Originally Sent: 7/3/2013
July 5, 2013
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The Importance of Etiquette: Miss Manners Returns!
On one of our recent airplane flights, a grandmother was traveling with her five young grandchildren. She gave the children instructions on what to do and not do; but by the end of the flight, it was evident that their parents had given the children a good foundation on the proper way to behave towards others.
Manners—we are always running into them or suffering from the lack of them as we move throughout the day. Manners are synonymous with etiquette and defined as “the social conduct or rules of conduct as shown in the prevalent customs (Merriam Webster).” As times change, the socially correct way of acting in various situations also changes. However, the undergirding principles of grace, kindness, politeness, or patience remain. This foundation is important to set from the time children can communicate.
The teen years are an opportune time to polish social conduct because the way your teens respond in public or private will make the difference in how they are remembered. Teaching etiquette to your teens while they are still at home can be incorporated throughout your day. Take time to instruct them how to properly act in all venues—home, educational settings, social events, and even their jobs. They will soon discover that sometimes it’s the smallest things we do or say that make the biggest impact and open doors for us. (Prov. 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”)
In The Home
The home is the training ground from which we launch our children into the world of adults. The common axiom “what they do at home, they’ll do away” is often correct. If in doubt, just observe.
The language used in our families is very important and can have lasting effects on a child’s self-esteem and self-image. Colossians 4:6 (NASB) instructs, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.” Regarding one another more highly than ourselves will teach our teens to respect his parents and siblings. This habit will go with him when he associates with friends and adults during activities, jobs, and academic classes.
WikiHow.com, and other sites have helpful basic etiquette tips to include in your home. Many times simply providing instruction to our teens encourages appropriate behavior.
Table manners are another important area to address. One young man who attended college abroad was assigned a mentor to teach him appropriate dining room etiquette. Embarrassing, yes; but what he learned held him in good stead when seeking employment after graduation. We realize that parents are busy. Trying to put a meal on the table and seeing that everyone is served and the younger children helped may entice you to allow some of the everyday manners slide. We encourage you to resist the temptation. Your teens can teach and be examples for their younger siblings which will reinforce their own awareness of good manners.
Inviting others to your home provides a natural way to teach hospitality and putting others first. Some skills to teach will be making proper introductions, offering refreshment, carrying conversation, listening attentively, entertaining younger guests and more. When such behavior is exhibited, it will likely result in your family receiving more invitations to other peoples’ homes.
The high school years provide opportunities for your teens to expand their horizons beyond the home. They will be meeting people through homeschool activities, outside classes, community or volunteer service, and other settings.
What types of etiquette instruction will you want to include during your school day to prepare them well? One that comes immediately to the forefront of our minds is social media—texting, twitter, blogs, Facebook, IM, email, and more. We feel it is very important to teach your teens what is appropriate and not appropriate in such communication. As parents, decide how much freedom you will allow your teens to have in this area and how much supervision you will require. A helpful resource to talk through with your teens is Biblically Handling Technology and Social Media. Emily Post, and Emily Post for teens, also speaks on this subject as well as provides other suggestions that you may not have thought to consider.
Practically speaking, some young professionals curb cell phone social media use when meeting together. For example, when they gather for lunch, they stack their phones upside down in the middle of the table. The person who can’t resist checking his or her message notification has to pay for lunch! It seems to be working.
Another area of discussion with your teens is helping them to be comfortable taking your rules and values with them to other teens’ homes and parties. You can provide suggestions on how to respond without embarrassment to questionable situations that might arise. One mom told her teens to use her as their excuse for not participating in an activity or conversation.
Soon they may receive invitations to graduation parties, weddings, and even to tea. Do they know proper protocol in each of these types of settings? In earlier times when guests ate at banquets of nobility, footmen often were available to whisper directions to guests who were using inappropriate manners. Even though this may not be the case today, having discussions ahead of an event will let your teen put her best foot forward, feel at ease, and enjoy the occasion.
Participating in classes outside the home (co-op, online, college) will introduce your teens to new environments where proper etiquette will set them apart. There will be opportunity to practice addressing their instructors in fitting ways inside and outside the classroom.
Your teens will want to be courteous with students during discussions by raising their hands to answer or ask questions and learning not to interrupt when another person is speaking. Graciousness in offering their input will prevent a supercilious tone from entering their voices that may offend or demean other students.
When your teens make appointments with professors or instructors outside of class, encourage them to arrive on time. Being tardy shows disregard for the teacher’s busy schedule and may cause other students to have to wait longer.
If he is approaching the teacher about a situation he feels is unfair, encourage him to voice his views in a respectful way. You may even suggest a solution that he could present during the conversation. Using a conciliatory tone will go a long ways in gaining the teacher’s respect and fostering a desire to listen and work out the difficulty.
Many of the manners your teens use in their educational settings will benefit them as employees—showing respect for employers and other employees, arriving at the appointed hour, being gracious. As your teen begins searching out a job, phone etiquette will be very important. It may distinguish him from other interviewees and gain him an in-person interview. If the job entails communication by phone, your teen will appreciate your instruction.
Another area to add is honesty in using company time for work rather than for conversing on Facebook, answering an inordinate amount of personal emails or texts, or browsing the internet for pleasure. Today, companies have varying social media policies that your student should understand and follow. If your teen ignores the rules, it can be considered stealing company time.
Wardrobe choices can be thought of as etiquette. Looking professional and being modest may help your student be taken seriously and given more credence. It lends to favorable first impressions. In preparation for that job interview, talk about possible attire that will be expected. This will often be determined by the type of job your teen seeks. In one setting, a suit will be the best choice; whereas in another situation, business casual will be more appropriate. Again, knowing the appropriate attire ahead of time will help your teen walk into the job that first day with confidence.
In all of the above areas, there will be many times when your teens receive a variety of invitations, often requiring a response. When a guest does not reply to an invitation, this puts an undue burden on the hostess who is preparing refreshments or a meal to know how much food will be needed. It’s a sign of fine upbringing to let the person know in advance if you will accept or decline an invitation.
After enjoying an event or hospitality, especially one your teen was personally invited to, encourage him or her to write a thank-you note. There are times when an email note of appreciation will be acceptable; however, your teen can never go wrong in sending a handwritten note of thanks. Because this is a declining practice, your teen will be well remembered.
Learning the rules of etiquette will give your teens confidence as they interact in and out of the home. Knowing what is expected goes a long way in helping them to relax and enjoy relations with friends, family, and associates.
In addition to the resources we noted above, 365 Manners Kids Should Know, can give you a day-by-day guide to preparing your teens well. If you wish to incorporate etiquette into a high school elective, the resources noted may help you lay the groundwork for your course. On the other hand, you may wish to simply address these areas as your teens grow and mature throughout high school. They’ll do you proud!
Look next month for our email on ways to grade different types of high school assignments. We’ll provide ideas for methods of evaluation for your teens’ upcoming courses.
Minding our P’s & Q’s,
Becky Cooke and Diane Kummer
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