It’s hard to believe that the adage of ‘children should be seen and not heard’ was still upheld until only a generation or so ago.
Nowadays we encourage children to socialise with people of all ages and to express themselves appropriately.
Whilst we as adults may see their world as different to the one we grew up in, children aren’t really any different now to years ago. Whilst their peers may still have a prevailing influence over them, it is still up to adults to show them the way.
Children have always wanted to appear older than their current years and they constantly seek knowledge and skills to help them appear more grown up. Embarrassment is the complete nemesis for a child’s confidence, and humiliation often occurs when a child does not know how to behave in a situation or have the social skills to carry them through.
In order for children to make the most of opportunities that come their way they need to show their best side in a variety of social situations and as they grow older, semi-professional situations.
Coming from a world of online communication and social networking, many children and young adults are spending more time in their own company rather than in the same physical space as others. Whilst there is nothing wrong with the new ways of socialising with one another, it is naïve to think that face-to-face personal skills no longer have a place in this world.
Both adults and children build relationships with people that show confidence and consideration with others, and that they like and trust. To gain that inner confidence they must know what to do in any given situation. Skills like introducing themselves and others correctly help set them apart from their peers. Walking and sitting with a straight back and knowing how to shake hands with an adult makes them appear more confident and self-assured, and creates the right impression when they are meeting new people.
There is so much pressure on schools and children to achieve certain grades that there is little time to include these vital life skills within the curriculum. And whilst finesse is recognised as a desirable asset, the teaching of this must fall outside the normal day-to-day learning.
If the standards achieved are high across the board what is going to set children apart from their peers when they start applying for internships and university places? Many will see these soft skills as a nice addition but you could argue that they are as necessary as the grades themselves for securing a child’s future opportunities.
I teach Social and Business Etiquette to children and adults of all ages. Children can come along from when they are just 5 years old and my Children’s Etiquette Classes start with basic skills like introductions, table manners (such as what each piece of cutlery does and how to hold it), to helping someone into their seat.
For children aged from 9 upwards I go into more detail and teach them skills like making small talk with adults, eating difficult foods, how to be a good guest and how to write thank you notes.
Tuition can also be made bespoke to a child’s needs and objectives.
I believe that children learn best when they are having fun and my classes aim to achieve this as well as being an educational and learning experience.
Emma Dupont is London’s leading Etiquette and Protocol Coach.