In today’s instant, digital world it can be said that good old fashioned manners are becoming somewhat of a lost art. Yes, we’ve navigated the ‘social etiquette’ on all sharing platforms but what about minding the very much in-real-life ‘p&q’s’? And as parents and carers, it really is without doubt, up to us to teach children how to behave. And manners are a good place to start.
That’s why ‘Manners Begin at Breakfast’ by Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece couldn’t have come at a better time. Her debut book is the modern day guide to proper etiquette for all the family. Having been constantly asked how she manages to do it all (as founder of luxe fashion label Marie Chantal, business woman and mother of 5) Marie-Chantal recognised the need for a modern g0-to-handbook on children’s manners that helps raise polite, well-rounded children, that are equipped to thrive in society and develop into confident, successful adults.
Addressing many areas of modern life for children, from infants to teens, including table manners to social media and fashion dos & don’ts, party conversations and playdates, this guide is not a rulebook on how children should or shouldn’t behave or what is considered “right” or “wrong” but a book that politely (of course!) reminds us all of the good old-fashioned manners we might have forgotten.
Beautifully presented, the book is filled with guidance rather than rules on how to navigate modern parenting situations. Littered with beautiful watercolour illustrations, conversational style writing and a foreword by her friend, fashion designer Tory Burch this handbook will soon become an indispensable parenting bible for the modern world.
Marie-Chantal of Greece shares her Golden Rules for everyday etiquette at the table…
- Please and Thank You
A simple “Excuse me,” “Please,” or “Thank you” goes a long way in everyday life, as well as at the table. Teach your children to say “Excuse me” when entering a conversation during mealtimes (especially if they are prone to interrupt), and to use “Please” and “Thank you” when being offered (or asking for) something at the table. Being polite and demonstrating common courtesy at the table teaches children to show appreciation toward others and will soon become second nature in all their day-to-day actions.
- Everyone has a Role
Giving children tasks at mealtimes provides them with a sense of responsibility. Even placing napkins or bringing cutlery from the kitchen drawer to the table involves them in the dining process. Their responsibilities will then grow with them. Eventually, they’ll learn how to set the table, including the proper placement of the knives, forks, and spoons, and take part in cooking or preparing food—important life skills.
- No Phones, Please
In an age when so many people spend more time looking at their phones than at others, I feel it is important to exercise a no-phone policy at family meals. Sticking to it can be difficult, as many people feel insecure without their phones, but it’s worth persevering; using technology during a meal not only jeaopardizes the art of conversation and affects concentration but also interferes with your ability to have a meaningful and enjoyable experience at the table with family or friends.
- Clean Hands
Washing your hands before a meal is a simple task and a healthy habit. Children are often a bit resistant to the idea, but try to get them into the habit of always washing up before dinner and coming to the table with clean hands. The bottom line is that it removes any germs from their little hands; after all, we want to pass only dishes around during mealtimes, not diseases!
Children should be taught to wait until everyone is seated at the table and has been served their food before they begin to eat. In most European countries it’s common practice to wait for the host or head of the family to start; at the very least, a child should wait until a parent begins to eat before starting themselves. This may seem old-fashioned, but it shows respect toward elders. I always insist on my children waiting for an adult to start before they begin their meals. (Of course, this can be incredibly difficult when it comes to voracious teenagers, but I persist and ignore their complaints.)
It goes without saying that children should always chew with their mouth closed and never speak with food in their mouth. Give them a friendly reminder, from time to time, to hold on to their thoughts until their food has been swallowed. Make sure they realise that eating with their mouth open simply isn’t polite.
- Clearing Up
When one of my children’s friends dines at my house, I find it incredibly polite and it melts my heart if they ask to be excused from the table, or offer to bring their plate to the kitchen or to help clear up after the meal. It’s a lovely gesture towards an adult, whatever your circumstances. In some cultures and settings, however, offering to help clean up could be seen as rude or unsophisticated, so always teach a child when it is and isn’t appropriate. Everyone has their house rules, so stick to the rules and you can’t go wrong. A good tip is to teach your children to observe what the children of the house are doing, so that they can follow their example. As a rule, when in very formal situations it’s better not to offer, but in a casual home setting, an offer to help or a polite “May I be excused?” will generally be incredibly well received.
(Please note: The above rules are an edited extract from the book)
MANNERS BEGIN AT BREAKFAST: Modern etiquette for families by Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece and Illustrations by Lydia Starkey (includes a a foreword by Tory Burch and introduction by Dr. Perri Klass) published by Vendome Press. Available in all good bookstores and online (March 2020, £19.95)