- Associated Press - Sunday, July 27, 2014

GREENWICH, Conn. (AP) - Suzanne Wind wanted to school her three children in the good, old-fashioned art of manners.

It’s not that they were particularly ill-mannered. But growing up in a world of screens, she wanted to make sure their tech savvy wasn’t at the expense of learning how to maintain good eye contact or include people in a conversation.

“Society in general has become more relaxed and informal, which is fine, but basic manners have taken a backseat when really they should be the foundation of how we teach our children about kindness and respect,” said Wind, who is mom to Charlie, 11; Nicky, 10; and Annie, 4. “As parents we have become much more focused on academics and getting our kids into the right schools, and I don’t think it’s right to expect the schools to take care of character education. I think it starts at home.”

Yet the Cos Cob mom is quick to acknowledge that parents are not always the best role models when it comes to social skills.

“Often we’re glued to our phones ourselves and sometimes we’re not listening to our children because we’re answering email,” she said. “So we’re not always setting the best example.”

Wind started digging online and found there were no children’s workbooks on the market that teach manners. No literature offering a game plan for developing socially astute young adults.

So the stay-at-home mom decided to create such a book.

“The SMART Playbook” is a hands-on workbook designed to help parents teach manners and social skills to their children through experiential learning. Wind said she crafted the book of games, goals and prizes using her children as her guinea pigs and collaborators.

“I think one of the biggest challenges today is teaching our children empathy,” Wind said. “When our kids are on the computer, they can’t tell how they’re making the person on the other end feel, and that can lead to things like cyberbullying. So the book uses games like charades to teach about body language, tone and the importance of a smile. It teaches them that a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question is not going to keep a conversation going — open ended questions do that.”

Already the book has won accolades. Creative Childs Magazine named “The SMART Playbook” the 2014 Book of the Year and Armin Brott, a best-selling author on fatherhood, gave it the “Mr. Dad Seal of Approval.”

More important, Wind said the book has helped her children become more courteous and confident. Her 10-year-old son, for example, has started initiating handshakes with adults he meets for the first time.

“If I’m standing with an adult and I haven’t introduced him yet, he’ll stick his hand out and say, ‘Hi, I’m Nicky Wind,’ ” she said. “And he gets a kick out of it because he’ll see the look of surprise on their face. And I love it because he’s learning how to stand out in a good way.”

“The SMART Playbook” is available for purchase online at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and thesmartplaybook.com. It’s also available for in-store purchase at Stamford Toys in Stamford.


Information from: Greenwich Time, https://www.greenwichtime.com

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