By Jeremy Willinger
What makes a child extraordinary? Parents and teachers both have a vital role in shaping their children’s future. We teach etiquette lessons that help them learn the difference between right and wrong and, by helping them to focus on their actions, how to interact with others.
In today’s public and private school system, there is a strong emphasis on the three R’s, but educators must consider adding an E to this alphabet - etiquette. Teaching children to make smart choices will help them to become compassionate and loyal individuals, and can greatly reduce future problems they may develop or encounter. Moving way beyond the proper usage of forks and knives, twenty-first-century etiquette offers a blueprint for weaving the fabric of our future society.
The goal of character education is to raise emotionally balanced, socially compassionate, and caring individuals with a solid value system. Those educators who focus mainly on test scores are in for a rude awakening when larger issues arise (the child is cheating on tests, or stealing from classmates, for example).
Courses on etiquette and character development can sweep potential minefields by imparting the building blocks of successful emotional growth: integrity, honesty, empathy, leadership, and responsibility, to name just a few. If your child grows up to be a doctor but is greedy and uncaring, that advanced degree counts for very little, for you would have failed miserably in nurturing a true human being.
Recent studies have shown that emotional intelligence (EI) is as central to a child’s success and fulfillment as good grades and a college degree. Etiquette seeks to enhance the EI of children by encouraging them to express and discuss their emotions, thereby improving their social sensitivity and public behavior.
Along with increased self-confidence and the ability to relate to others, students of etiquette develop enhanced social skills and experience far less anxiety when handling peer pressure. The potential for school violence can also be reduced by practicing the responsible behavior stressed in etiquette education.
The effects of etiquette and character training are immediate and longlasting. Public school children, after having taken only two training sessions in character education, demonstrate a marked improvement in self-confidence, social skills, and other beneficial qualities.
Considering the life-changing benefits that etiquette training offers, the reluctance of many educators to adopt this training seems shortsighted indeed. When public and parochial schools emphasize character education, their graduation rate is 98 percent, compared to the usual 50 percent seen in most public schools. In other words, public schools that fail to offer character-education training are almost ensuring that at least half of their students will be left behind!
For parents, educators and especially our children, etiquette education and character development pay big dividends that last a lifetime, making the E for etiquette result in children who will represent another E – extraordinary.
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