"A lot of youth are not just lacking in skills, they just don’t have them at all. Youth are not being taught these skills like I was. I’m 40 and when I was in school, you had to respect and honour. Those things meant everything."
When I was three years old, I got a stuffed animal for my birthday.
I loved it, but before I was allowed to play with it, my mother sat down with me and helped me write a thank you letter, which I managed in crayon.
Other than saying “please” and “thank you,” it was my first introduction to etiquette. That letter, along with other lessons Mom taught me many years ago — the importance of shaking hands when you meet someone, which fork to use with what course — have stuck with me.
But according to Lisa Rosano, it’s not so simple for some people.
In her work with youth, Rosano noticed that many kids today just aren’t aware of the ins and outs of social etiquette.
Dropped from school programs and no longer widely taught at home, “etiquette is on the edge of being lost,” said Rosano, who founded Charmed Integrity School Inc.
“A lot of youth are not just lacking in skills, they just don’t have them at all. Youth are not being taught these skills like I was. I’m 40 and when I was in school, you had to respect and honour. Those things meant everything.”
Based on the belief that good manners never go out of style, Rosano studied social etiquette books and ideas from all over North America and brought it up to current ethical standard.
This Saturday, Rosano is bringing her one-day youth program to Dominion-Chalmers United Church for the first time.
Through discussion and role-play techniques, the program teaches the basic principles of integrity, poise, personal grooming, self-confidence and positive thinking, care of self, social success, first impressions and dining etiquette.
At first glance, Charmed has an air of an antiquated finishing school. But it’s not about that at all, Rosano said.
“Finishing schools were about how to please the world and put on a plastic face,” she said. “This is about how to take care of yourself in society while taking care of society. This is old-fashioned basic respect, integrity and being a humanitarian.”
Manners will make all the difference in a person’s life, from achieving school success to landing a job, Rosano said.
Many adults are absolutely lacking in these skills themselves, said Rosano, who believes that children will end up raising the bar for adults.
“If we don’t get it back in the school system, it will be lost,” she said.
“If kids are not taught on a daily basis, it won’t be the norm and they won’t understand it.”
Metro Ottawa's Tracey Tong is an award-winning reporter. A Burlington native, Tong's career has taken her all over Ontario. Her Cityscapes column appears every Wednesday.