Etiquette expert teaches kids to be gracious

Elizabeth Chorney-Booth, Calgary Herald
Calgary Herald Neighbors
Published: Thursday, September 06, 2012

For many parents, teaching basic etiquette to children and young teens feels like a never-ending battle. Whether they’re dealing with younger kids who insist on eating with their hands or tweens who can’t keep their eyes off their cellphones, some parents feel like no matter what they do, they can’t get their kids to break bad habits. It’s natural for parents to want kids to be polite, but how do you get the basic tenets of good manners to stick?

Certified etiquette trainer Maria Doll offers sessions and camps for kids who need some extra help with their manners. While Doll believes that it’s important for kids to know the basics of minding their Ps and Qs, she says that the most important factor in teaching good manners is to remind youngsters that etiquette is ultimately about practising a sense of empathy and following the Golden Rule.

“A big part of my philosophy really has to do with the care and consideration of other people and not so much into the actually technically perfect practice,” Doll says. “I still am clear that they need to know how to break bread and what fork to use, but really the underlying message is about treating people with dignity and respect.”

Doll sees six basic areas parents should focus on to build a good foundation of etiquette. She says that parents should work with their children on proper introductions, dining etiquette and table manners, basic phone etiquette, effectively expressing gratitude, how to behave in public places and respect the property of others, and how to show respect for oneself and others by practising proper hygiene and refraining from bullying or gossiping. This may seem like a lot to cover, but Doll suggests that parents both lead by example and use fun games or role-playing to help demonstrate good manners.

Barbra Carpay’s six-year-old daughter Anastasia and eight-year-old son Victor have both attended Doll’s etiquette camps. She agrees with Doll that the best way to teach manners is to frame etiquette as a set of tools to make others feel comfortable. Carpay likes giving her kids the opportunity to put their practices into action by regularly hosting family dinner parties.

“One of the things that I’ve been trying to do is, instead of talking about manners and etiquette in terms of what they should be doing at the table, to help them practise hospitality,” Carpay says. “Usually once a weekend we’ll have another family join us for dinner. It’s fun for the kids to think that they’re practising hospitality and part of that is using our manners so guests feel more comfortable at our table.”

With faceless online interactions becoming more and more prevalent in young people’s lives, Doll believes that it’s more important than ever to make sure that kids think about the results of their manners before engaging with other people. Since her kids attended Doll’s classes, Carpay has seen marked improvement in their manners and encourages parents to keep with etiquette training whether it’s at home or through a program like Doll’s. She sees it as an investment in her kids’ futures.

“Don’t give up,” Carpay advises. “It’s a skill that is going to take them far for the rest of their lives. If they have a resume that looks the same as someone else’s and they have a job interview that’s over lunch, the person who has the proper etiquette will be the person hired. It makes a difference.”

Maria Doll’s next etiquette session for kids starts on Sept. 19 at the Scenic Acres Community Association.

Visit her website at for more in-formation.

Etiquette trainer Maria Doll teaches
Victor Carpay, 8, during one of her classes for kids.

© Calgary Herald 2012


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