Monday, June 28, 2010

Beach Etiquette 101

July 4th is right around the corner and the summer forecasts are indicating perfect summer-like conditions. Local shores have seen an increase in business with families committed to the stay-cation, thanks to the continuation of the economic conditions).

Although good manners should be practiced all year long, it seems especially important in the heat of the summer. Everyone attempts to take advantage of the weather, knowing that it ends with what seems like the blink of an eye. As the beaches tend to become more congested during prime sunning hours, some important basic beach etiquette tips to help everyone remember how to be a courteous neighbor to others.

1) People go to the beach because of the soothing sounds. Relaxing while listening to the crash of the waves and the call of the seagulls is peaceful and the epitome of summer: screaming children and loud radios are not. According to Quick and Dirty Tips, parents are in charge of their children’s noise level, and I couldn’t agree more. Children can be by the water splashing and having fun, as long as they are supervised, but they should not be where other beach-goers are resting comfortably on their mats, making their tantrums everyone else’s business. The same goes for radios or anything else that might disturb the peace: they are great for you to enjoy but not to impose upon others.

2) The cool ocean breezes are welcome on hot beach days; however, they exacerbate inconsiderate behaviors displayed by some. When shaking out the towel after it has been on the sand, please do it carefully, so as not to scatter the grains in people’s faces unexpectedly.

Smoking is also unwelcome by many. If you must get your nicotine fix, do it away from others, and make sure to dispose of your cigarette butts in the proper receptacle, the sand doesn’t count.

3) Clean up after yourself. As the Etiquette Grrls point out, nobody wants to choose their beach spot and settle in, only to discover it is on top of someone else’s garbage. The Golden Rule states: Do Unto Others As You Would Have Done To You: learn it, live it, love it.

4) You make it, you break it. Around the age of 3, kids experiment with building something and knocking it down. If they knock down someone else’s building/sandcastle, it is the perfect opportunity to explain that they don’t like it when other people do it to them. The child, with your assistance, can help rebuild the destroyed sand castle and create version 2.0. This will teach empathy and begin to construct a memory of how to handle a similar situation in the future. And yes, you can be sure that there will be similar situations.

5) Recycle! With the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill still raging out of control and threatening some of the most beautiful beaches, it is extremely important to try and preserve whatever natural resources are left. If we create less waste, our world will be a better place. Here are 2 additional reasons to recycle while on the beach: a) the extra 30 steps to the recycling bin provide additional opportunities for exercise and b) we teach children to do it, so we have to be consistent and model the behavior. Children will never learn to recycle if it is only done sometimes.

Have a great 4th of July weekend and be safe! Don’t forget the sunscreen…

Monday, June 21, 2010

Please (again!)

I recently did a survey on my website, The question was “do you make children say please when you ask for something?” Out of the responses, 58.3% said they do “all of the time.” 16.7% said “not as often as I should,” and 25% had other answers, including, “I will when I have a child!” and “Yes- but they are not my children…” 0% of the people said never!

The word “please” is to be used when you want something: to ask rather than to demand. That “magic word,” as it is often referred to for children, changes the tone of the sentence. An ultimatum begins to resemble a request, and the demeanor between the involved parties relaxes. A person is more willing to get the job done (with far less under-the-breath muttering) should that word be included.

The results of this poll should show just how hard it is to enforce that 1 word into daily vocabulary. Although it is amazing that more than half of the pollers are diligent about regularly enforcing the use of the word please, the 16.7% were brutally honest in their “not as often as I should” answers.

From an article on Parents Connect, Nanny Stella gives great advice for teaching children to use the word please (and thank you) in 3 steps: “1) show by example, 2) praise the pleases, and 3) be a broken record.”

Children truly learn from behavior being modeled, meaning, they learn by watching those around them. Control the market by showing them the behaviors that you want them to exhibit in public. If you want a child to hand you the cup of water instead of spill it, you should say, “Please hand me the water.” When the child uses the language on his/her own, praise him/her repeatedly. Positive reinforcement, is a highly effective way to teach children behaviors that you wish for them to continue without negative repercussions. Finally, if the child doesn’t use the word please, do not provide them with what they want until the magic word is said. For children, their new language can become innate with a bit of consistent practice. They will get it.

