Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mind Your Manners

I recently received an e-mail from a young gal, stating that she’s moving to the South and wanted someone’s advice on when to say “mam” or “sir,” because she’s heard that is “big” in the South. Apparently, I was mouthing off about discussing the importance manners on another blog and she sought out my opinion.

Well, I am by no means an etiquette expert, but I felt the need to respond to the young lady. At the same time, I’m hoping I’m not actually corresponding with a large, burley house-bound man posing as a 13-year old girl.

Is it important to say “Yes, mam,” “No, sir,” and the like? Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes! This young lady has been told that it’s expected more in the South. I told her that while you’re likely to hear it more from young people in the South and Midwest – although not nearly enough these days – all adults, no matter where they live, are appreciative of respectful dialogue with children.

I try so hard to instill this in my children. When I call out to my kids, “Miss E.,” or “Little Guy,” there are times they respond with “What??” I, in turn, always respond with “What mommy?” or “Yes, mommy?” and then they repeat the correct response. We push the message home and they're getting it. Sometimes they slip, but they're getting better. Thankfully, they have "please" and "thank you" fairly down pat.

Miss Nancy Rascoe teaching youg campers how to write a proper thank-you note.

This correspondence reminded me of a documentary I recently came across called Miss Nancy Minds Their Manners, about North Carolina’s grand dame of etiquette, Nancy Rascoe. Miss Nancy and her husband Peter open their 200-year old historic home in Hertford, North Carolina every summer to youngsters from the region to teach them manners, along with a variety of sporting activities (swimming, fishing, archery, canoeing, etc.). Hubby joked that to get boys to attend such a camp they better be able to go shoot a bow and arrow at the end each day!

Has anyone else heard of Miss Nancy or perhaps even attended her camp or had a child  attend her camp? I would love for my kids to visit such a place, although not sure how much longer Miss Nancy and Mr. Peter will be doing this, given their ages. Hopefully, someone else will carry on the tradition. If my kids can’t attend Miss Nancy's camp, there will definitely be cotillion close by when they’re a little older. Hubby did this and not only received etiquette training that serves him well to this day, he can do a mean waltz and fox trot, too. :)

So, dear blogger friends, what are your thoughts on teaching children etiquette and manners? Is it a dying art? Are you trying to keep it alive in your families? Have you ever been to etiquette training or something akin to it?
Images from Miss Nancy Nancy Minds Their Manners documentary and The Etiquette Company.

P.S. - Thanks to everyone for their kind words and prayers for my mother-in-law, as well as my mom. It means the world to us!


Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

"Manners maketh man" [or woman, come to that] remains an important lesson of life. However, all too often it is not children or young people who need to learn good manners, but adults too. But, we should all be ready to move with the times and accept that society today is often less formal, and none the worse for that.

Sundresses and Smiles said...

i received the same email! and wow, that camp sounds SO cool!!

Alaka said...

I think manners are so important! I think it's great what your having your kids do. And I wish my parents would have sent me to Miss Nancy. It actually sounds like fun-I'm such a nerd lol. This post makes me laugh b/c I recently told a friend I want to name a horse: Mind Ur Manners. Can't stand being around people who don't have any! lol

Jennifer said...

What handsome boys..I'm from the north but know that please and thank you go along way...also remembering to put your napkin on your lap is important...(after my daughter failed to do it one time)...phone manners are good to teach too!
xoxox Jennifer aka gigi

Natasha said...

Well, I totally agree that manners are important and sadly I also agree that they seem to be a dying art. What a great idea Miss Nancy has. I wonder if she has any plans for training someone up to send over here!!

Best wishes,

James said...

My personal manners pet peeve is adults who tell my youngish children to call them by their first names.

Tiffany from HOLIDAY said...

My parents divorced and remarried when I was 3. I grew up w/ my dad and stepmom, where Yes Mam and Yes Sir was HUGE. But then I'd visit my mom's side and my grandmother would say, "don't call me mam...it's so formal and you make me feel old". I was so conflicted! And yet, I find that to this day I still say it when speaking to somebody older than me (I always say Yes, Sir to my boss).

Teaching Stella Please, Thank You, You're Welcome, Excuse Me, etc. is now HUGE for us...but I must admit I'm falling victim to the times and don't see myself enforcing Mam or Sir in the same way. My sister went to a wonderful private school here and attended their etiquette school, adorably named Pink Lemonade. They were taught table manners and such. I do wish I could send Stella to that class. Not sure it even in existence any more.

pve design said...

Last year I instigated "Manners by Mindy" at our middle school. She flew here from Oregon and spoke to the school about the importance of good manners. Eye contact, a firm handshake, not a "bone-crusher" but a good honest confident handshake and the importance of good social graces. One is never too young or old for a little etiquette reinforcement.
Great post! Love Miss Nancy!!