Monday,20 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1261, (3 - 9 September 2015)
Monday,20 August, 2018
Issue 1261, (3 - 9 September 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Good manners for children

Ghada Abdel-Kader talks to Radwa Fathi, Egypt’s first etiquette and life coach for children

Al-Ahram Weekly

“Coaching and teaching children is my passion,” says etiquette and life coach for kids Radwa Fathi. A graduate of the Faculty of Commerce in Cairo, Fathi figured out that what’s really important for her is to live a meaningful and happy life.

As a result, she made a big shift in her career some years ago, from being a successful manager in one of the largest textile companies in Alexandria to becoming the first etiquette coach for children in Egypt. Her passion stopped for a while due to her work, but it was still at the back of her mind.

“There were major developments in raising children 12 years or so ago, but the moral and ethical values of children are deteriorating. We don’t hear words and phrases like ‘Please,’ ‘Thank you,’ and ‘Do you mind?’ any more. Television in particular is really harmful for kids,” Fathi says.

She spent five years studying human development and the subconscious mind and how this determines people’s reactions and behaviour. At first, Fathi began to give coaching sessions for adults and became a certified life coach. She also studied family counselling, energy healing and neuro-linguistic programming for adults.

“I began to apply these things to kids. The results were amazing and unexpected,” she says. “To enter a kid’s world you have to speak and use their language. Their language is storytelling.

“I invented two cartoon characters for children, Tito and Dida. The boy’s name is Tito, the nickname of my father. The girl’s name is Dida. I also took out rights on my characters, registering them and making sure I owned the copyrights,” Fathi adds.

She draws sketches or storyboards showing situations from daily life to convey messages to children, using these to teach good manners. Her etiquette course covers things like table manners, how to deal with other people, including friends, brothers, sisters and parents, the exchange of gifts, the etiquette of conversation, presentation and communication skills, and how to behave in public.

All these things are taught through the fictional characters of Tito and Dida, and the course as a whole has developed as a result of years of teaching.

“I never imagined it would be so successful,” she comments.

Fathi thinks that television exposes children to negative influences and promotes negative behaviour, especially as a result of the commercials directed at children. “These ads show vulgar and inappropriate manners. Such early impressions can affect how a child sees the world and affect his grown-up behaviour,” she says.

It was for this reason that she gave her students activity books to draw and paint in, as well as home assignments and T-shirts with the Tito and Dida characters printed on them. “The cartoon characters became role models for the children. When a boy wears the T-shirt with Tito on it he ‘becomes’ the etiquette boy, for example,” Fathi says.

For her, the best age to start teaching etiquette for children is at the age of three or four years old. Her courses are not only about etiquette but also concentrate on behaviour modification for kids, with some of her students emerging with their personalities transformed.

One of Fathi’s most recent ideas is a Children’s Etiquette Club, the first of its kind in Egypt. All the children who have taken the etiquette courses will now attend the club’s monthly gathering as a way of reinforcing what they have learned. Each child narrates a situation he or she has been in and how he or she reacted or responded to it.

The other members of the club then give their comments and feedback. “It is a way to refresh their learning and to suggest options for inquiry. The club itself becomes part of their lifestyles, like going to the sports club to play tennis,” Fathi says.

Fathi believes etiquette is a way of life and is not only about learning good table manners. The old concept of good manners as something for the rich alone is beginning to disappear, she says.

“For adults, I have given courses in syndicates where not everyone comes from the upper classes. In the business market today, one of the main qualifications for any job is for the applicant to have good communication skills, which are all about good etiquette,” Fathi says.

“You need to know how to dress, how to move, how to stand and how to speak, and you need to be aware of your body language, your handshake and the fluency of your communications skills. All of these things together add up to your professional image.

“It’s my job and that of parents to improve a child’s abilities in how to react, how to control anger and how to face challenges. Over time other children will admire his behaviour and begin to imitate him.”

She has some quick tips on how to deal with children when they go out to restaurants, cafés, parties or public venues. “First, if your child is making a fuss in a public venue, this is not misbehaviour. An adult venue is not appropriate for the needs of children. They get bored and tired.

“Second, if your child is misbehaving, don’t threaten or discipline him in public. This could destroy self-confidence and trust. Finally, occupy a child’s attention with either physical or mental activity, such as drawing, painting, playing or reading a book or a story,” she says.

Fathi adds that there are certain things parents don’t pay enough attention to that can destroy the self-esteem of a child. “Don’t compare your child’s abilities or characteristics to others,” she says.

“Some parents quarrel with each other in front of their children, or may ridicule or humiliate them in front of others. This should also be avoided. And when a child commits a mistake or does something wrong, some parents won’t accept an apology. But they should, as not doing so can be a kind of psychological abuse,” she concludes.

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