Most people would agree that good etiquette is in short supply today. Basically, people have let go of the social niceties that used to be a natural part of life. But wouldn’t we all love to have homes, classrooms, and jobs where people were respectful, helpful, and kind? This may seem like an unachievable dream at times, especially since lessons of grace and courtesy are so easily overlooked.
If you have been following our grace and courtesy series, by now, maybe you have noticed a few basic things about these important life lessons. To sum up: These lessons are developed in the family and classroom environment from the earliest of age. They are what lay the foundation and are really the child’s microcosm for understanding how the world interacts. Although many of them are simple and require much overlap, the continual learning of these skills toddler through elementary is extensive and ultimately not at all about learning skills. It’s about doing; living a life of grace and courtesy, extending one’s self.
Children are understanding conflict resolution and will one day be able to use those skills when they are in college, starting a new job, raising a family, or managing a group of people. They are developing ‘I will not fall’ attitude. Think about a house and the way it is built. First lays the foundation; the rock or solid slab that the house will be built upon. The rain will come down, the streams will rise, and the winds will blow and beat against the house; yet it does not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. Grace and courtesy is a rock; harmony in all of life is a result of.
When we apply Maria Montessori’s understanding of sensitive periods, its paramount preschool and elementary education is the time to lay this foundational beginning; it’s very difficult to apply these skills at adolescents and beyond. Its true children need reminding, repetition, and much practice to keep their skills fresh, but the younger a child starts the better.
Bellow we have listed some skills that you can easily start implementing in your home or classroom. Knowing when and how to start teaching these necessary lessons really depends on the child and his/her ability. Toddler years begin the process; primary refines the process, and elementary extends the process out of the child. This is just another reason why continuing a child’s Montessori education through elementary is so important.
You can use the list below as a guide, and at the end you’ll find a sample lesson that can be easily modified for any of the skills listed.
- How to wash hands
- How to brush teeth correctly
- How to blow your nose correctly
- How and when to go to the bathroom
- Setting his or her place at the table
- Sitting quietly in chair during meal
- All food remains at the table
- Chewing food with mouth closed
- Using fork and spoon correctly
- Handling glass cup and plate with care
- Asking to be excused from meal
- How to great people, using names and title of respect when indicated
- How to shake hands when greeting someone
- How to excuse oneself when walking in front of someone
- How to respectfully interrupt when necessary
- How to properly hand objects to another person, especially sharp objects like scissors or knives
- How to say “please” and “thank you”
Care of environment
- How to feed, hold, and care for a pet
- How to water a plant correctly
- How to clean up a spill
- How to sweep and mop a floor
- How to open and shut a drawer quietly
- How to put trash in the trash can/recycle
- How to pick up and carry a chair correctly
Elementary (6-12 yr)
- How to work with another person
- How to resolve conflict
- How to mediate between friends
- How to help a younger child
- Writing a thank-you note
- Speaking politely to friends, family and teachers
- Being kind to others (treating them how they want to be treated)
- How to care for plants and animals (actually planting, mulching, or taking a dog for a walk)
- Setting up a table
- How to clean and organize a classroom or room at home
- How to serve in the community
- Recycling and other ways to care for the earth
The teacher would call the children together on the line, and place a chair in the middle of the circle. (All the lessons of grace and courtesy are group lessons). She would pick up the chair correctly (from the side, one hand on the back and one hand under the seat) and carry it to a table. Then she would bring the chair back and invite each child, in turn, to carry the chair the same way.
Once the presentation has been given, the teacher would look for times when the children could exercise their new skill (“Bobby, could you please bring a chair over here?”) and also look for times when an individual might need a re-presentation if they are not doing the skills correctly.