December 28, 2012

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!


h/t Mary Katherine Ham

Posted by Darleen @ 4:23pm

Tags: , ,

Comments (44)

  1. We are so fucking doomed.

  2. …wat


  3. Psycho moms-> Soccer Moms-> Friend moms-> Helicopter moms-> Tiger Moms -> Major Domo moms?

  4. It’s like obedience school for kids! Why not, they have doggy day care?

    I really can’t blame parents too much, it’s a whole different world than the one I grew up in. Way back then, when I was a kid, if I acted up in public and my parent wasn’t close enough to cuff me, the nearest adult would grab me by the scruff of the neck and shake. Of course it never happened (well, maybe once), because I knew that’s what would happen. Plus, the principle at school had a paddle hanging in his office, and most kids had a dad at home that would, on discovering the kid got paddled at school, paddle them again when they got home.

    These days, a parent (much less a bystander) does anything but smile at their little house ape, they’re in danger of Child Protective Services assigning a case worker to their ass. And the principle at school lives in fear of even accidentally bruising a child’s freaking self esteem.

    I’m glad I was a kid in a much simpler time.

  5. I am all for a restaurant that helps kids learn table manners. Maybe fork and knife skills too.

    Talking about knives: Sweet Baby Jesus…

  6. We have taken our children to restaurants since they were infants. They were expected to behave and if they didn’t, we left. Same for grocery stores, places of business, etc. They always had the choice to make it a wonderful experience or we would end it. We’re not magical, we just helped them learn that certain behavior is required in these settings. They were taught to be respectful and polite to people of all ages. As teenagers they are generally nice people. We get compliments about them often.

    Kids need the structure that these social skills provide. They should not be allowed to be “little adults.” They need to fit into the grown-ups’ world, not have everything bent to accommodate them. That’s become a problem. My friends who have basically chosen to friend their kids, rather than parent them, are reaping some really unpleasant consequences. Just the way their kids speak to them is stunning to me. It’s really sad.

  7. I remember getting a certificate for going through the optional course “How To Be a Gentleman”, but that was long ago, when merely having the manners enough to not disrupt dinner at the tables around me was considered the norm, not something to celebrate… and CERTAINLY not something to have to pay for.

  8. Lee

    I don’t believe it was simpler, just clearer. Children roamed the adult space under strict constraints and they were taught what it would take to growup and join the adult space.

    It’s been blurred, even reversed. If some adult (out side of a teacher) insists that a child call them Mr LastName ..that adult is looked upon as someone stuffy and not willing to “Engage the children on their level.”

    I believe children should be eager to learn what it takes to engage adults on their level.

    I remember as a kid I couldn’t wait to grow up. Now I see adults trying to stay children or return to childhood.


  9. My daughter & twin grandsons moved in with us last March. The boys are 10.

    Most nights of the week, we eat at the dinner table … table cloth, napkins, no tv during dinner.

    They are mostly well behaved (occassionally try to kick each other under the table), eat well, join conversation when asked, know how to say “may I be excused”, can clear off their plates, rinse & stack them.

    I don’t consider this unusual, I consider this normal behavior that is expected.

  10. My Mother had a magic phrase she used when we were crying/pouting/acting up in public:

    “You better straighten up or when we get home I will give you something to cry about.”

    Worked. Every. Time.

  11. Now I see adults trying to stay children or return to childhood.

    I agree with this. Look at the way so many adults dress. Sneakers, tee shirts, jeans, ball-caps, team jackets. Those are all fine if you’re hanging around the house, not for going to dinner at a nice place or to a wedding or a funeral. Grown men who wear shorts year round and only shave about once a week bug, too. Women who are over 40 and wear long hair? No. Put it up or cut it off. What happened to foundation garments? Bras and slips, especially. Lay off of the pink lipstick, too.

    /rant off

  12. I believe children should be eager to learn what it takes to engage adults on their level.

    Herein lies the difference between raising children and raising (future) adults.

  13. The child told him to go ahead and try.

    The kid is perfectly well aware that the legal system is automatically on his side… and that his parents are helpless.

  14. “Or I’ll give you something to cry about … Worked every time”

    It worked because it wasn’t an empty threat. The punishment was always carried through. Thus no empty threats, like “I’ll tape your mouth shut”.

    If you’re not prepared to go through with your threat, don’t make it.

    …. Something our betters in Washington need to learn

  15. SDN

    One of my girls tried to pull the “I’ll call CPS!” schtick on me just once …

    I said, “Wait here, I’ll get the phone for you, I’ll even dial them for you. And know what? They’ll take you away and you won’t live here any more. And I’m still going to beat you first.”

    I never heard that line again.

  16. “You better straighten up or when we get home I will give you something to cry about.”

    Yeah, heard that one before.

    Darleen, it was simpler because it was clearer. Kids need boundaries. Hell, we all do. But kids especially need them as a solid foundation from which to develop their identity. By nature, kids push the boundaries, and thereby discover their proper perspective in the world. If the boundaries are elastic, not only do they not learn self control, but they aren’t given the opportunity of a stable environment to develop personal growth.

    If anything goes, of what value is virtue?

