BREAKING NEWS: Parents discover table manners [Darleen Click]
I don’t know whether to be amused or depressed when the New York Times runs breathless articles on things I take for granted about parental responsibilities.
The place is Chenery Park, a restaurant with low lights, cloth napkins, $24 grilled salmon and “family night” every Tuesday. Children are welcome, with a catch: They are expected to behave — and to watch their manners, or learn them. Think upscale dining with training wheels.
Chenery Park has many allies in the fight to teach manners to a new generation of children. Around the country, there are classes taught by self-appointed etiquette counselors — Emily Posts for a new age — delivering a more decentralized and less formal approach to teaching manners than in years past. A few restaurants, like Chenery Park, and high-end hotels set aside space and time for families.
These etiquette experts say that new approaches are needed because parents no longer have the stomach, time or know-how to play bad cop and teach manners. Dinnertime has become a free-for-all in many households, with packed family schedules, the television on in the background and a modern-day belief of many parents that they should simply let children be children.
GodDAMN many of my own generation who bought into, and passed onto today’s parents, the idea that one should be your child’s friend first and foremost. It has turned parents into wimps and children into crippled narcissists with no concept of boundaries.
During a recent family night at Chenery Park, Joseph Kowal, an owner, roamed among the regulars and newcomers, saying hello and occasionally playing parental ally. He’s got a twinkle in his eye but a steely commitment to having children — even if they’re not etiquette role models — at least sit politely and not scream or throw food.
“Some parents will say, ‘Uncle Joe’s going to come up here, and he’s going to be cross with you,’ ” Mr. Kowal said. “They use that to their advantage.” He recalled one child who wouldn’t settle down, and he threatened to tape the child’s mouth. The child told him to go ahead and try.
I cringed when I read that … an automatic reaction in thinking that if I had acted like that to my mom I’d have been picking my teeth off the floor.
Of course, this age of parents in thrall of their offspring has created a wonderful opportunity for entrepreneurs ready to step into mom or grandma’s role as table enforcer …
“These days, you have to teach kids about return on investment,” said Robin Wells, the founder of Etiquette Manor in Coral Gables, Fla., which holds classes on etiquette for adults and children. When it comes to children, she said, long gone are the days when you could tell them that they have to behave a certain way “just because.”
So, even as she imparts lessons about using forks and the importance of looking the waiter in the eye, she does so by framing the lessons in a constructively selfish way for the children. She often exhorts her young students: be polite to your mother because she’ll be happier, and if she’s happier, you’re happier.
On the first day of her five one-hour sessions, which cost $285, she tells the children to go home and do one unexpectedly kind thing so that they can see how wide-eyed and impressed their parents will be. “It’s almost manipulation at its finest,” she said. [...]
Around the country, hundreds of entrepreneurs teach versions of etiquette and manners classes, said Elena Neitlich, the founder of Moms On Edge, a company, with offices in Osprey, Fla., that offers online certification for manners teachers through a course called Etiquette Moms, at prices ranging from $250 to $1,250.
Certification for teaching manners. Really.
This isn’t rocket science, baby, this is flippin’ civilized behavior!
Tags: children, etiquette, parenting