Handwriting is Hard: Allowing children to type thank-you notes

Q: Is it appropriate to allow children to type their thank-you notes instead of handwriting them? My 10 year old son gets very frustrated when writing and tends to make numerous mistakes, causing him to have to start over, but he is a fantastic typist. I allowed him to type his thank-you notes after this 9th birthday and this method went so much more smoothly for him. I am an advocate for teaching manners to my children and don’t want to steer them in the wrong direction. What do you feel should be the developmental progression toward handwritten notes from children?

A: You put the focus on the important component – offering thanks and writing thank-you notes. If his handwriting is difficult to read, there is no reason he can’t use the computer to write them. As his small motor skills develop he may find it less of a task to hand write, which is preferable, but for now this is just fine and he should be commended for writing and sharing his gratitude with those who gave him gifts.

Birthday Bonanzas: Do siblings all need to be included?

Q: I am in the process of planning a birthday party for my soon to be four year old son. Many of the children that he is friends with have older and/or younger siblings. Some of these friends are neighbors in which our families are friends. But some of my son’s friends are from preschool, etc. Do I need to invite my son’s friend’s siblings to the party as well or is it okay to just invite the child my son is friends with? Also, how should I address the invitation?

A: No, there is no reason to invite the siblings of your son’s friends. They will be invited to their own friends’ birthday parties and needn’t be a part of your son’s party. You address the invitation specifically to those you are inviting. If Jason is your child’s friend, you invite only Jason. If you are inviting two children in a family, you use both of their names. You do assume some parents or a parent will stay, however, unless you make it clear when they respond to the invitation that you have plenty of help so they can certainly take the time and do something else because there will be good supervision, although of course they are welcome to stay. By next year, most parents will not feel the need to stay.

Namesake Norms: Will he be a Jr., II, or III?

Q: If my husband and I have a son, we would like to name him after my father-in-law, whose name was John Andrew Jones, Jr. and who has since passed away. My mother says we would simply name him John Andrew Doe, since his namesakes are both deceased. I, however, would like to name him John Andrew Doe III – even though I realize it’s not necessary to differentiate the child from his grandfather or great-grandfather.

However, I’ve also been told that that the ‘III’ is not appropriate if the name has skipped a generation (my husband doe not carry the namesake), and that instead I would use ‘II’ or nothing at all. I want to honor my father-in-law and grandfather-in-law, but at the same time I don’t want to do something that is completely inappropriate.

A: You are correct, and it is correct to use III. It doesn’t matter if the relatives sharing the name are living or deceased, the point is that your son would be the third in line to carry the name.

Spaghetti Specifics: How to eat it properly

Q: I work with children and am writing a trivia game about manners. One of my questions is about the proper way to eat spaghetti. My co-workers and I have been debating this issue for about a week. What is the proper way to eat spaghetti?

A: There are really three ways to eat spaghetti. The first is to take a few strands on the fork and twirl the spaghetti around the fork, holding the tines against the edge of your plate. Whether you do this with your right or left hand depends on whether you eat American or European style – Americans eat with the fork in their right hand, Europeans with the fork in their left hand. The second is to cut it in to sections and eat it with a fork, and the third is like the first, except you use a spoon instead of the edge of your plate to twirl the spaghetti against. It is true that Italians generally don’t use the second or third methods, but that doesn’t mean they are incorrect.

Elbow Etiquette: When your toddler asks WHY, now you’ll know!

Q: My five year old daughter wants to know WHY we don’t put our elbows on the table. Could you tell us? Thank you very much!

A: Ideal posture is an important component of exemplary table manners. Given that, ideal posture at the table is to sit straight, leaning slightly against the back of the chair. Your hands, when you are not actually eating, may lie in your lap, which will automatically prevent you from fussing with implements, playing with bread crumbs, drawing on the tablecloth, and so forth. However, if you can’t resist the temptation to fidget, you may rest your hands and wrists, but NEVER your entire forearm,on the edge of the table, which may seem more comfortable.

For all we hear about “elbows off the table,” there are some situations when elbows are not only permitted on the table but are actually necessary. This is true in restaurants where to make oneself heard above music or conversation, one must lean far forward. At home though, when there is no reason for leaning across the table, there is no reason for elbows. At a formal dinner, elbows may be on the table because again one has to lean forward in order to talk to a companion across the table. But even in these special situations, elbows are NEVER on the table when one is eating!