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Amanda Powell, co-owner of North Atlanta Professional Prep


Strategies from a cotillion expert.

Amanda Powell, co-owner of North Atlanta Professional Prep

Having good manners is a vital part of social and future professional interactions, but if a child never has the opportunity to practice, they really can’t be expected to know what to do when given the opportunity. “Good manners are learned behaviors, not inherent,” says Amanda Powell, co-owner of North Atlanta Professional Prep that offers modern cotillion classes starting for sixth and seventh graders focused on manners and etiquette for real-life situations now and in the future. “Of the many skills that we teach in our three years of classes, we believe the most important skills are the ones that make a great first impression and a lasting impact.” Here, Powell offers some guidance for parents on how and why certain teachable moments are important for their future relations and reputations.

What are the basics of having good manners?

Being able to introduce yourself and introduce others, easily having a conversation and using good table manners are the most important skills we teach. These done correctly and effortlessly make everyone feel at ease. The true mark of good manners is to make others feel comfortable and accepted. Good manners are not about you; they are about how others around you feel.

What are some ways parents can teach manners at home?

Parents can help their children by setting the example of good table manners and gentle reminders of what those manners look like. Meals have become much more casual, and many families serve food that is usually eaten with just their hands like hamburgers, pizza, tacos, etc. Cutting food with a knife and fork is a skill that can be practiced at home. Striking up a conversation with someone they might not know can be difficult but encourage kids to initiate a conversation when in a safe environment like the grocery check-out with their parents. Asking how someone’s day is going or what they did over the weekend is a good start to a very much-needed skill, but it needs to be practiced!

Why is good posture important?

As children age and are in a variety of situations, they will need to learn what manners they should be using. One of the first lessons in our Year 1 classes is posture. We discuss what good seated and standing posture looks like and when the students might use what we call a “professional posture” that shows you are interested in what is happening, you are engaged and are paying attention. With age comes the understanding of when a more professional posture is needed. This is the same as with all manners: There are times when a more formal behavior is expected and times when a casual behavior is acceptable. Sitting on a stage at an award’s ceremony dictates a much more professional posture than watching a movie with friends. Once again, parents can set great examples of what both of those look like and give reminders when a more formal posture is needed.

What should children know early on about being respectful on social media platforms?

Phone and social media etiquette is such an important part of children’s lives. The most important thing we can teach is that social media is forever! What you do now as an 11-, 12- or 13-year-old can follow you. Discuss with kids how the importance of what you do behind a screen is just as important as what you do in person.

How can learning to dance with a partner be a part of learning manners?

Traditionally, cotillion classes always involved dancing. Even though we see North Atlanta Professional Prep as a more modern version of the traditional cotillion classes, we use dancing in our program for the same purpose. It isn’t about dancing! The dance portion is just another way to put a child in a situation to practice all of the skills we are trying to teach. While dancing, the students are required to introduce themselves, make eye contact, have a short conversation, use professional posture and follow directions. There are so many social skills to practice.


PHOTO: Joann Vitelli

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