Spaghetti is a mealtime favorite of many children, but the mess it can cause at the dinner table makes some parents cringe. Add to that the loud chewing and lack of knowing how to start a conversation—it can drive any parent crazy.
By the same token, kids being told what do to all the time drives them crazy.
Enter Courteous Kids. Founder Mary Beth Budz began Courteous Kids in 2006 as an affordable way to teach all kids social skills.
“It’s all about grace and composure without drawing attention to yourself,” Budz says. Budz herself attended cotillion in her home state of Florida and says she enjoys helping others learn these same skills.
Although Courteous Kids began as a series of classes held during the school year, three years ago, Budz began a summer camp that enhances the school-year classes.
“It was really fun because my parents always told me what to do, but this wasn’t like them just telling you what to do, they do it in sort of a more fun way,” says camper Abby Baker, 12.
This camp isn’t just for the well-heeled. The camp costs $90 and covers everything from how to shake hands effectively to writing thank you notes. The camp week starts with learning to greet one another and the different customs of greeting in various cultures. They hold conversations with other campers and they work on table manners. Campers learn to twirl spaghetti on their forks so they don’t slurp it, and to pass items to the right at the dinner table.
The campers play the etiquette game, during which they are asked questions about manners at home, when dining out, and on friendship. Questions like, “Do you hold a fork in a right or a left hand when you’re cutting food?” Points are earned for correct answers, and at the end of the week, the kids pick out prizes for the number of points they earned. They create table settings and sidewalk chalk art with superhero themes.
Budz says she hopes the campers and their families continue working on their social skills at home.
“Sometimes it helps to have an outside party to show them it’s not just mom and dad being strict, these are skills they will need later on,” says parent Amy Baker.
“I really like that she teaches them the importance of writing hand-written thank you notes,” Baker says. “So often these days we are just caught up in sending texts all the time.”
“They were teaching us how to write letters and they had us actually make letters and she brought in fancy envelopes and papers,” Abby said. “We got to make our own notes. That was pretty fun.
It all culminates in a luncheon on Friday at noon, where the kids eat (what else?) spaghetti and show their parents what they have learned during the week.
“I feel like it was a good learning process.” Abby says. “I don’t want to be an adult and have bad manners and have someone not hire me because of that. It’s also good if I go to a party and I want to introduce someone or myself. I don’t want to do it in the wrong way.”