My son opened a door for me. He actually opened the door, stood aside and let me walk through. It took 20 years, but something I taught him finally clicked.
Don’t get me wrong, both my boys are usually very polite to everyone else. Many people have complimented me on how nice and respectful they are, but I usually look around just to make sure someone else’s kid didn’t just walk into the room. Are we talking about the same kid I drop off at high school every morning and say, “Have a good day! Love you!” to which he responds by slamming the door? I have given serious consideration to jumping out of the car and yelling, “Make good choices!” to him in front of the entire student body.
Since most of the students I see in my academic coaching business have trouble with organization, procrastination, motivation, and so on, I spend quite a lot of time with teenage boys. My sons are very social creatures, so teenagers are often roaming around my house as well. In both circumstances, these boys are, for the most part, polite, respectful, and a pleasure to be around. That’s not the issue. What I notice is not a lack of manners, but a lack of etiquette. At the end of summer vacation, my son brought a friend home from overnight camp — a lovely young man from Great Britain, who left the toilet seat up all week.
I sometimes wonder if these boys even know what proper etiquette is, or if they even need to. After all, many of these customs are quite antiquated. Does any female born after the Great Depression feel comfortable when a man stands as she enters a room? How about pulling out a chair? Only a certain kind of guy can pull this off. However, a guy offering a jacket when it’s chilly outside or opening a car door? Yes, please! Using proper utensils, no, using utensils at all, yes. I think the rules of etiquette need to be revised to be relevant today. So, here are some new rules for kids:
- Do not text while in the company of another unless it is urgent information, such as being nominated for a People’s Choice Award.
- Do not play video games when females are in the room. They do not enjoy watching you play Madden NFL ‘13.
- When you accidentally whack someone with your backpack, stop, say excuse me, and pick up whatever you knocked out of the other person’s hand.
- If there is only one seat left, give it to anyone who has more trouble standing than you.
- Don’t swear, it’s rude and shows a lack of imagination.
- Always greet people and say “thank you” when you leave a friend’s house.
Keep teaching manners and etiquette to your sons because they are actually listening, even if it doesn’t look that way. One day your son will open the door for you, too, and you will know you have done your job well.
About this column: Susan Schaefer, director and founder of Academic Coaching Associates, is an academic coach, student advocate, and certified teacher. We encourage you to visit her website: Academic Coaching Associates. You may email Sue at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow Sue on twitter: @sueschaefer1