PARENTING TODAY: Magic words, dressing well go long way in job interviews, life

If I had my way all cellphones would disappear at the dinner table whether that be at home or in a restaurant.

It’s simply rude to focus on that little screen rather than making eye contact with the others around the table.

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I have heard many conversations about this issue. I have also heard many conversations I wish I hadn’t when a person in the elevator, on the bus or in the store is chatting away on her cellphone, often in a loud voice, about her very personal issues.

Manners change and evolve but the basics remain the same, and our kids need to be taught how to behave. And we adults need to determine when to recognize that the rules have changed. It’s a challenge.

Private conversations should stay private. That means waiting until you are alone to use the phone. Face-to-face conversations should not include a cellphone.

This is a challenge for our young people who spend most of their time communicating electronically. But I truly believe that we need to teach our kids that when they are in a conversation with a person, the phone can wait. Mind you, that will only work if adults put away their phones as well.

I recall a time when a friend dropped in to visit our teen-aged son. We were taken with his outfit because instead of the typical jeans and T-shirt, he was wearing dress pants and a white shirt.

We asked, and he explained that he was heading to his grandparents’ house for dinner. This young man was very close to his grandparents. Dressing for Sunday dinner mattered to them, so he was happy to oblige.

How kids dress for different occasions is one aspect of good manners that is all too often missed.

Qualified young people may miss out on employment opportunities by simply neglecting to dress for the occasion. A job interview requires business apparel. If the interviewer is immediately concerned about how an interviewee looks, her chances are over no matter how good the interview.

While clothing is nowhere near as formal as it used to be (I remember owning and wearing crisp white gloves when I was eight years old -- imagine!), there are still conventions that most of us need to follow.

Weddings, funerals, church, fancy restaurants, dinner with friends and relatives (depending on the situation) all require appropriate dress and it’s up to us to teach our kids the difference.

Children learn manners by watching their parents and by what their parents expect from them. So first, you need to watch your own behaviours. Then, you can teach your children what you expect from them.

This isn’t a formal lecture. It is simply teaching them the correct way to behave. Whether it’s waiting until everyone is served before starting to eat, holding a door for a person behind you or remembering to say please and thank you, it’s an ongoing but simple process.

Now, a word about please and thank you. Young children can learn to say please and thank you and don’t need to be constantly reminded.

Instead of finding yourself regularly saying, “What’s the magic word?” when your children want something, teach them that you just won’t hear them when they make a demand. They’ll get it, and soon you will hear them automatically say, “May I have a glass of milk, please?”

The trick to having our kids learn good manners is teaching, modelling and expectations.

Polite children can handle social situations and meet new people comfortably. They will benefit greatly from this skill all through their lives.

Kathy Lynn is a parenting expert and author of Vive la Différence, Who’s In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I’d Ever Have to Leave Home. If you want to read more, sign up for her newsletter at

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