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Newport Manners & Etiquette: Back-to-School Etiquette, Polite Boys + Protecting Physical Space

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


The back-to-school crunch doesn't have to be stressful when you follow these great tips, raising well-mannered boys, correct salutations and how to politely duck a kiss were all questions to Didi Lorillard this week at NewportManners. 

Raising well-mannered boys

Q.  How do we raise boys to respect women? I have a hard time being around children, especially disrespectful boys. I'm not saying boys should behave more like girls, I'm asking how to get boys to treat women better?  Name Withheld

A. Despite the fact that more and more daughters are being told they can be anything they want to be -- a mother who is also the CEO of a multi-national corporation or even an astronaut, it's unclear what signals we're giving to boys to promote an unbiased society. 

When babies and toddlers throw food on the floor or don't put away their toys and mothers or women caregivers clean up the mess, women perpetuate the message that they are there to clean and tidy up. However, after a day of work, grocery shopping and getting children ready for bed and school the next day, most of the time it is easier to not make a fuss and we clean up the mess ourselves.

Only when we have more men handling childcare more of the time will this change. 

To quote Gloria Steinem, "I’m glad we’ve begun to raise our daughters more like our sons, but it will never work until we raise our sons more like our daughters.” 


Back-to-school tips

Q.  What are your back to school tips for elementary age school children? The summer has been out of control with sleep-overs and too much fast food. I can't wait for them to be back at school because they are bouncing off the walls!  Theresa, Seekonk, MA

A.  Be consistent while establishing bedtime ten minutes earlier each night until they have reached their school bedtime. If they rebel, hold to your plan even if you have to set the clock forward. Figure out this fall's social nuance styles before maxing out on school clothes. 

  • It is hard to do, but must be done. Each night get your children into bed ten minutes earlier. Controlling their sugar intake by eating less sugar after three o'clock should ease them into sleep sooner.
  • Before doing so, have them lay out their clothing and pack their knapsacks. However, don't let procrastination stall an early bedtime. If need be, have them choose between two outfits, one for tomorrow and the other for the day after.
  • Don't blow your back-to-school budget before school starts. If they're still wearing shorts, any long pants you buy now may be too short by the time they want to switch over to long pants. 
  • Understand the social nuances of their circle of friends by looking to see the kind of sneakers, socks, hair clasps, etc, kids are wearing this fall. Are their classmates mostly in Skechers? Find the nearest outlet store. What kind of backpacks are they using? How are they wearing their hair? Are they rolling or folding over their socks?
  • In warm weather inevitably children consume far too much sugar through fruit drinks, slushies, popsicles and ice-cream. Wean them off overly-sugared foods and beverages. When you go grocery shopping, look to see how many grams of sugar are contained in one serving. The sooner you cut back on the sugar, the calmer they'll become. And now that you're packing lunch again, you can take better control of their sugar intake.


Get the school year off to a brilliant start by:

  • never bribing a child with food because bribing with food is a well-known cause of eating disorders.
  • making sure that your children understand why they're posting or sending something on social media. Help them make better decisions as to what to say and send, and what to hold off on.


Much of this answer, Theresa, may sound uncreative and superficial, but is clearly backed by research that you can Google. 

At the end of the day, teaching your children to be mindful about how they go about interacting with other people will always be of value to them.


Protecting personal space

Q.  I am an educated, employed, 65-year-old black woman who doesn't like being kissed on the lips by anyone, especially not politicians. At political fundraisers I usually run into an old acquaintance who greets me with a kiss on the lips. His breath is always sweet and he is well-groomed, but how do I greet this man so that he doesn't think he has a right to kiss me every time we meet?  Janis, Philadelphia

A.  It's not enough to acknowledge your personal space, you have to be polite but firm and head off this man's advances with your body language. There are several ways you can meet and greet with dignity and warmth, here's my favorite handshake for this:

Extend your left hand toward him when you see him coming and hold it warmly, but keep it stretched out as though you have a cold and don't want him to get too close. The warm flesh of your hand may be all the body contact he needs. Keep holding it as you chat and he will take in the message from your body language.


Using "Sir"

Q. When writing a letter or message and I don't know the name or gender of the person, do I write Dear Sir or Madame:? Or do I just write Dear Sir:?  Allison, Madrid, Spain

A.  The politically correct greeting in an email or letter when you haven't a clue as to the recipient's gender - let alone their name - may not sound warm and friendly, but it certainly won't offend anybody. Absolutely nobody would ever be offended when you use:

To Whom It May Concern

Of course it is always way better to address the person by name: Dear Mr. Brown or Dear Ms. Greene. So if you are writing to the personnel director, for instance, find his or her name on the company website and address the email or letter with an envelope to him or her. If her name is Allison and you don't know if she likes to be addressed as Ms. or Mrs., use Ms.

In conversation, you wouldn't say, "Hey, boy" or "Hey, Miss," you would say "Sir" or "Mam" to grab their attention or express your appreciation.  Sir and Mam are both general-purpose words of respect used in polite conversation when you don't know the stranger's name. You wouldn't use the title Mr., Ms., or Mrs. unless the title is in conjunction with the person's last name: Mr. Brown or Ms. Greene.


Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette at NewportManners for her forthcoming book.


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