Manners still matter, and a polite, well-behaved munchkin stands apart from other kids (in a good way). So, we can only hope that by the time they hit school age, our kids can mind their Ps and Qs without much reminding. But try as we might, sometimes practicing those politeness skills are more readily learned outside the home – and occasionally, from someone other than you. Read on for some easy opportunities to help kiddos learn the finer points of etiquette in ways that will actually make it seem fun. Now that’s a win-win.


RSVP Melanie
Melanie Perko, a Portland etiquette coach who counts plenty of area schools, corporations, and colleges among her clients, offers private classes for kiddos, as well. Among the topics politely covered: the importance of looking an adult in the eyes while speaking, technology/portable game etiquette, the art of writing thank you notes, and even tattling. Courses run $50 per student, but make sure to ask about special group rates.


The Heathman Hotel
Sometimes atmosphere is enough to inspire kids to be on their best behavior. (With the exception of Eloise.) On that note, why not whisk your kiddos off to afternoon tea ($14 for children, $32 for adults, reservations recommended) at the glorious Heathman Hotel? Whilst sitting underneath an Austrian hand-cut chandelier in the tea lounge, your offspring can sip tea from china cups and enjoy such delicacies as Ants on a Log and chocolate cupcakes. (Chewing with their mouths closed, natch).


Portland Art Museum
Every Sunday at 12:30, the oldest art museum in the Pacific Northwest offers family-friendly docent tours. (Admission is $15 for adults, but children under 17 are free.) It’s a stress-free way to gently introduce your wee ones to appreciating art, as well as practice using their inside voices. The first Thursday of each month, the museum also offers “Baby Hour,” a slow stroll for moms and their babes through the galleries, followed by coffee and time to chat.


Oregon Children’s Theatre
At two impressively swanked out performance spaces downtown, Oregon Children’s Theatre provides kid-friendly productions like “Pinkalicious” and “The Stinky Cheese Man.” (Tickets start at $15 for kids, $18 for adults.) And your kiddo’s admission includes an impromptu lesson in manners, from the moment you say “thank you” to the usher who points you to your seat to the “excuse me” you’ll whisper to other patrons as you climb over them mid-play for a bathroom break.



Hands On Greater Portland
At the root of all manners is, of course, respect for others. An obvious way to teach that? Encouraging kiddos to give back to their community. Hands On Greater Portland makes it easy for even toddlers to get the idea. (Really.) Check their site for one-off family volunteer opportunities, none of which run longer than two hours (shorter than “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!”) and all of which are designed to be FUN: creating care packages of toys for foster children, say, or designing spring greeting cards for seniors who receive Meals on Wheels. And understanding the difference they’re making in someone else’s life might just encourage your offspring to say “Thank you” a bit more often.


How do you encourage good behavior in your kids?

–Stephanie Booth

Photos courtesy of Flickr (Michael Newton, Nathan Jones, and Woodleywonderworks)