HYPOTHESIS: Kids will learn manners easier if they are phrased in the form of a game.
PROCEDURE: First you lay out cups and saucers in front of each child and invite them to drink. As they drink correct for various and sundry manners violations: elbows on the table, burping at the table, asking for more juice without a "please" or "thank you", etc. I tried to go back to thinking of it as a game as much as I could, awarding points when they did something genteel and dinging them by making a loud buzzer sound each time they did something rude.
Zephyr is into this game and enjoys acting like a gentleman, but Lyric enjoys getting dinged for rude behavior. Importantly, I THINK THIS IS OKAY. This exercise is not necessarily about forcing them to use good behavior at all times but rather about giving them the ability to recognize what is good behavior and what isn't. Lyric can make weird rude noises and get a reaction from me, but it can be in the context of light-hearted fun. The hope is that when he is in a situation where people will expect good manners, he'll know what is expected and what is forbidden.
This is also a great exercise to teach them basics of engaging in interesting conversation. I asked Lyric and Zephyr to tell me about what they're learning in school, and I didn't accept monosyllabic answers. And surprisingly, I got some good answers!
RESULTS: I feel good about what the kids were able to take away from this exercise, and for a quick 5-10 minute activity, there was a lot of bang for the buck. They both asked politely if they could be excused from the table at the end, too, so in that I feel there was a sort of victory.