I remember a meal I had in British Columbia once. I joined a large Canadian family for dinner. At first I did not notice, but then it struck me – the constant round of “Please”, “Thank you”, “You’re welcome” – an automatic level of politeness that was very foreign to me as a Kiwi. I was not the only guest at the meal – their teenage daughter had invited her new boyfriend too. So, for him, it was the nerve-wracking ordeal of meeting her parents for the first time; and, as he cut into his food, his plate shattered. Gravy, meat, vegetables – all onto the table.  If this had been happening to me,  I would have died, and so would my girlfriend, and the parents as well. In fact, the whole table, would have keeled over, stone dead from embarrassment. But Canadian super-manners kicked in. “Oh don’t worry about that  – the dishwasher does that to the plates.” I am sure it doesn’t, but there was just a swirl of good natured reassurance, they laughed it off, the boy handled it just fine, his food was replaced in a moment, and there was not a single corpse anywhere. Man, I was impressed.

Etiquette is not just old-fashioned snobbery. If you give your kids good manners, they will know how to handle almost any situation. Knowing what to do, knowing how to make a request, knowing how to show kindness and respect – fantastic life skills.

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John Cowan

Writer, speaker and broadcaster, John Cowan shares his insight and opinions about the latest in parenting and family news in New Zealand. Hear John speak on radio stations every week throughout the country and regularly on national TV.  Follow @JohnCowanNZ on Twitter

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