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Holiday Classes Photo courtesy of Elise McVeigh

If you’ve got a question about etiquette, Elise McVeigh is the one to ask for advice.  As the owner and founder of Mrs. McVeigh’s Manners, she knows what it takes to give even the most challenging child the tools he or she needs to become the poster child for politeness. 

With the holidays quickly approaching, there isn’t a better time to make sure your children’s manners are ready for the onset of family activities and friendly gatherings.  Mrs. McVeigh’s Manners provides the perfect learning opportunity for these events. 

After the birth of her third son, McVeigh, formerly involved in non-profit fundraising with the American Cancer Society and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, chose to begin a new career as a speaker, later developing Elise McVeigh’s Life Camp.  A strong interest in etiquette led her to also create Mrs. McVeigh’s Manners, an etiquette and manners course designed for children.  

McVeigh has believed in the importance of manners throughout most of her life.  “My dad always was a stickler for eye contact,” she says.  When she was commended during a job interview for her strong eye contact, she knew that listening to her father’s advice had paid off.  From job interviews to dating, good manners are a necessity.  “It’s going to affect everything in your life,” McVeigh says.

At first, McVeigh, who had no prior teaching experience, spontaneously created a lesson plan for her manners and etiquette class.  She started with four students, teaching them how to be proper young men and women, and steadily built up a list of parents asking for her services.  

As more parents began signing their children up for Mrs. McVeigh’s Manners, McVeigh developed a curriculum and grew her business, which now consists of approximately 30 different lessons, Manners Camp, Mrs. McVeigh’s Manners Workbooks, DVDs, and charts.  

In addition to her children’s etiquette classes, McVeigh also offers classes to college students, mostly serving sorority and fraternity members manners lessons for formal dinners, dating etiquette and interview advice. 

McVeigh uses several strategies in her etiquette classes, ranging from DVD clips and performances to workbook activities and having children act out scenarios.  She says that they often start the acting scenarios by doing the “wrong thing first,” explaining that showing children what they shouldn’t do is an entertaining and effective way to teach them the correct method.

For parents looking to instill good manners within their child, McVeigh recommends starting at an early age.  “Using kind words is a good start,” she says, explaining that when parents use words such as “please” and “thank you,” children follow their examples and learn to use these words in their own vocabularies.

McVeigh also suggests that families sit down and eat dinner together for an easy manners lesson.  As the meal progresses, parents should explain to children what behavior is appropriate for the table and what is not. 

McVeigh shares another of her etiquette secrets, one that she uses to teach her classes, saying that role-playing is often a useful exercise in teaching children how to behave properly in situations.  She also says that practice reinforces etiquette.  “I would stop the car in front of the person’s house we were going into and review the names,” McVeigh says, adding that she would have her kids practice handshakes and other manners before entering the residence. 

Though the basics of etiquette stay the same, McVeigh says that as technology changes, aspects of etiquette change as well.  Over the past few years, McVeigh has adapted her classes to involve lessons in cell phone etiquette, including how to politely speak on the phone and times that it is appropriate to use cell phones and when it is not.  

Technology isn’t always a challenge to manners, though.  McVeigh has developed DVD programs for Mrs. McVeigh’s Manners that she uses during lessons.  Because we live in such a digital world, she says children are accustomed to learning via video instruction.  “It’s (technology) changed to where you can use tools like that to teach manners,” she says of her DVD and online video lessons.  For those who don’t live within the DFW area, the DVDs are also available for purchase.

She says that real life scenarios always provide great learning opportunities, so take advantage of a chance to teach if the moment arises.  But the best advice McVeigh offers?  She recommends that parents learn the basics of etiquette and lead their children by example.  “Once you feel that you’re comfortable,” she says, “pass it along to your children.”

Mrs. McVeigh’s Manners will host two holiday classes this fall.  The first will be held on Sunday, November 20 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and the second will be Sunday, December 4 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

For more information about Mrs. McVeigh’s Manners and classes, visit the website at www.mrsmcveighsmanners.com

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