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Hats on

I would like to pose a question to everyone. We are having an ongoing debate over whether or not the residents should or should not be allowed to wear hats at the dining table. Either answer could you please provide me with you reasoning behind your answer. This is a debate that we as a team are having and are split on.

Here is what we have put forward so far. No hats because it is the norms of society that people are expected to remove their hats during a meal, basically it is considered manners. The other side of the debate has asked why is it considered good manners to remove your hat during a meal. One side says we should be considerate of any self esteem issues that a child might have, and need to consider that we might be setting the child up for unrealistic expectations in society.

Thanks in advance for answers
David Rent
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Hi. This is the kind of issue I love to comment on — so here goes.

It all depends on the context of the meal. For example, in a living situation, bathrobes could be all right for breakfast.

I think that manners, and awareness of societal norms and expectations, need to be modelled and taught to youth in group settings. I do not think that it lowers their self esteem in any way to have such expectations held out ( that doesn't mean, of course, that they will be immediately complied with, or complied with without some protest. Being permitted to not like something and to express it, without the expectation necessarily being removed, is also 'appropriate' to group care.

Taking the above comments into consideration, I'd:
Perhaps — in fact probably — permit hats at lunchtime, snack time and any time if for a reason a youth were in a hurry but eating first.
Maintain a practice of "no hats at dinner time" to give the message about the societal norm and that usually dinner (whether it be served at noon or in the evening) is a bit more formal. I might put a hat rack near the dining area so if a youth "forgot" I could easily ask him or her to "check your hat" for the duration of the meal.
Staff could certainly 'discuss' this with youth, explain reasons, and accept complaining while expecting compliance.

Karen VanderVen
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Hello Dave,
Wearing or not wearing hats at the table certainly reflects values that the program holds. Some other manners include not wearing hats indoors at all. I was watching golf on the weekend and they did a 30 second spot on the importance of taking off your hat as a gesture of respect and thankfulness. Personally when I am having a bad hair day I have been known to keep my hat on in my house, yes even at the dinner table. Just as a noteworthy point ... usually, when you are pondering such questions you tend to have a pretty good grip on other, more volatile issues in a program. Sometimes when a program is operating effectively we try to find, "Who has their feet on the coffee table" It is an important issue but to who? In addition, I am always mindful of the battles I pick if I am choosing to have a battle.

Ernie Hilton
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If you are going to make a decision, make it with the residents, not for them. Good luck.

Matthew Shimon
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Question is where has this youngster come from and where is he going when he goes back there? The hat may be very much part of who he is and the norms of his own people and family. I doubt that he was referred to the program because of wearing a hat at the dinner table. Focus on the real difficulties this kid is working at, that's our business; his cultural, religious, political and other stuff is his own to keep and take with him. Think of the benefits of helping him to feel welcome at our dinner table ...

Brian Gannon
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Dear David,
That's a tough one, and I can see the reasoning on both sides. I find that I'm leaning more towards allowing hats to be worn for dinner. I think that kids have so many rules to live by in residential care already, and they need to feel somewhat in control. I think that it should be their choice, keeping in mind that some of these young people may come from homes where it wasn't a big deal, or maybe they didn't even eat dinner at the table.

My point is that these young people have enough to worry about, why make it more complicated than it has to be? I think that we need to make the young people feel as comfortable and at home as possible even if we don't agree with some of the ideas. I'm curious about what the kids have to say about it?

I hope I've been helpful. Sincerely,
Erin Christophersen 
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Well, I'd look at this issue this way. I work in a residence as a co-op placement, and if we are supposed to provide a sense of normalcy inside the home, then shouldn't we try to mimic or mirror as many of socially acceptable practices as possible to prevent our kids from being set up when they are within the community?

Sara. 
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David,
Good luck getting an answer to this question. It is interesting that after 20 years in this field, the same questions are still being asked. Round and round the table we go!!

Jon Deactis 
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I agree that it depends on how fancy the meal is. If its a barbeque or an easter dinner, I think that makes a difference. I also struggle with girls being allowed to wear hats at the table and boys not being allowed. This is kind of like the 'legion rules'. If a girl can have a bad hair day, so can the boys. I think for youth especially they would have a hard time seeing the difference, and it would seem unfair.

Tanya Richardson
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Eight months later the thread was resumed ...

Well to me these are one of those issues where you have to choose your battles. Is it worth the fight? Can you decide something with the whole group of youth that you can agree on? Where I work we have a no hat policy at the dinner table...when we have had guests over they have cued them and it was a pleasure to see. The hat removal issue I believe can also move towards sporting events where the hat is taken off for the anthem. Some youth just may not realize that this is a display of respect and manors and may need to be taught this if they were not taught this at their previous placement/home, etc. Again I guess this is a personal belief/value that may or may not work for you. Good Luck!

Jennie
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