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Woodburry Bulletin
Children learn manners are the rules of life
Louise Ernewein
Woodbury Bulletin - 07 30 2008

Marilyn Pentel was not one to sit back and complain, "It was never like that in my day," when she noticed that the world around her had suddenly become much ruder.

Instead, the 63-year-old grandmother set up her own company. Mannerly Manners, and today spends much of her time educating both children and adults on the common courtesies of everyday life.

Last week, from July 21 to 23, Pentel brought her own brand of etiquette class to Woodbury through District 833’s Community Education program, teaching a class of four children at Liberty Ridge Elementary School the secrets behind posture, hand shaking, table and telephone manners and the "lost art" of thank-you note writing.

The initial germ of an idea for Mannerly Manners came to Pentel in 1986 after visiting her grandson's school and being shocked by the behavior of some of the students as she walked through the school on her way to help out in a classroom.

"I was walking down a hallway going to meet the teacher whose room I was going to work with, and the kids were passing and they were running and racing through the hall and bumping into me and other people and screaming at the top of their lungs, and it was chaotic," recalled Pentel with an almost audible shudder as she spoke over the phone.

"I thought, "This is crazy — what has happened here?'

"As we go through life, we are a bit oblivious to what's going on and so when I started paying attention around me, everywhere 1 looked, 1 noticed people were rude on the road, or when I went into a store to buy something, you were treated rudely by the assistant or by another customer.

"Across the board, civility had disappeared."

Her solution was to create a curriculum, addressing the very same problems she was encountering in her everyday experiences. Unfortunately, illness meant she had to put her plans on hold for awhile, but in 1999, Pentel became the creator and first CEO of Mannerly Manners, the social etiquette education company she runs out other home in Minnetrista.

Governor's handshake tips

Now, nine years on from her incorporation as a company, Pentel has taught good manners to thousands of children across the Twin Cities, and can boast Governor Tim Pawlenty's daughter Mara among her satisfied customers. Mara even wrote in a testimonial to Pentel, "I loved the food manners and I taught my dad handshaking tricks."

Pentel has a clear idea of why her services are needed now, more than ever, blaming the disintegration of social manners on what she refers to as the "drive-thru generation."

"If I disagreed with a rule put in place by my mother, and I complained to my aunt or my grandmother, they got me to see why that rule was important," explained Pentel.

Now, she says, many grandparents and extended family live in a different city or even a different state to their grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and so it falls on the heads of the parents to not only set the standards to their children, but also to try to fulfill a role they were never intended to fill, that of the back-up enforcer.

"My mother came and stayed with my children and me for three months every summer, so the children got some connections there," said Pentel.

"But most families weren't like that. The grandparents would move away, and you would go and visit grandma, and that other person's voice disappeared.

"A lot of the reports you read will say the parents aren't doing their job, but I found the parents are doing then-job; it's that that back-up voice isn't there."

After Pentel guides the children to define for themselves what manners actually are, she introduces them to the number one rule — and with it, the worst manner.

The worst manner

"Manners are the rules — the code of behavior — that we use to function," she explained. "It's how you use those rules that determine whether you are mannerly. That's my core philosophy.

"The number one rule is to treat others the way you would like to be treated, and the worst manner is to hurt someone's feelings."

Sometimes, Pentel admits, it can take a little time to win over the students, who usually are less excited to be attending the class than their parents were to send them. But they are all won over in the end.

"On day one, you can see in their body posture that most of them do not want to be there," laughed Pentel.

"The first ones to come round are the boys. I almost think it's because it's new information for them. With the girls, they will have played tea parties, whereas boys don't have that.

"They love pulling the chairs out — I'll hear that from their mothers, who say, 'He will pull my chair out for me now."

With her graduate students now numbering in the multiple thousands across the metro area, Pentel is slowly but surely turning the tide in favor of manners and courtesy among young people.

Marilyn Pentel, center, created "Mannerly Manners," a social education company, to address the increasingly lost art of etiquette among people young and old alike. She designed a curriculum of coursework dedicated to teaching the finer points of good manners. Above, Pentel speaks with students in a District 833 Community Education program held July 21-23. Staff photo by Louise Ernewein

©2008 Forum Communications Co. Fargo, ND 58102 -All rights reserved

Opportunities for Instructors

Due to this recent growth, we have received requests from potential instructors and others interested in the business of teaching manners from around the country. We invite this opportunity to expand nationally and are presently offering a professional training course. This course provides new instructors and small business owners with the following:

  • Thorough instruction in and understanding of the Mannerly Manners® basic youth program
  • Use of Mannerly Manners® curriculum
  • Access to use of proprietary materials, video and products
  • Cooperative marketing efforts
Email- marilyn@pentel.us


Being in your class was fun. My parents said my manners are improving and they are glad I took this class. Thank you again for being such a great teacher.

- Anna Waldo; Hopkins Community Education, [2003]