Diary of a Debutante: The Importance of Teaching Etiquette Early On


Tiffany Table Manners For Teenagers at Barnes and Noble

D Moms intern (and 2011 Dallas Symphony Orchestra Debutante) Monica Lake talks etiquette and how teaching children good manners early on reap all manner of benefits later in life. Diary of a Debutante will be a three-part series through the rest of the summer.

By Monica Lake


It goes without saying that manners (or lack thereof) can enhance a person’s character or take away from it. After all, knowing how to act courteously can set someone apart from all the others (and wouldn’t it be great if that “someone” was your kiddo?). But there’s more to etiquette than knowing which fork to use and minding your Ps and Qs. Teaching your littles the proper way to behave while they’re young ensures they’ll have the whole social graces things locked up later in life. Just because we live in a modern world doesn’t mean chivalry is dead .

Don’t get me wrong, my family did not grow up having our morning tea with our napkins in our laps complimenting the fine weather we’ve been having. That couldn’t be further from reality. As I recall it, our dinners consisted of mostly spaghetti because it was the only thing all of us finicky children could agree on, and we would throw it on the ceiling to check if it was done. (FYI, my mother had no part in this, it all happened as soon as she left the room. We can thank my third grade teacher for telling me that little trick!)

So, while the four of us were not the most well-behaved kids on the block, my mother was always sure to scold us for throwing food or attempting to eat our meals with our hands and explain why we couldn’t act in such ways. “What’s going to happen when your on a date one day with someone you really like, and you try to eat your food with your hands?? They’ll get up and leave!” was always the classic line. My mom also made up songs called “Put Your Napkin In Your Lap” and “Get Your Elbows Off The Table” which carried very annoying tunes, and she would sing until we all obliged. Talk about effective (as I’m writing, the song is playing over and over in my head, make it stop!).

But my mom’s perseverance really started to pay off when I started college at Baylor University. All those good manners seeds she had planted began to fruit, and I learned, firsthand, how important manners really are. After I graduated earlier this year,  the social etiquette I learned growing up began to extend to a professional etiquette as well. My experience as a debutante was plenty of fun, but that it helped to cultivate my ability to converse with adults- not just out of obligation but out of genuine desire to talk to the people around me, regardless of age – was the real payoff.

Its never too early to start enforcing etiquette, and it doesn’t have to be a drag. Some of my favorite and most hilarious childhood memories are from my mom trying to mold me into the young woman I am today.

Thanks mom.

Stay tuned for part two in the series: Get Your Elbows Off The Table!


  • I agree. My 4th grade son is attending cotillion this fall. I look forward to reading this series!