This post: 12 etiquette rules your teen is probably breaking
You’ve taught your kids the importance of saying please and thank you, keeping their elbows off the table and knocking before entering a room. As a proud parent, chances are you feel somewhat confident their etiquette would make even Miss Manners proud, right?
Not so fast…
It turns out there are more than a few rules of etiquette a lot of teens are unknowingly breaking – etiquette that could be holding them back from making a great impression, landing a job or internship, or preparing them for the real world. While your teen is still living under your roof, help them master these simple rules of etiquette (i.e. thoughtfulness and consideration) that will make them stand out from the rest.
Here are 12 etiquette rules your teenager is probably breaking.
1. Skipping Proper Introductions
Most teenagers are unashamedly casual beings. When one of their friends shows up at a gathering with someone they’ve never met, a quick “hey, dude, wassup?” is considered the norm when it comes to introductions, which is fine in the “friend world.” But those casual introductions won’t take our kids very far in life. To make a good impression, they’ll have to step up their game.
According to the Emily Post Institute of Etiquette, “many people think introducing themselves or introducing others is so complicated, they simply avoid it altogether. But it’s actually quite simple. It all boils down to speaking to the person you wish to honor first.” For example, if you’d like to introduce your college roommate to your grandmother, turn to your grandma and say, “Grandma, I’d like you to meet my roommate, Susie Johnson.” Then, turn to Susie and say, “Susie, this is my grandmother, Mrs. Reynolds.”
Proper introductions should always be made when you’re with adults including your parents/grandparents (and other family members), teachers, coaches, co-workers, bosses, etc. And, when making introductions, don’t forget to make eye contact.
2. Swearing in Public
A few months ago my daughter and I grabbed a quick lunch at a restaurant and happened to be seated by a group of teenagers sitting at a nearby table. While we were there, they dropped the “F” bomb dozens of times. My daughter and I aren’t “prudish” by any means, but let’s just say it put a damper on what should have been quality time with my daughter.
We all know that teenagers will be teenagers, which means there’s a good chance they’re going to curse from time to time (at least some teens). But, just like everything else in life, there’s a time and place for everything. And, swearing – especially in public where it can offend others – often comes off as crude and vulgar. The bottom line is, if you feel compelled to curse, choose the time and location wisely.
3. Not Making Eye Contact
Making eye contact connects you with other people. Yet, teenagers are notorious for avoiding eye contact. Phone distractions, indifference, shyness, low self-esteem, or perhaps they’re just in a bad mood – there’s a myriad of reasons why some teens don’t look others in the eye. But quite often, it’s simply because they don’t realize what they’re doing (or not doing) and they need to be reminded and encouraged.
According to ImproveYourSocialSkills.com, “Making eye contact can be tough. Too much eye contact and you come across as intense or a creepy starer. Too little and the other person will think you don’t care about what they have to say.” An easy trick is to follow the lead of the person you’re talking with. If they’re looking at you, look back at them. If they happen to glance away, glance away as well. (Use this tactic only as a guide and don’t get too carried away or the person you’re chatting with will catch on and think you’re copying them.)
4. Burping in Public
We all know that teenagers (especially boys) can sometimes be gross. Some boys pride themselves on being the loudest farter or the one who spits the farthest. But, they’re not 12 anymore. It’s time to curb “boyish” habits, including burping in public.
Unless it creeps up on you, (in which case, cover your mouth and try to burp as discreetly as possible), do your best to avoid burping in public altogether. Not only is it rude, it sounds nasty and, even worse, those around you might get a very unpleasant whiff of your last meal, which is enough to turn anyone off.
5. Blowing Off Sending a Thank You Note
When my oldest daughter graduated from high school my family and I gave graduation gifts to nearly two dozen of her friends – many of whom we’ve known since they were young. We dropped hundreds of dollars on gift cards and personalized gifts and yet, only a handful of kids took the time to thank us.
Times are changing and along with those changes, some traditional rules of etiquette are softening. But there are some things that should never change and one of those is showing appropriate gratitude in the form of a hand-written note. If you’re given a gift for your birthday, graduation or a holiday, you should always take the time to write a thank-you note letting the person know how much you appreciate the gift. It doesn’t have to be lengthy – a few simple lines (like the thank you note below) is perfectly acceptable.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Carter,
Thank you so much for taking the time to attend my graduation party. It was wonderful seeing you both and having a chance to catch up on the latest. Thank you also for your thoughtful and generous gift card. It’s exactly what I need and will surely come in handy when I outfit my dorm room for college.
