Grace and Courtesy – What does it all mean?!

Can you remember a time when you were playing with your most favorite doll?

For me, it was Barbie and her friends Ken and Skipper. I also had a pink Barbie car – a Corvette! I would pretend Barbie and Ken went out on the town, they laughed, they dined, they kissed. I also then played house and acted out the same scenarios on the playground with friends at school.

This is Grace and Courtesy. When we role play or “pretend” to act out social situations that are in our cultural surroundings at home or beyond. These Grace and Courtesy lessons prepare young children to enter our social community with some behavior in mind and with language practiced in a neutral setting beforehand. They are learning social behavior through practice and mastery, just as they would math facts or phonetic sounds. These scenarios are often tailored to the needs of a specific child or group of children as needed. Our work as the adults in the environment is to observe. By observing a social situation happen, a need arises, we make a mental note, and then go home and create a grace and courtesy lesson around that scenario that seems to need some practice.

In a Montessori classroom setting, the adults invite a small group of children to a lesson. We then present the grace and courtesy by inviting one child to act out the scenario with us, usually an older child. Initially, we practice with them a few times in the classroom and then invite them to practice with their peers. If you are at home with your child you’ll need to practice with them several times and over several days and make it fun! This is the hallmark of grace and courtesy – role playing and having fun.

Here are a few examples:

How to ask a friend to play: “There is something we say when we want to play with someone. Would you like to hear it? ‘May I play with you?’ Let’s practice! I’ll pretend to be the friend who is asking to play. You can be the friend who is being asked, then we will switch. Ready?”

How to greet employees and express gratitude: “When we checkout at the store, we can smile and wave to the clerk. We can also say: ‘thank you’ to the grocery bagger and clerk before we leave.”

How to let someone know when you are upset: “I noticed you were sad when __________ pushed you. Next time, you can say: ‘I don’t like it when you hit. I am moving away to keep my body safe.’ I am always here to help and keep you safe.”

Some other scenarios to consider for modeling specific behavior:

How to eat at the table during dinner: Practice modeling how to sit in the chair, not during a mealtime, pretend to eat and drink, clear place when finished. Invite the child to take a turn. (This practice works especially well when you notice a pattern of getting up from the table during mealtimes. Physically practicing helps more than constant verbal reminders during a meal.) Variations include: How to set the table for mealtimes, How to clear the table after mealtimes.

How to put on and take off a mask: This one is relevant to our current culture and can set a child for success prior to being in an environment where the mask is mandatory. Model slowly, how to put on the mask. Pause. Model slowly how to take off the mask and where to place it. (In our home we have a hook by the door.)

In my observation over many years, when children are practiced in grace and courtesy they know what to say and it allows them to not only express their feelings easily, but allows them to look and listen to the other party as well. This “others focus” helps to develop empathy and an emotional awareness in very young children. We have many opportunities to guide our children in ways that grow their social intelligence – this can be a great one!

Please reach out if you need help with a particular scenario or email me for one-on-one consultation. Happy Grace and Courtesy!

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