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How Good Manners Yield Confidence

Morgan Kelly Burke
Sept. 5, 2012

Lisa Richey stresses the impact of etiquette on a child's confidence as part of the Care.com Interview Series

From making eye contact to sitting up straight in one's chair, practicing good manners shows a lot about a child's confidence according to Lisa Richey, Director of the American Academy of Etiquette, Inc. And while manners and confidence are both challenging to teach, Richey shared how connected the two are and what we as parents can be doing to build character in our kids. Find out how Richey developed her own sense of self-esteem and what three things you can do to help build your child's confidence.

Tell us about your family.

My grandparents were farmers in North Carolina. They raised five children, most of whom are educators. My mother taught second grade for 36 years and my sister is a retired principal. My father had a very strong personality and was quite strict when I was growing up. I credit my father for the confidence I have now, my appreciation for the arts, and my ability to be a professional speaker.

Do you consider yourself a confident woman? If so, what and who helped you get there?

Yes, I do consider myself to be a confident woman. As a child, I was very shy. My mother enrolled me in ballet class when I was six. Everything changed. My ballet teacher, Mrs. Harris really helped me to shine and express myself on stage. Ballet teaches a child so many things, but confidence stands out for me when I think about the benefits of dance.

Do you or any of your kids struggle with a lack of self-confidence? How have you handled that?

As the founder and creator of Manners To Go, I have taught thousands of children social skills. My advice to parents is to remember your children are watching you. Shake hands when you meet someone, get down (literally) on your child's level and make eye contact, open the door for someone, and smile and say hello. Talk to your children about what you are doing and why. Have as many family meals together as possible.

What was the one moment you knew you were worthy, important and that you truly count?

The first event that comes to mind for me is the public speaking contest I entered in the eighth grade through our local Chamber of Commerce. This was a big turning point for me. I realized the importance of my voice, my ability to speak up for what I believe in and using it in a positive and poised manner.

What tips do you have for other parents on boosting kids' self-esteem?

Parents are critical to a child's self-esteem. My parents did an excellent job of fostering my self-confidence. We all have something special to contribute to this world. A parent is the best resource to boost a child's confidence. 

When teaching manners to children, I always follow-up with the parents and give them tips to teach confidence and manners at home. For example:

  • Eye contact is critical. Tell your child what it is, how to do it and focus on how it makes them feel inside.....confident.

  • Table manners. This gives the confidence to function in their social lives.

  • Posture and poise. Show your child how to sit and stand correctly. Poise starts from the inside.

Yes, good manners consists of eye contact, handshakes and knowing when to use your cell phone, but it really boils down to self-interest. You use your good manners because of the way it makes you feel on the inside. Confidence (and good manners) comes with grace, power and the opportunity to live a peaceful life.

How might you (some day) use social media to increase your child's self-esteem?

Having good manners is not something you turn on or off. It is a way to live your life. It is very important to treat others with respect as we connect face to face or through Facebook, Twitter or any other form of social media. Social media is here to stay. Again, the best way to teach your children about respectful behavior is to model it. As social media becomes even more prevalent, watch your own posts or digital comments. They stay with you for life.

What's the ONE thing you want your kids to know when they walk out the door in the morning?

Be Happy and Love Yourself.

Lisa Richey is an authority on protocol and the founder of The American Academy of Etiquette. She believes manners are not about judgment but about self-interest and confidence. She has touched the lives of many children and adults as the creator and author of Manners To Go, an activity kit that provides confidence and social skills for children.

Find more messages of confidence in our Care.com Interview Series: You Count »

Image used with permission from Lisa Richey.

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