Grace can be defined as harmony between body and mind, for a young child, grace is the ability to complete a series of simple gestures and movements with dignity.
Courtesy is harmony between an individual and their society, this can be expressed in situations without any direct social interaction as consideration and independence, e.g. refraining from disturbing someone who is concentrating, making room for someone entering a crowded place, or being aware that others are interacting and not interfering.
Courtesy is achieved through social etiquette, by following a societies norms, by demonstrating ‘good manners’, which signify one’s understanding of the code of conduct and that we consider the preferences of the local social group. When we adapt ourselves to our social environment, we bring ourselves into harmony with it and this affords us respect, inclusion and the opportunity to communicate and contribute, this is an important factor in meeting our human tendency towards gregariousness. To fit into this complex code of behaviour the individual needs to use self-control.
For a child ‘Grace and Courtesy’ helps to strengthen self-concept and leads to confidence that she can take care of her own needs without disturbing those of the community. Initially guided by the ‘link of love’ the child’s attitude later develops into an attitude of responsibility for one’s actions, and the child’s actions become responsive rather than reactive, as the child integrates knowledge of others she develops empathy and begins to reconcile her feelings of responsibly to the group and her own will and choices.
Acts of ‘Grace and Courtesy’ are an expression of the way a social group acts, they are not inherited but locally styled. A child needs help in adapting to local social customs, developing gracious manners and tact, once the child is initiated she is able to harmonises her own contribution to others in the group.
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Before beginning a group activity plan ahead to encourage the best social outcomes for each individual, prepare an appropriate environment, select a good number of children, suitable activities and make careful invitations. Groups should be optional, so as not to distract the concentrating child. Ensure you can observe all the children, for safely, control and to and indirectly present eye-contact, so avoid standing inside a circle of children. Encourage organic gatherings, they should not be lengthy or time-tabled, but should give each child the opportunity to participate when they are ready. Repeatedly request that children are aware of the space around them, for instance, the ‘Walking on the Line’ activity should not be obstructed. Older children can be used to help presentations which require more than one person, (e. g. moving a large table or greetings).
When everyone has had the opportunity to contribute and the group activity is complete it should be allowed to dissolved, with one or two children sent away at a time to complete a purposeful activity.
Group activities such as music and dance are an essential part of the Children’s House allowing the child to find new ways to be involved, contribute and express.
Grace and Courtesy in Social Situations
It is necessary for adults to expose children to social situations and places from an early age taking them to gatherings and places where other people are present acts as psychological nutrition for the Absorbent Mind.
Before an upcoming event speak to the child about what the event is about, whose party it is, what the festival means, why people will perform unusual behaviour or say certain phrases, let the child practice any special greetings so that know how to say it and who to say it to. Help the child to be aware of how to ask for help and who to ask, and how to offer genuine thanks for the help they received and for the fun they have. The key to this learning is for the adult to indirectly present courteous behaviour themselves, throughout the preparations and the event itself in the manner of speaking, moving, giving gifts or assistance an waiting patiently as the child absorbs the new experience.