If I Were a Parent: Teaching kids good manners

Kelly Wallace, CNN Video by Sandee LaMotte, Mariana Hoysa, Ferre Dollar, Jonathan Schaer and Everett Adams, CNN | 9/7/2017, 6 a.m.
What happens when you ask a group of elementary-school kids how they would teach their children manners if they were ...
What happens when you ask a group of elementary-school kids how they would teach their children manners if they were the parents? CNN

"It's like this crazy moment of 'I didn't even say anything, and I made an impression on you,' but that has to be taught, and there's no place where kids are learning these skills, which is why I started socialslkz:-) and why this business, this little random idea, turned into a business."

De Muyshondt encourages parents to teach kids why good manners, such as saying "please" and "thank you," are important. In some programs, she'll ask students how they would feel if they got her a really thoughtful present that they spent time both finding and wrapping but she didn't say anything when she opened it.

By focusing on empathy, thoughtfulness and gratitude, they can see why this is important, she said. As opposed to "you should do this" and "you should do that," it's getting kids to understand why it doesn't feel great to serve someone a meal and not receive a "thank you," for instance.

"It's just rude," said Ava Lambert, 7, one of the kids we interviewed in Atlanta, when I asked her why it's better to have good manners than to say something such as "Mom, get me this; get me that."

Parents have been complaining about their kids' poor manners for decades, but the lack of manners and etiquette seems to be a bigger concern in an age of helicopter parenting, when parents get overly involved in their children's lives and happiness, de Muyshondt said.

"There was this wave of parenting ... it being so much about the child that there was an oversight on (the part of) the people around the child and the fact that we don't all operate independently, that we live in a village," she said.

By trying to secure our kids' happiness and provide them with the best and most enriched lives, we sort of forgot about the other half of it: that there are other people in the village, she said. "I think that that's had an impact on the way that kids socialize and interact also."

Though de Muyshondt says that year after year, the problem of kids lacking strong social and communication skills has only gotten worse, she has noticed a recent shift on the part of parents.

"Parents are starting to get more on board with, 'Hey ... let's start putting limitations. Let's start bringing good old-fashioned, they call it, manners and etiquette, but bringing that back into the picture,' " she said.

"Especially with modern technology, it's the skills that you and I maybe picked up by the time we were 10 or 12 years old, are taking longer and longer because there is less face-to-face interaction."