Two years of toil have toil have managed to instil most of the times tables in my children. And two years of nagging have taught them to change a duvet cover. On the matter of etiquette, however, I have dismally failed.

I endeavour yet again to show the 11-year-old how to place her knife and fork when she has finished eating. 'Wake up, Mum, and step out of your time machine!' she says, arranging them defiantly in a cross.

I remind the 9-year-old to say 'I beg your pardon?' instead of 'Uh?' when he fails to hear strangers. 'Uh?' he replies.

But it's in matters of telephone and doorbell etiquette that my failings are most mortifying. 'Hello my little pink and white butterfly!' trills my son on answering the phone to a caller I fear is from HMRC. Next time, my daughter grabs the receiver first. 'Yes?' she barks, then, 'Mum, it's some man!'

When the doorbell shrills, the 9-year-old likes to be first on the scene. Some natural instinct has taught him that vicarages should be places of welcome, but he's unsure how to pitch it. 'Coming my angel!' he pipes and exposes, on the doorstep, a bemused clergyman that none of us has met before.

I ask both children how they should greet strangers who arrive at our door for meetings or succour. 'Easy,' drawls the 11-year-old, 'Tell 'em to bog off!'

I am wary, therefore, when I am approached in Waitrose by a grandmother that the 9-year-old nearly felled with a shopping trolley. I start to berate him anew so that she should know that that it is his innate character, not my lack of discipline, that caused such uncouthness. But the lady is beaming radiantly. 'I just wanted to tell you what a polite son you have,' she says. 'He said sorry so charmingly he can run me over with a trolley any time!'

Do your children's manners shame you in public?


  1. My kids are perfect when in the company of others but at home well it is a whole different ballgame. I have given up, and am just pleased they are polite with others.

  2. My kids have usually acted pretty good in public, . If you quietly warn them that you will take them home if they don't behave-a nd then actually DO IT just one time, when they act up, it makes a huge difference.

    1. I agree, it's essential to stick to your guns so your kids take you seriously. Mine are terrified of me when I bring out those guns because I'm ruthless!

  3. I loved this..... I am still instilling Little A with please's and thankyou's - it never ever ends! X

    1. It's odd how, after years of training, pleases and thank yous still don't come naturally to young 'uns!

  4. Move to America. Then your kids seem instantly incredibly polite, just for saying "please" occasionally. Waiters, waitresses, school teachers, random members of the public will all tell you how polite and charming they are. It's wonderful. And even if they don't say "please", the Americans think they sound polite because of their accents. You may see your daughter, but they see a tiny version of the Queen, or maybe Kate Middleton. You may see your son, but they see Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral.

    Move to America, and you're children always seem polite. I really miss that, now we're back.


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