1. Parenting

Manners Your Teen Should Use Regularly and How to Teach Them

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teaching teens manners is important

Teens who don't have good manners stick out.

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While it is often a joke to put the words manners and teens in the same sentence, it isn't always funny when your teen's lack of manners embarrasses you in public. As a matter of fact, it can be downright humiliating. What's worse is that we find ourselves still in the habit of correcting them in front of that same public which gains us a significant eye rolls from our teen - if not more. But what can a parent do? What manners should we expect from our teenagers? And how do we get them to use the manners we know they already have?

Parents can and should expect that their teens will always use these basic manners:

  • saying please and thank you and apologizing when they have done something wrong;
  • keeping their hands to themselves and not being grabby with another's things;
  • not interrupting when someone else is speaking;
  • saying excuse me when they need attention or have accidentally bumped into someone;
  • asking permission when they want something or they want to do something;
  • writing a thank you note for gifts received;
  • looking someone in the eye when speaking to them or meeting them;
  • keeping negative opinions to themselves and refrain from talking about or laughing at other people;
  • being polite when making or receiving phone calls;
  • not acting bored - even when they are;
  • keeping their hands away from their body, unless it's to cover their mouth and nose when sneezing;
  • using proper table etiquette;
  • not answering their cell phone or texting when in a conversation with someone else;
  • and last, but not least, no swearing.

While this isn't a comprehensive list of all of the manners your teen will hopefully acquire in their lifetime, if you are able to accomplish teaching them to use these on a regular basis they will be thought of as mannerly people. And mannerly people tend to be more confident and therefore are able to accomplish more toward their goals.

You can get your teen to use their manners the same way you get them to do anything else, by being clear about what you expect, talking to them about the benefits, being fair and firm with the limits and consequences and following through. Also remember, gentle reminders when they are alone with you will go a lot further than correcting them in public, but if you make that mistake, you can always fall back and regroup.

Finding opportunities to talk about good manners with your teen is like finding them when you want to talk about anything. When you see something happen on television or at your teen's soccer game, bring it up. Ask and listen to your teen's opinion and give your own letting your teen know what the proper etiquette is for that particular situation. If you see your teen forget to use their please or thank you, take them aside and gently remind them. Insist on eating properly at the family dinner table with both feet on the floor and using the correct utensils. And you can role-play if your teen is going to be in a new situation or to help them learn new manners - like how to hold the door open for someone else.

Remember to reward good manners as well. You can even set up a reward system for the whole family, like a dinner at a favorite restaurant when you've notice everyone using good table manners. Just be sure to praise your teen when it is warranted and not just to elicit the desired behavior. Parents should also note that manners around your teen's peers are important as well, but should never be corrected in front of their friends. You also may want to only talk to your teen about them if they are large indiscretions, like being on the cell phone with another friend the entire while they have a friend visiting. Otherwise, allow your teen's friends to influence their behavior, as they often do.

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