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Dec 19, 2017 2:53 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Etiquette Tips Served To Youngest Citizens In East Hampton On Saturday

Dale Leff hosted a children's etiquette class in East Hampton on Saturday, coaching children in proper table manners, conversational skills, and how to write a thank-you note. CAILIN RILEY
Dec 19, 2017 3:31 PM

“Be yourself, at your best, all the time.”Those were the words four children repeated, quietly at first, then louder, with more confidence, the second time, at the conclusion of a two-hour children’s etiquette class taught by Dale Leff at a private home in East Hampton on Saturday.

Ms. Leff is the founder and owner of The Leff Etiquette Edge, offering etiquette training to both children and adults from New York City to the East End. Saturday’s class was the third in a string of consecutive Saturday classes offered at the home, which was the perfect setting for the training.

With a blanket of fresh snow on the ground and sunlight streaming in through the expansive dining room windows, the children sat with Ms. Leff at a pristinely decorated dining table. Plates hand-painted with a Christmas tree motif sat on neatly arranged red-and-green placemats, with red cloth napkins on the left, and silverware neatly arranged—knife blades facing in, of course—around the dishes. Fat scented holiday candles, a stemless wine glass filled with candy canes, Christmas stocking-shaped dishes filled with chocolates, and figurines of woodland creatures covered the long red-and-green runner in the middle of the table.

As the children took their seats, Ms. Leff—neatly dressed in a bright red sweater, black slacks and delicate gold necklace with her initials—explained how creating a festive tablescape is one way to make guests feel welcome, that their presence is valued.

A smile never left Ms. Leff’s face over the course of the two hours, as she teased the shyness out of the children. The lessons she imparted in the earlier part of the class, covering conversational skills—avoidance of yes-or-no questions, the importance of eye contact—were clearly sinking in by the time her students were partaking in a lunch of crispy baked chicken, mac and cheese, roasted new potatoes and edamame.

While mastering the finer art of proper soup-eating skills and the differences between European and American (also known as “zig-zag”) methods of holding cutlery, the children remembered to ask Ms. Leff how long it took her to decorate the house for Christmas (an entire day), and who her most difficult students were (a boy who, at the prodding of his mother, had arrived at the house on his ATV, and refused to go inside for the first 10 minutes).

Ms. Leff’s background as an elementary school teacher, combined with her natural proclivity for warmth—a byproduct, it seemed, of her Midwestern roots and upbringing in Indiana—enhanced her skills as a perfect hostess, particularly for young children. She was unabashed while speaking about her love of Carvel ice cream cake, which was served for dessert, and also of Christmas, talking excitedly to the youngest children about Santa Claus and her own fond memories of the holidays while growing up as the youngest of six children, putting them more visibly at ease as the afternoon wore on.

Ms. Leff kept up lively, inclusive conversation, but also made sure to gently correct her charges if they cleared their plates to the left, rather than the right, or had difficulty remembering proper napkin placement.

Ms. Leff was trained and certified by the American School of Protocol to teach adults and children of all ages, and offers that training to both large and small groups and even in corporate settings, tailoring the training to the needs of those clients. But working with children provides her with a special thrill, Ms. Leff says.

She spoke about the boy who arrived on the ATV and wanted nothing to do with her class, proudly stating that he eventually became one of her most enthusiastic students.

Of the many nuggets of knowledge Ms. Leff bestowed on her charges that day, one in particular stood out. She asked them how long they thought it would take to make a first impression.

Her answer? Fifteen seconds.

Judging by the way the children responded, Ms. Leff had succeeded in making a favorable one on them.

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Why do we need another article about wealthy white privilege?
By Babyboo (233), Hampton Bays on Dec 26, 17 5:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
I eat my peas with honey.
I’ve done it all my life.
I sure makes them taste funny
But it keeps them on my knife.
By Draggerman (791), Southampton on Dec 26, 17 8:31 PM
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