  17. … No empty threats…
    Because I remember my mom. Who was quite adept doling out punishment with a wooden spoon, telling me once that she would throw me out the window if I did x again. She was not usually one for hyperbole, and I, mr smart asks, decided to call her bluff. She picked me up by my belt strap and carried me the nearest window she could find hat wouldn’t cause me great harm (3 feet off the ground)’ and tossed me out the window.
    Lesson learned.
    I still respect that 4-8 110 lb, 80 year old woman

  18. If anything goes, of what value is virtue?


  19. Kids do definately need boundries and discipline and praise. Too many parents are all about the praise and as a result we have a couple of generations of spoiled brats, some of them in their 40s and with kids of their own.

    Watch Beyond Scared Straight (thursday nights on A&E) to see the little peckerheads get a taste of jail and what that kind of behavior will get you when taken to its logical conclusion.

  20. Kids do definately need boundries and discipline and praise. Too many parents are all about the praise and as a result we have a couple of generations of spoiled brats

    It’s worse than that, too often the praise is unearned (everyone gets a trophy!), and the discipline inconsistent (which is worse than no discipline).

    Leaves the kid directionless.

  21. One of my girls tried to pull the “I’ll call CPS!” schtick on me just once …
    I said, “Wait here, I’ll get the phone for you, I’ll even dial them for you. And know what? They’ll take you away and you won’t live here any more. And I’m still going to beat you first.”

    I’m going to file that one away. Just in case.

  22. discipline inconsistent (which is worse than no discipline).

    Exactly. No one wants to give their child a spanking, but I part company with my colleagues on that score. Some times Junior needs his behind warmed. I’m also not down with the counting when you tell them to knock it off. “Now you stop that Madison! One . . .Two . . .Three . . .” In the meantime, Madison is still climbing up the display of fresh tomatoes at the market.

    By the time the little darlings are four or five they should recognize and fear The Look. I can shut down adults with The Look. And The Look from Dad? Ho-ly shit! You’re in the soup now and you know it.

  23. It’s not even about spanking. This is the key: It’s not the severity of the discipline, but the certainty that counts.

    If they know EVERY time they do [whatever], there us a predictable consequence, they will adjust their behavior. If they get a cookie at lunch no matter how they behave, and spankings only happen when moms last straw is reached (which could be anything from playing with matches to laughing too loud during mommies program), the kid has no reference to adjust to.

  24. Kids misbehaving? just another very small straw. On top of all the rest of the redwood-sized straws that are breaking the back of the Republic.

    “What in the world has happened to this country?”

    (That’s a rhetorical question, given we pretty much know what’s happened, and why; we can pretty much predict the outcomes, but can’t do anything to change things.)

  25. Parochial school is available for parents who’d like to have the school not undermine them for eight hours a day.

  26. “Why do I always have to be the bad cop?”

    — No nun, ever.

  27. Kids misbehaving? just another very small straw

    Kids misbehaving is a full camel load of straw. Maybe more, considering you are a “kid’ until 26…

  28. When my ma died and I found myself with a passel of feral siblings it wasn’t all that hard to get my point across.

    There was some pointing towards the door involved. It took about five seconds an outburst.

  29. Honestly though?

    I think lots of parents are just too lazy to do the work involved. Help with homework? Toss a ball around? A trip to the park?

    Easier to just let them stay up late or buy them something at the store when they whine.

  30. My parents used to complain about how strict I was with my kids, but on the other hand would compliment me on how well behaved my children were.


  31. I got that from all sides for awhile, Blake. My overriding desire for them to not turn into drug addicts and/or unemployable bums kept me on the path though.

    That’s the crazy thing. Seriously, is there anything meaner or less cool than letting kids slouch into loserdom? I mean, that seems pretty dickish to me.

  32. sometimes if nobody’s looking i eat asparagus with my fingers

  33. bh, the other thing I didn’t want to become was one of those parents who continues to bail out their kid. To this day, I know of people who think nothing of throwing money at their 40 year old adult son or daughter. At some point, you have to bite your tongue, let them make their own mistakes and deal with the consequences.

  34. Carrying the thought a bit further, bh, if you want to ensure your kid becomes worthless, continue to make excuses and finance bad behavior.

  35. Gee, you’se guys’ve just explained the modern Democrat party’s approach to governin’ America!

  36. I hear ya, Blake.

    I was going through that quite a bit the last couple years with my youngest siblings. (They’re in their mid twenties now.) Basically made the decision that I was going to ruin them if I didn’t stop throwing money at their problems.

    It was hard to do but they’ve both responded like champs after some ups and downs. Budgeting for future problems! who’d a thunk it?

    Admittedly, I did have to ask Geoff (yes, our geoffb) for some advice on this. He remains a legend.

  37. @Ernst-hah!
    @bh, very cool, looking after siblings. I did the whole single parent thing and it wasn’t easy. I cannot imagine riding heard on siblings. Little different dynamic than parent/child.

  38. bh, there’s a book deal and a movie of the week in there for you, then the leap into politics.

    Senator Blowhard. ; )

  39. Pingback: Maybe They Just Absorb Them Along the Way Somehow – Osmosis, Perhaps | Daily Pundit

  40. I always thought it was pretty obvious that you teach children manners or else they will be little uncivilized monsters when they grow up.

    The Child Worship of the goo-goos has really done some major damage to society at large.

  41. You are correct, SgtTed. No one is born civilized. Even a human child will become a wild animal unless taught otherwise.

  42. Even a human child will become a wild animal unless taught otherwise.

    See inner-city crime stats for confirmation, unbelievers.

  43. It’s Lack of Father Figure Syndrome.