It's a Busy World. Who Has Time to Teach Manners? ; Etiquette Classes Are on the Rise, but Experts Warn That a Change in Behavior Won't Happen Overnight

Article excerpt

To help prepare her kids for a family function in Georgia, Sara Kral did more than just help them pack. She signed them up for etiquette classes.

"The etiquette is much more formal and we thought it would be a good idea for the kids to take an etiquette class," says Ms. Kral, a mother of five in Tigard, Ore.

Across the country, parents are signing their children up for classes to learn such skills as basic table manners, the importance of sending thank-you notes, social dancing, and proper behavior at a fine restaurant.

Educators attribute the demand to an increase in the number of busy parents who want well-behaved kids but do not have time to teach them the intricacies of manners and etiquette at home.

"I often hear parents say, 'We work so hard and give 200 percent of our time to our jobs; we just do not have the time [to teach manners and etiquette],' " says Dorothea Johnson, founder and director of the Protocol School of Washington in Portland, Maine. "Parents want the time they spend with their children to be quality time; they do not want to be correcting their manners."

While it is difficult to estimate the number of children taking etiquette classes, demand has been increasing steadily, says Elizabeth Howell, director of public relations for the Emily Post Institute.

"We are getting a lot more calls from people all over the country asking where they can sign their children up for etiquette classes in their area," says Ms. Howell.

"I have never seen anything like the hunger for etiquette classes that exists right now," says Ms. Johnson, who estimates that demand for classes has quadrupled over the last five years.

But some experts warn that parents shouldn't view manners and etiquette classes as a quick fix to behavioral problems.

"Teaching children manners and etiquette is an ongoing project," says Cassandra Givan, owner of Manners on the Go in Lake Oswego, Ore. "Parents need to model proper manners and etiquette at home to reinforce what their children learn in their classes; change is not going to happen overnight."

Etiquette classes have been so effective for the Kral family, Kral says that now she actually looks forward to going out to a restaurant together for dinner. …