Moms are charged with teaching children to mind their manners but often, it helps to bring in an expert.
Mary McKinnon teaches “Miss Mary’s Manners Classes” in her home to children ages 6 through 13. Her courses include lessons on everything from table manners to writing thank you notes. The licensed etiquette instructor has been teaching children in Maryville for over 25 years.
Students learn how to set a table with a folded napkin and proper utensils and plates. She also teaches table manners like, “sit with hands in the lap and never start eating until the hostess lifts her fork.” The instructor also informs students where to place their napkin when leaving the table for a restroom break.
Lessons also include how to eat spaghetti and what to do with bones, seeds and pits in foods. She said, “Soup should be seen and not heard, except in Japan. There, the louder you slurp your soup, the more you show how you appreciate it.” McKinnon says she has learned etiquette rules from Japanese residents who have come to Maryville from corporations like Denso.
McKinnon says in every culture, “Good manners are a form of love. They come from the heart.”
Aside from table manners, her classes include courtesies like introducing yourself with a handshake and an eye-to-eye greeting.
Even in an age of emails and texting, McKinnon says, “Letters are treasures.” She instructs children to send a hand-written thank you letter anytime someone buys them a gift. McKinnon gives her students a packet of thank you cards, and they practice writing the letter of appreciation.
She says her class also covers how to act in public. “Children should not run, but walk and not yell. I have to tell them, ‘Don’t spit unless it is an emergency.’”
McKinnon also covers the important practices of treating others with kindness. “I tell them, ‘Don’t whisper to one friend in front of another. They will think you’re talking about them, and that’s not nice.”
The instructor says because children are so busy during the school year, she offers classes in the summer, but she is available to teach afterschool upon request. In fact, McKinnon says parents and grandparents have sometimes asked for a crash course.
Along with teaching manners classes, McKinnon is a hostess at Foothills Milling Company restaurant. She says the differences between men and gentlemen are quite noticeable there. “I notice the ones who pull the chair out for their wives or girlfriends. Most open doors, but you’d be surprised -- some don’t.”
McKinnon says she gives specific instructions to boys on how to be gentlemen and teaches girls how to act like ladies in every situation.
McKinnon is teaching manners to the next generation and says every generation should “learn to respect older people.” McKinnon instructs children to stand when an adult enters the room. “Sometimes, kids don’t even notice older people.” The instructor says children should politely acknowledge adults and respectfully not address the adult by their first name, unless given permission.
McKinnon says teaching manners to children when they are young is important because, “They’ll keep doing it the rest of their lives.”
The five-day, 2-hour courses are taught in her home. “Miss Mary’s Manners Class for Boys and Girls” was held for children ages 6 to 9 last week. Next week, she will offer the course to children ages 10 to 13. The class is from 3 to 5 p.m. on July 11, 13, 15, 18 and 20. Space is still available. The cost is $70 per child, with sibling discounts available. For more information or to register, contact Mary McKinnon at 865-983-3740.