- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Good manners matter and they just may deliver American children from ghastly TV, floundering morals and rude society.
The Emily Post Institute says so. In fact, it politely insists.
"Manners themselves are like tools, like any tool you give your child to accomplish something," said Peggy Post, the great-granddaughter of etiquette maven Emily Post, who penned her first book on manners back in 1922.
Parents, the younger Mrs. Post believes, must wrest their children from the uncouth clutches of popular culture and set a mannerly example for the young and clueless. Civility, courtesy and consideration are "the outward expressions of fundamental human decency," she said.
The ultimate goal is to raise a child who might one day think, "How would Mom handle this?" or "What would Dad do?"
It's all part of a mannerly legacy, set forth in Mrs. Post's new book, "The Gift of Good Manners: A Parent's Guide to Raising Respectful, Kind, Considerate Children," co-written with Cindy Post Senning, another Post great-granddaughter and director of the Vermont-based Post Institute (www.emilypost.com).
The ladies mean business.
"People are crying out for this information," Mrs. Post said. "A recent Public Agenda survey found that 84 percent of the respondents think parents are failing to teach respect to children. It's a serious problem, and people want things to change."
Indeed, the survey revealed that only 9 percent of us think children are respectful of adults in public. Another 75 percent want parents to teach their children that cursing is "always" wrong, and 63 percent said children always should address their elders as "Ma'am" or "Sir."
"One of the most basic things is to model good manners. Kids will watch what you're doing and learn from that," Mrs. Post said. "It's not a kind of add-on that should be attended to after the schoolwork and the soccer, ballet and piano lessons are done. Etiquette reinforces all the higher values and ideals."
And it's no easy task, according to another Public Agenda survey released on Oct. 30. While 83 percent of parents polled said self-control and self-discipline were "absolutely" essential for children to learn, only 34 percent of the parents felt they had succeeded in teaching those virtues.
Ninety-one percent wanted their children to be honest and truthful, yet only 55 percent thought they had reached their children with the idea. The parents had more luck teaching physical fitness, artistic pursuits, charity and religion, according to the survey.
Mrs. Post believes that positive childhood demeanor starts at home and early: Even babies benefit from loving decorum and domestic harmony.
"Babies are great imitators," she writes in her book, which offers mannerly goals for children from babyhood to that moment when parent and child nod farewell at the college dormitory.
Mrs. Post does not overlook the great breast-feeding-in-public dilemma, either. In recent years, some mothers have insisted on feeding baby au naturel and uncovered in the name of social freedom.
"It can be helpful to keep in mind that breast-feeding isn't a movement or political cause your goal is to be neither ostentatious nor defensive," she writes, adding, "If you don't have to breast-feed in a public place, don't."
Parents who misbehave at Little League games get a distinct thumbs down from Mrs. Post, as do those who are rude on the phone, swear or cheat on their taxes and then brag about it to their children.
At the other end of the scale, Mrs. Post has advice for well-meaning parents who frantically schedule play dates, soccer games and art lessons, and thus create "the over-programmed child."
It's OK to plan "do-nothing days," she writes, emphasizing the fact that dropping some of this hyperactivity "is not a sign of failure."
Those who remember Emily Post's guides from earlier days will be relieved to learn that the new book does not skimp on table manners, thank-you notes, proper introductions, shaking hands, good sportsmanship, sibling civility, thriftiness, polite conversation, party behavior and other hallmarks of a gracious life.
They are, the younger Mrs. Post said, more important than ever on impertinent planet Earth.
"Don't be afraid of the word, 'rules,'" Mrs. Post notes.


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