Sending your teens to finishing school or formal etiquette classes isn't necessary if you don't want to settle for etiquette anarchy. Prepare your teen for successful social interactions by teaching her the manners and social skills she'll need for common scenarios such as eating out with a friend's family, interacting with multiple generations at family gatherings and impressing a prospective employer in a job interview.
When children are young, they're often taught that "please" and "thank-you" are "the magic words" -- remind your teens that these words still are a key element of interacting with others. Whether teens are asking dad to pass food at the dinner table or talking to a prospective boss to schedule a job interview, those two words go a long way to maintaining civil discourse. Other common courtesies teens need for daily life include holding doors for others, giving up their seat for an older person on public transportation and saying "excuse me" when called for.
Take time to reinforce basic dining-out etiquette by doing some casual role-playing at home by pretending you're at a restaurant. Remind teens that even if the waiter is around their same age, courtesy is important. "Gimme the special" is not acceptable. Instead, place your order by saying "May I please have the special." Tell teens to thank the waiter when he brings a drink refill or clears their dishes away. Remind them it's expected that they not start eating until everyone else is served. And, as you've probably been reminding them since they were young: no talking with food in their mouths.
Cell Phones and More
Teach teens that certain settings require them to disconnect from their headphones or to stop texting, including meals or when adults are talking to them. That goes for answering a text or call, too. Those devices all have answering or record functions for a reason, and unless it's a life or death scenario, teens can wait a few minutes until dinner is over or guests have left before plugging back in. Finally, tell teens that carrying on cell phone conversations loudly enough for others to hear is taboo at restaurants, on planes and at family gatherings.
Teach your teens that social skills go beyond the common courtesies such as saying "please" and "thank you." Traditional skills -- responding to invitations, for example -- are often overlooked in today's casual social interactions. Reinforce the importance of responding promptly to a party or wedding invitation, reminding them the host needs to have a head count for planning purposes. And when you've committed to an event, it's not socially acceptable to drop out at the last minute just because you get a better offer. Finally, teach teens to write prompt, sincere thank-you notes for gifts. If someone has taken the time and money to get them a gift, the least they can do is send a note.
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