the “say it, don’t spray it” method.


3) Thank You
Whether someone is pouring you more water, handing you that coveted toy, or staying late at work to help YOU complete a task, everyone deserves a “thank you.” Thank you is a way of saying “I appreciate what you have done” and recognize that “serving” you is not required. Plus, it is polite to acknowledge that someone has given you something, albeit services or goods. Feeling entitled to have people assist you without conceding gratitude will cause others to become resentful of your demands (and less likely to complete them).


4) Conversations take Two
When you were little, playing with the dolls, animals and other toys was entertaining, even when in solitude because YOU provided the voices and personalities of the other “people” in your play. Very rarely do we see grownups playing with Barbie or Transformers without a small child nearby; therefore, 1 person carrying on a conversation with 2+ people is not the “norm.” Since more than one person is involved in the conversation, all parties must be included and participate in the conversation. That means: one person does not do all of the talking. It is always exciting to be able to say your opinions, but it is very important to listen to those of others as well, as they want to have the spotlight, too. Asking questions is necessary, but the response must be heard. We teach this skill to children and need to remind them that everyone needs a turn to speak. There are 2 people in the conversation, not just one.


Stay tuned for more “4 Social Skills to Teach Children.” Please contact Dear Julie or email Julie at julie@etikids.com if you have any questions, suggestions or comments.

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