I truly appreciate you thinking of me and look forward to seeing you both soon.
6. Not Expressing Sincere Gratitude
From the time our kids are toddlers our goal as parents is to teach our kids how to say thank you. But being thankful isn’t simply about tossing out a hasty response to someone’s kind words or gesture. It’s about showing sincere and appropriate gratitude – a practice that needs to be taught and reinforced even throughout our kids’ teen years.
Our kids need to learn to be truly appreciative when someone goes out of their way or gives selflessly and learn how to communicate appreciation back to them in a manner that’s worthy of their generosity, including showing enthusiasm with their words, through their facial expressions or their touch, by writing a hand-written note or returning a favor.
7. Not RSVPing to an Invitation
It may not seem like a big deal to most teenagers, but not RSVPing to a party or gathering is oftentimes considered extremely rude to the person (or people) hosting the party. After all, quite often, the RSVP was included so the host or hostess can ensure they have enough food and drinks on hand to accommodate guests. Therefore, if someone doesn’t RSVP, the host is left hanging not knowing how to prepare for their gathering.
Heads up, teens. When someone thinks enough of you to invite you and takes the time to send you an invitation, take a moment (seriously, that’s all it takes) and show your host the courtesy of responding to the invitation. If you’re unsure if you can attend the event, contact the host and be honest and upfront. Most importantly, never (ever) show up last minute at an event without RSVPing.
8. Forgetting to Give Up Their Seat for an Elderly or Disabled Person
When I was young, my mom taught me to always give up my seat for anyone who was less physically able than I was. If we were on a bus, train or in church and there weren’t any seats, my mom would shoot me a quick glance when a disabled, elderly or pregnant woman walked in and I knew immediately to offer my seat to them.
This simple rule of etiquette seems to be dying along with a few other gestures of respect. But it shouldn’t. Offering your seat to someone who needs it more than you do should be second nature. Rather than being absorbed in a video game on your phone, scrolling through social media or getting lost in your music with your headphones on, look up. Take note. Even if the person kindly refuses, do it anyway. It’s the right thing to do.
9. Yawning Loudly in Public
Chances are you’ve witnessed (and heard it) before. You’re in a public place – a crowded restaurant or store – and a nearby teenager lets out a long, obnoxious yawn. Of course, all heads turn as everyone takes note of the exhausted teenager who seems hell-bent on showing the world just how tired he is.
In some cases, yawning can be hard to avoid (we’ve all been there), in which case it’s best to cover your mouth and be discreet. But a general rule of thumb is, unless you’re a passenger on an airplane with clogged ears, don’t let out a thunderous yawn in public. Just don’t.
10. Looking at Their Phone When They’re Having a Conversation
Most teenagers are full-blown texting machines. And, for the most part, most teens could care less if their friends text in front of them. But, there are times when it’s just plain rude and insensitive to be on your phone.
Just remember, always give the person in front of you your full attention – regardless of who they are. Half listening and not making direct eye contact when talking with someone is one of the cardinal sins of etiquette. In other words, make it a point to make the person you’re speaking with feel important. Also, put your phone on silent when in public places such as at restaurants, in the movie theater, or in any professional environment.
11. Not Using Someone’s Name
“Hey, girlfriend!” “Wassup, dude!” and “What’s happening, bruh?” are pretty much the norm in the world of tweens and teens, but as your kids move through the teen years and get closer to leaving the nest, they need to get into the habit of using people’s names during conversation or when making introductions.
A person’s name is the greatest connection they have to their individuality. When you take the time to address someone by name it not only makes them feel important and special, but it will also make a great impression.
12. Dressing Inappropriately
Throughout the last couple of decades, dress codes have become far more relaxed. But that doesn’t necessarily give your teen the green light to show up at a job interview wearing a hoodie, wrinkled shorts and flip flops. Knowing what to wear for certain events and occasions is a skill that takes some practice and effort. After all, first impressions matter… in fact, they matter a lot.
Dressing appropriately doesn’t mean you have to look perfect or wear expensive clothes. It means putting some effort into your appearance, ensuring your clothes are clean and ironed and making sure that the clothes you choose to wear fit the event you’re attending.
Etiquette – A Word for Simple Kindness…