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Etiquette for kids: the correct posture when standing, sitting and walking

A lot of children tell me that good posture is uncomfortable and it hurts their back. On the other hand, children who normally have good posture contradict this and tell me good posture is very comfortable. Comfortable is what you are used to. So it is best for children to adopt good posture as early as possible.


Deportment comes from the Latin DEPORTARE meaning to carry and, in this instance, how to carry yourself while standing, sitting, and walking, which contribute to that all-important first impression.



Understanding how to stand properly is important for your posture
Learning how to stand correctly at The Sloane Club in Chelsea

Your body posture reveals many things about you whether you like it or not. If your deportment is bad what could it mean?

If you slouch in a chair, it may give the impression that you are not really listening or paying attention. If you drag your feet, it may give the impression that you are lazy or simply have muscle weakness. Bad deportment can also give the impression that you don’t really care about yourself. And if that is the case, why should anybody else?

Of course, this could all be conjecture but can your child afford to take that chance?


Think of your child at a school interview. Do you think bad posture will go unnoticed and how will that impact on their future?


There is also a long-term effect of bad posture - moving in a way that is different from the way our bodies were designed to move puts abnormal strain on our ankles, knees, feet, and hips. This results in abnormal wear and tear and, ultimately, pain in later life. People who correct their deportment will move through life with greater poise and grace. And the earlier it's done, the easier it will be to perfect it.


Little girls walking with books on their heads
One way of making sure your chin is parallel to the ground

Good deportment also affects the way you breathe, even your voice and the way you speak. If you sit up properly at the table, it's easier to digest your food and prevents your child from choking. Good posture can also help your child stand in comfort while waiting in line for long periods.



What good posture looks like: good posture techniques

When I teach children good deportment, I ask them to imagine their heads being pulled up by a piece of string that stretches towards the skies, while keeping their chin parallel to the floor. This allows them to look ahead rather than down at their feet. They will also be ready to greet people with great eye contact and a smile. Eyes to the ground as you stand, walk or talk shows a lack of self confidence.


During my tutorials I always invite children to come to the stage and show me how they were taught to stand, sit, and walk. While they stand, I notice where they put their arms, whether they keep their shoulders back and relaxed or whether they are slumped forwards. I look to see if their knees are soft or locked.


This exercise is an opportunity for them to grow tall and stand straight as opposed to slouching or arching their back. Standing tall and looking ahead sends out positive signals of confidence and good self-esteem - a winning combination.


The positive affects of walking with poise and grace

Can you recognise your child by the way he or she walks and the sound of their footsteps? Think why? Why is it so distinct? Is their step light and graceful or do they stomp and shuffle about? Your step should really be light and fluid. A bad walk not only wears you down but it also creates a bad first impression.

Good posture means there is a sense of spaciousness in your upper body - the rib cage is pulled up and out, your neck is long, your hips are tucked under and your chest is lifted up and open. I tell the kids: pretend you are wearing a T-shirt with a very important message on it and you want everyone to read it. Everyone suddenly becomes taller.

While the upper body is tall and relaxed, all the movement should subtly be in the knees, hips and feet. I tell the kids: picture having headlights on your hips, knees, and big toes. They should all be pointed forwards. No walking like a duck with your feet turned outwards or with your ankles collapsing inwards. This will lead to long-term hip, knee, ankle and back problems. The damage and pain is so slow that most people won't generally attribute the pain to the turning out of the feet. As there are no cowboys or cowgirls in my class, the children are also taught to keep the space between their knees minimised as they walk. Sometimes we practice with books on our heads (good tactic to keep the head straight, chin parallel to the ground and chest up and out). It’s not for everybody as heads are all different shapes and sizes and having silky hair doesn’t help either.

Walking with a book on your head ensures that you are looking ahead of you and your body is upright
Try walking with a book on your head

It's important to help your kids as they walk and to make sure that they evenly distribute their weight as they walk. I repeat the following: heel. instep. toes. Heel. instep. toes. It’s easy for kids to remember. First: place your heel down, second: press the entire spread of the foot against the floor, and third: roll forwards onto your toes, remembering that the pinky toe should be the first to hit the floor and the big toe, the last. Arms should not swing vehemently but subtly glide back and forth. The key here is to walk with a sense of purpose - small steps make your child look timid, too long and your child will appear aggressive. Don’t walk too quickly. Be in control and take natural strides.



Games to play

The TISSUE GAME is just one of many games that is great for posture. All you need is a tissue, which is placed on everyone's head. When the music starts, everyone starts dancing but the goal is to keep that tissue on top of the head. If it falls onto the ground, you’re out. The last person standing wins. This game teaches kids to hold their head up and adopt good posture. A sagging head triggers a negative chain reaction that ends with a slumpy look, so it is important that children learn to pull their heads up and back from behind using their neck muscles and allow as much distance as possible between head and shoulders.


What does it mean to sit properly?

Most of us have no idea what we look like when we sit and the messages it gives to others.

The most important things to remember is when seated there should always be some space between your back and the chair. And kids will need the strength of posture to hold their own weight. In ‘olden times’, children would sit with knives strapped to their backs to avoid slumping at the table. Nowadays we have more fun ways of teaching good posture.


Working your way from the feet, make sure your child is seated with feet flat on the ground pointing straight ahead. If your child cannot reach the floor yet, a footstool is useful. If feet are dangling, this will just put added pressure on the kness and thighs and make it more uncomfortable. Rather than using knives strapped to chests, a bolster or a pillow placed in a strategic part of the lower back will not only remind your child to get used to a position where the back is straight, but will make it more comfortable.

Posture at the dining table is crucial for lasting impressions.
Laura Windsor shows her student how to sit correctly at the table

While seated, as with standing and walking, a sagging head will trigger a negative chain reaction that ends with your child looking very slumpy, so it is important that children learn to pull their heads up and back from behind using their neck muscles and keep as much distance as possible between head and shoulders.


Arms should not rest on arm rests area despite the name they given. Try to avoid using the arm rests to support your arms. Ideally your child should sit with hands on lap, resting them more toward the knees which will stop elbows from flapping. Hands should be placed one on top of the other or clasped in the lap. Hands

are very important part of your body language so fidgeting such as nail biting, fiddling with hair, and sticking fingers in ears, mouths and noses should be avoided.





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