Good manners lead to good character

Good manners can take you far, says Yolanda Chambers.

"Etiquette takes you a long way in life," she said. "It builds character."

Chambers took her 15-year-old son, Jay, to The Georgia Protocol Academy's Mom, Manners and Me program last year. Participants spend a Saturday learning how to introduce themselves, interviewing skills and dining etiquette.

Last year's symposium was only for young men and their mothers, but Protocol Academy Founder Dierdre Williams said this year, the group is offering the class to boys and girls, due to responses from parents.

"They talked about table manners. They talked about grooming. They talked about handshakes and how you greet people," Chambers said. This year's event will include sessions on sportsmanship and civility, saying please and thank you, and dining etiquette.

Chambers said when she attended last year, she was even surprised to learn new things -- like how you can request a black napkin instead of white at some restaurants, if you're wearing darker colors and don't want to get napkin lint on your clothes.

"I thought it was the decor of the room," she said, adding. "You can always learn new things."

Her son showed off his new skills after the program, she said

"We went out to dinner a week later and he was cutting his meat explaining the European style of eating," she said.

Mitzi Jackson, who attended last year with her 12-year-old son Andrew, said the class was helpful. Kids don't learn etiquette in school and it can be hard to find the time outside of school to teach them.

"I just think children are so busy and our lives are so busy that we simply fail to get the fundamentals," she said.

Chambers said her son was a little reluctant to spend a Saturday afternoon learning manners, until he saw other high school students at the program.

She said learning etiquette can be especially helpful for high schoolers, as they prepare to interview at colleges or go to banquets with their sports teams.

"Once you learn it you can always utilize it," she said.

Jackson said she liked that the program was a joint class for mothers and their sons -- an activity that they could do together.

"We were doing it together, so I think he was willing and he appreciated what he learned," she said.

If you can't attend the Mom's, Manners and Me program, here are some etiquette tips for kids and teens, from the Emily Post Institute:

At the table: Always come to the table with a clean face and hands. Sit up straight and keep your elbows off the table. Put your napkin in your lap and start eating when everyone else does. Don't talk with your mouth full and don't make bad comments about the food. Asked to be excused when you are finished and thank your host or whoever prepared the meal.

On job interviews: Arrive early and be prepared with questions about the position and the company. Dress appropriately in clean, neat clothes. Make eye contact and speak clearly. Address the interviewer by name. Shake hands twice -- once when you arrive at the interview and once when you leave.

Making an introduction: Look at the person you are talking to first, then the person you are introducing. Speak clearly and use courteous language. Teach children to use an adult's title -- Miss, Mrs. or Mr. -- unless an adult asks that they be called by their first name.

To combat the rudeness of others: Don't take it personally. Count to ten and ask yourself, "Is this worth getting angry over?" Set a good example and if all else fails, laugh it off and change the subject.