First, let’s review our definition of proper etiquette: Putting people at ease; making others feel valued; and helping others to feel comfortable. With that said, proper hygiene is a great way to show respect, concern and appreciation for others. Let’s say Grandma and Grandpa call this evening and invite the whole family to go out to dinner with them tonight. What if, when Grandma and Grandpa show up, the family is waiting at the door, however Dad is in his shorts and a t-shirt he had been mowing the grass in (this is often a scary sight), Mom is wearing a bathing suit top and a pair of jeans (she thinks she’s 16), Molly is wearing pajama pants, and Doug is wearing the shirt he’s had on since last Thursday (that was 5 days ago). The way we dress sends a message to Grandma and Grandpa that we are not very appreciative of their invitation. The way we dress, also sends a message that spending time with Grandma and Grandpa is no more special, than mowing the grass. Do you see what I mean? The way we dress sends all kinds of messages. We have to consider, who we’re with, where we’re going, and what is the purpose of our attendance.
To begin, have on hand: soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, fingernail clippers, etc. Then, one by one, explain to your children why and how we use the hygiene item, and what this has to do with proper etiquette. Hygiene means keeping ourselves clean and tidy. When our hygiene is good, it makes us feel good, confident, proud, and put together. We are responsible for taking care of our own hygiene. Keeping our bodies clean ensures that people don’t avoid us, due to body odor. I know we have ALL been in a situation where we have smelt really bad body odor. If you’re like me, you don’t stay there too long. If we’re trying to make those around us more comfortable in order to have proper etiquette, you can see how this would conflict.
Also, our mouths must be kept clean. I’m a big believer in everyone brushing their teeth after lunch. If you work, keep a toothbrush and toothpaste in your desk. Children will have to do the best they can, but there is no doubt, the more we keep our teeth brushed and clean, the less likely we are going to run into bad breath and green leaves between our teeth (which is not attractive at a business meeting).
Wearing clean clothes is simply a must. It doesn’t matter whether you shop at Macy’s or Walmart. What matters; is your clothes clean, well mended and free from stains? I tell children that the best way to tell if clothes are clean, is simply do the “Sniff Test.” Obviously, put the clothes up to your nose and sniff. If it smells good, clean; if it smells bad, dirty. If our clothes get holes or tears, this is a great time to teach some mending skills. All children can learn to sew a button on a shirt or sew up a tear.
It’s also important to teach our children, that it is poor manners to point out other people’s grooming problems. We never tease or embarrass someone by saying, “Hey, you smell like you have been bowling with a family of skunks.” We also never comment negatively about someone’s hair. This of course can cause hurt feelings. One more rule—VERY IMPORTANT—NEVER GROOM IN PUBLIC. OK ladies, yes, this means applying lipstick. It is rude to groom in public. It’s just that simple. So, we never comb or brush our hair, bite or clip our fingernails, pick at our clothes, or any other type of grooming in public. Simply say excuse me and find a nearby restroom to groom.
One last thing, this is really for us adults. When it comes to dress, just remember that proper etiquette means we never dress in a manner that would cause those around us discomfort. Now wait a minute, I know what some of you are thinking. This is a free country. Yes, you’re right. However, just because we’re free, doesn’t mean we don’t show respect and deference to others. Our dress should never bring unnecessary attention to ourselves. If we are masters of etiquette, our attention should always be on others.
Have a great month,
CEO/The Etiquette Factory