By Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece
Teaching children manners and modeling good behavior is more important today than ever. I do believe it is our responsibility as parents to teach our children a set of healthy tools to ensure that they become the adults we want them to be. Empathy, compassion and politeness are a must in this world of COVID and divisive politics.
In my book Manners Begin at Breakfast: Modern Etiquette for Families, I explain that children are confronted with change on a daily basis, which is essential to character development but can also be stressful. Therefore, establishing routines and traditions offers children what they need most: structure and a sense of stability. Children love their routines and setting these structures early on when they are young. Set a sense of stability and teach them healthy boundaries—even more so during these challenging times. This is especially important for children learning remotely. I’m all for setting structures around our days spent at home, as it will give young children a sense of calm.
Kids love routines, so make it fun and be creative. It’s so important to take this time to teach children skills that you might have learned from your parents, whether it’s painting, crafting, or baking Grandma’s favorite blueberry pie. It’s like storytelling, and children love nothing more than passing down family history. Teaching them a family skill makes it even more special.
An important routine to establish at a young age, and I make it a super house rule, is handwashing and cleanliness. Washing hands frequently and particularly before a meal is a simple task and it will become a healthy habit. We only want to pass around clean dishes during mealtimes, not diseases.
Another important habit is to keep in touch with loved ones, particularly these days, and remember the ones who live alone. Reach out—just a checking-in text is all you need. In today’s instant, digital world, where social graces have made way for social media posts, teaching children good social etiquette isa point I stress.
This essential day-to-day human interaction is, it seems, rapidly becoming a lost art. In some small way I love that we have taken a pause in our frenetic lives, that the lockdown gave us time that we may have taken for granted, maybe we understood that certain things weren’t that important and how much being with family and our small close circle of friends really meant. Maybe this year was a year of reflection, for us all to look inward. It gives us time to really focus on what is truly important: Manners and being good people.