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Oh Sh#%! Da*& it! F#@*7! Hearing these words pop out of the mouth of a preschooler (or anyone else) can make hair stand straight out of one’s head. Needless to say, it usually happens at an inopportune moment such as a social gathering, in class, or at the dinner table! The 2-year-old shouting “Stupid head” or “Butthead” at passing cars usually triggers an instant alarm of fear as the parent realizes this could result in a carpool expulsion. Children are fascinated with “bad” words, and learn them quicker than their assigned vocabulary words. The initial response of laughter that the child receives is usually more than enough to fuel continuous repetitions of the offending language. The worst part is this negative behavior will take exponentially longer to break!

The issue raised is not just limited to curse words. Bathroom or potty language and words which EtiKids refers to as S-wordsM (stupid, sh*t, sucks, and shut up) can also be a problem faced by a parent or teacher. Older children may think it is “cool” to use words that describe bodily functions and noises, while younger children mimic what they hear. Sometimes repeating bathroom words is a way to get a reaction or gain attention. Realize it is a way of experimenting with language. So, if trying out new words and learning how to communicate are part of learning social skills and manners, what is the best way to re-train a potty mouth child?

Displaying a lack of interest is the simplest tactic to phase out incessant repetition of naughty expressions. Without strong feedback, most preschoolers won’t bother repeating these terms. Why bother if you can’t get a rise out of parents?

Ask the child what the word means. Discourage use of words whose meanings are unknown. Explain why some words are offensive and hurtful to other people. X-rated vocabulary and forbidden words are not “cool” and can be banned by parents because they are inappropriate in almost all situations.

Restrict bathroom words to the restroom. After a while, the child typically finds it tiresome to run back and forth to the lavatory just to talk about bodily functions and spill out potty words.

Control word categories that are on the fringe. Growing up, the use of "S-words" was not tolerated. These expressions included: stupid, sh*t, sucks and shut up. Although the latter has become an acceptable phrase of surprise (or synonym for no kidding), telling someone to “shut up” is perceived as rude and insensitive.

Monitoring TV programs can limit some exposure to words with derogatory meanings such as “butthead”, which became popular terminology following MTV's programming. Remind children that using insulting words or expressions can become a habit, slipping out without any warning and be embarrassing for everyone.

Although the word hate has different meanings, we mention it here. It can be used in a spiteful manner and is a learned behavior. Shouting “I hate you!” to a parent is universal to children all over the world. A little 4-year-old friend repeated her mother’s favorite quote, “Hate is a very strong word, and we should never use it!” The More You Know public service campaign, (NBC 2003) reminded us, "Hate is a four-letter word. So is love. Which word will you teach your child?"

Finally, the very best way to diminish the use of negative words is to set a positive example for children. Replace curse words with alternative phrases such as “Darn it! Dang! Good Grief! Geepers Creepers! Rats! Shucks!”

Let us know your favorite expression! Or most inappropriate story. :) Contact us at Dear Julie or info@etikids.com with your stories.

 
 
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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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The last segment of 4 Social Skills to Teach Children was such a hit, that I felt like it was time to share 4 more! I understand that many of these skills/manners are obvious and practiced by many; however, the reasoning behind their implementation is not always so apparent. As it turns out, manners were not only created as a way to be respectful of others ("Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use. ~Emily Post"), but they were intended to "keep your body safe," which is a hugely popular phrase in the preschool world.

Aside from the fact that your sleeves will wind up stained with the delectable meal you are eating, leaving elbows on the table is a successful way to share your neighbor's meal with the floor. As many people tend to engage in conversations, the excitement level rises during an intense discussion. One slide of your elbow can cause the plate or drink of the person next to you to break, leaving shards of glass and/or ceramic. To be on the safe side, leave one hand in your lap. The only visible parts of your arms should be the forearms, hands and fingers.

2) Hunch Over Ideas, Not Plates!
In a restaurant setting, the background noise can be overwhelming, so people rely on their vision to hear. When "listening" to someone talk, chances are that they eyes are watching the lips just as carefully as the cilia in the ears are dancing to the vibrations of the sound waves. If a person's head is facing his/her feet (which are hopefully underneath the table), it is often very difficult to understand the words, which become muffled and lost in the background. Instead of causing everyone around you to strain their necks in order to hear all of the important ideas that you have, just look up! Not to mention that your spine will thank you immensely... Slouching over your plate puts causes unnatural curvature of the spine, which can have serious long-term effects. Just ask orthopedic spinal surgeon, Dr. Nathaniel Tindel, author of "I've Got Your Back!"

3) Bite-Size Bites
Forks and spoons were created to be proportionate to people's mouths (children-size spoons are larger than baby spoons, yet smaller than those for grownups). The measurements were carefully taken to ensure that people would only take bites of food that could fit onto the fork or spoon. Two compelling arguments for taking appropriately-portioned nibbles: 1) you are 93% less likely to choke and 2) you can maintain chewing with your lips closed, as your teeth will be able to touch without your mouth filled to excess. A win-win for everyone!

4) Eating Utensils are for Eating
Although Ariel in Disney's The Little Mermaid thought that the fork was a dinglehopper, a device that humans used to comb their hair. However, "up there on land" the fork was used to help the food get to the mouth without the use of fingers. As fingers are often carriers of germs, due to their ability to touch anything and everything, eating utensils were created to prevent the spread of sickness. Use them!

On that note, EtiKids' "4 Social Skills to Teach Children- Part 2" will help them keep their bodies safe (and yours!).

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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!