Children love challenges, so provide them the opportunity to rise to the occasion. Count how many people said, “please” when they asked for something, whether in a restaurant, in a classroom, in a store. Let the kids listen for the magic word, and let them watch people’s reactions when it is and is not used. Children can learn from their own recognition skills: why politeness matters.

Please is the most basic of social etiquette; the politeness displayed by the courtesy will open doors with its usage. Teaching children this social skill at a young age will ensure mastery and give them the tools to succeed as grownups.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Present Yourself Appropriately

"Gravel Girty... dresses dirty; hair a mess, tear in the dress.

Second glances, muffled gasps, nails need buffin’, Poor Rag-A-Muffin…

Dress for success, sure to impress; you can rule and still look cool!"

Present Yourself Appropriately:

First appearances are very important to both animals and humans alike. Animals (on a very basic level) use their image to attract mates (the biggest antlers get the girls) and claim status. The outer presentation for a human is necessary for both of those scenarios, as well as creating social status, and getting jobs.

Although outward appearances can often be deceiving, it is how humans most quickly form an opinion of another person. A first impression can be made with a simple glance, so think carefully how you want to portray yourself to others. There is no right or wrong answer; however, if you are covered with piercings, have a mohawk and torn clothes, chances are that you will be passed over for promotions in most conservative companies.

That being said, knowing dress attire of the social or business situation and dressing appropriately will help you feel comfortable in any circumstance and rise to the occasion. On April 12, 2006, Forbes Magazine published an article that relayed the necessary do's of dressing appropriately in Dress for Success. Most helpful in the article was a shopping list for proper work attire (a must read for men and women). Although it stressed simplicity, you may still feel that you need to stand out amongst the sea of black business suits. Accessorizing to maintain individuality is how you can conserve your sense of self, as well as manage to stay memorable. A red tie or glass-bead necklace is always a standout!

Teaching children at a young age to dress appropriately will save them a lot of discomfort later in life. As the grownup, it is your job to tell them when it is and is not a suitable time and place to wear their wants. Knowing limits and setting boundaries is what will make children successful as adults: they can always push the envelope should they choose, but it will be their choice.

However you present yourself, "Gravel Girty", or a "dresser for successor," it is and will be your choice to present yourself appropriately.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Knowing Your Napkin

I recently taught an etiquette class to a Brownie Troop in Bergen County, NJ, in which the subject of napkins came up. The question had been posed to the girls, “how do you know when to put your napkin on your lap?” The vivacious group of 22 looked pensive for a (brief) moment but quickly figured out the answer. “You wait for someone else to do it!”

That was a great idea, and according to some sources, correct! It is believed that one should wait until the host/hostess unfolds his/her napkin. The situation changes when not at a dinner party: in a restaurant, if the napkin is on the plate, the diner should immediately stick the napkin on the lap. As some restaurants start pouring drinks immediately upon being seated, it is a great way to prevent accidental outfit “water-staining.”

At a less formal dining establishment: as soon as ANY food is served would be an appropriate time to put the napkin on the lap. Since the napkin is often placed underneath the fork, it should be placed on top the lap as soon as the fork is lifted.

When getting up from the table, make sure to put the napkin on the left side of the plate (gently folded). As napkins are to be used for the purpose of wiping food away from one’s mouth, they should not be on the chair, where dirty bottoms are often placed.

Finally, one should not tuck napkins into the top of their shirts (resembling a bib). Using proper table manners (elbows off the table, no licking fingers, asking people to pass, chewing with lips closed) will prevent food from winding up down the front of one's shirt. As bibs are typically used for those who cannot feed themselves, it is inappropriate for a person to tie a napkin around their neck solely for the sake of preserving an outfit (unless eating lobster). When in doubt, don’t wear white. Meaning, don’t go to a restaurant that serves tomato sauce-rich foods, wearing light colors that will get stained.

These simple techniques for appropriate napkin usage will help children and grownups alike in the present and future. As etiquette is meant to prevent uncomfortable situations by teaching people how to behave in social situations, teaching children these skills at a young age will ensure that they will have the knowledge of how to behave as adults.

Those Brownies were so excited to know an actual time as to when they should put their napkin on their lap and couldn’t wait to go home and teach their grownups. Watch out parents! The word is spreading…