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Practicing Manners with Charles the Butler

Practicing Manners with Charles the Butler

If you had the opportunity to sit down with a world-renowned expert on etiquette and hospitality, would you bring your 2-year-old and 6-year-old along?  

Hoping that some of his stellar manners might rub off on my kids, I apprehensively decided to bring them to afternoon tea with Charles “The Butler” MacPherson.  

Mr. MacPherson has 25 years of experience as the Major Domo for one of Canada’s most prominent families and as founder of North America’s only registered school for butlers and household managers. He is a best-selling author and a regular guest on the Marilyn Denis Show. He has fine-tuned customer service experiences for well-known brands such as Louis Vuitton and Four Seasons Hotels.  

This week, he was in Saskatoon on a cross-country tour with Ford Canada, sharing his hospitality savviness with customer service advisors from local Ford dealerships

He graciously took about 45 minutes from his busy schedule to visit with my kids and me about good manners and household management. 

As he greeted us with handshakes, Mr. MacPherson complimented my 6-year-old for his good eye contact.

“A handshake is often the first impression people have of us,” he told my son. “The most important element of a good handshake is to look at the person directly in the eyes and show your interest in them.”  The next steps are extending the hand, connecting “web to web,” applying the same amount of pressure as you would gripping a water bottle, and shaking four times before the release.

Not wanting to be left out, little sister also had to practice her handshake a few times.

Our first question for “Mr. Manners,” as my 2-year-old calls him was, “Why are manners important?”  
“Manners are really about making other people feel comfortable,” he said.
As my little crumb-makers chomped away at a nice platter of pastries courtesy of Ford Canada, Mr. MacPherson explained that chewing with your mouth open is an example of something that could make another person uncomfortable. As it turns out, this was a very appropriate example as I was feeling quite uncomfortable with the muffin bits falling out of my little darlings' mouths as they intently listened to their new snack-time buddy.

{a recent example of the 2-year-old's table manners}
Sometimes teaching manners to small children can feel like a tall order. {Like on the days your daughter purposely throws her food on the floor, or perhaps when your children keep interrupting as you are speaking with “Mr. Manners!"}

Mr. MacPherson advocates for parents to simply keep practicing good manners with their kids.

“Parents want their children to have wonderful experiences so that they can have a better life. As a result, families have become so busy running to all the activities, and kids are often eating in the backseat of the car,” he said.

Even if the opportunity only comes once a week -- and even it feels like a hopeless fight -- Mr. MacPherson said some of the most important lessons we can provide our children are proper table manners. He encourages family meals at home to be at the table, without electronic distractions, with napkins on laps and proper utensils so that it all will begin to come naturally.

“Whether you think it is fair or not, people judge you on your manners,” he said. “Teaching a child good manners gives that child self-confidence throughout life, whether they are on a job interview or on a date. This can play a huge role in their lives in the future.”  

Mr. MacPherson’s attitude and patience put me at ease about the way my own children’s “manners” were presenting themselves by the end of our time together. What he shared with me is exactly why I made the decision to bring them along with me in the first place.

I knew that my small children would not be able to pull off perfect manners for the entirety of our visit with Charles the Butler.  However, we had been practicing, we had talked about what good manners might look like on the drive there, and I was confident in the learning process. {It admittedly also helped that I had been assured by Mr. MacPherson's publicist that he was a down-to-earth gentleman who would not mind meeting my kids.}

If we provide opportunities to see proper etiquette modeled to our children, and we allow our children to exercise their manners in public, it cannot help but have positive long-term impact as they grow. 

It is obvious Mr. MacPherson takes his role of “household manager” very seriously, and he said parents who find themselves in this role should, too. He said he hates to hear when people say they are “just” a homemaker or “just” a stay-at-home parent, as that seriously undersells the value of those roles in society.

“We need to acknowledge the important role that household managers play in quality of life,” he said. “And, as a parent, you have a huge responsibility for the future generation. This is something to embrace and take pride in.”

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