Etiquette Rules are Changing

I think the rules of etiquette need to be revised to be relevant today.

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 walk into to the room confusing the person speaking to me. Are we talking about the same kid I drop off at 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 high school 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 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.

Brian L. October 13, 2012 at 11:51 AM
A very nice article. Thank you.
Craig Doherty October 13, 2012 at 11:59 AM
True enough, but anybody with one or more daughters find something missing and one-sided in this piece?
Dude looks like a lady October 13, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Don't play video games when females are in the room? Please.
Tadashi October 13, 2012 at 01:54 PM
I have to agree. Why the sexism against boys as disorganized, rude and etiquette-lacking? Also, the sexism that girls or women don't ALSO play video games? ALSO, the decided bent against teens in general. Everyone could use an etiquette refresher, in my opinion - and new 'rules' relating to social media/media in general should be fostered but I find it difficult to take an article with such obvious discriminiations seriously.
J October 13, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Nice article. Thought I would add one additional item. Many kids today, do not seem to be able to understand that someone in a wheelchair/walker/cane does not move as fast as they do. As a result, they often try to do the following: Run in front of the wheelchai bound person (while the chair is moving forward) or climb over the chair sideways(while the person is in it), thus creating a very dangerous situation for both people. NOT EVEN AN APOLOGY! In their haste to get around a person in a walker/cane, they sometimes cause the person to fall down or become physically unstable without as much as an apology or asking if the person is ok.. PARENTS, PARENTS, PARENTS, your job is to educate your kids or others to slow down and wait until there is an opening so that they can slowly walk around the individuals. So what if the other person goes first. How about holding open the door that both of you are going to go through. Most of the kids literally slam the door right as the person is trying to go through. Nice manners...wonderful children..
J October 13, 2012 at 03:01 PM
I know that I seem cynical. However, in all due fairness, I have witnessed this first hand in different situations. Schools, shopping malls, movie theaters, bathrooms, resturants, just to name a few. Kids all ages...includng teenagers and adults. The kids also learn from how adults handle the situations. Please put yourselves in the other person's situation. Would you like to be ignored just because you have a modified mode of transportation? Your brain works fine just as theirs does. Think about how you would feel if you were with your peers and everyone around you ignored you.. How would you feel if you were possibly trampled/knocked down just because someone else is in a hurry.. Slow down and be responsible citizens. A little kindness goes a long way. You might even find out that these people are just like you. Normal..
Penny Novy October 13, 2012 at 03:56 PM
My husband and I were recently at the PetSmart in Vernon Hills picking up cat food. While looking at the cats available for adoption, a 5-6 year old girl barged past me and pushed my husband out of her way to look at the cats. I gave the mother one of my famous 'really now' looks and said, "Your daughter must have forgotten the good manners I'm sure you taught her." No response from the mother, of course, because either she didn't teach her child good manners or the child really did forget. But I hope this mother takes the time to teach her child better manners.
Brian L. October 13, 2012 at 04:17 PM
The video game thing is big though. Not at all times and certainly not just because there is a lady in the room, but video games have permeated our culture so much that when people sit down to eat, you see kids pull out their DS or Vita or whatever and start playing. Video games are not more important then family and we need to remember that. My son is no where near old enough to play them yet, but even when he hits that age my ps3...or 4 or whatever is out will stay in my room until he learns the difference between playing real sports vs simulated.
Bill Overton October 13, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Girls do mature at an earlier age than boys. I see it played out every day in the classes I teach. Take a look, though, at how boys and men are portrayed on TV, in movies, etc. It's always the chauvinistic slob who is set straight by the wise, perfect mom or girlfriend. Because of this stereotyping, many women feel perfectly justified putting down men (even their own loved ones) as a matter of course whether or not it has any basis in fact. Young boys and girls are watching and listening all the time to this and it will undoubtedly affect their attitudes about themselves and each other. If you want your young men to be respectful and have good manners, show THEM respect and make them feel good about themselves.
cynthia October 13, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Excellant article. I think we are doing a terrible dis service to boys in our culture. We show too many smark aleck shows on the childrens network and regular T.V. Unforutnaly all around us we are showing children that manners don't count. Have you visited a library lately? The lack of consideration to others by some people is just vulgar. They run and scream through the library without a care for anyone else. And these are Adults. The lack of manners is a clear connection to the lack of caring for your fellow person. It shows a lack of character and a lack of class and education yet its all around us. We cannot possibly expect children to have manners when their own parents have none. Our parents generation regarless of education had manners and when you care about your neighbor you build a stronger community with all that goes with it.
Stuart Tindall October 13, 2012 at 09:09 PM
ITT: Back in my day we respected our elders, and walked to school uphill in the snow BOTH WAYS.
Vicky Kujawa October 14, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Good manners and etiquette are a simple matter of common sense. Unfortunately, common sense is not common.
Susan Schaefer October 15, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Craig, since I do not have daughters, only sons, my opinion ( this is an opinion column) usually centers around boys because this is my reference point. However, it seems uou would like to see a column about etiquette and girls so I will see what I can do.
Susan Schaefer October 15, 2012 at 03:33 AM
I completely agree Bill, modeling the desired behavior is the way to go.
Debbie Mitchell October 15, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Loved what you wrote. You were spot on with everything! I have a son and 2 daughters, however, the boy just seems to be a little slower at getting it, but he will. As for your comment about the video games while females are in the room, some readers just don't understand what you meant, probably because they have not witnessed it or do not have sons. My take on what you meant here was not just a video game but any electronic. Boys will invite the friends over (boys and girls) then the guys will gather around the video game, PS2, DS, phone etc and the girls are just left standing there. I have witnessed this with my own son. It is not a pet peeve of yours, it is the way a lot of young boys behave. We are just trying to teach them to pay attention to all your guests and make them feel included and welcomed. Not just an etiquette thing but plain manners.
Mary Heverly Metscaviz October 15, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Manners and etiquette are for those around us. My son went to a wedding once and texted me later to say thank you for teaching me manners because the person across the table from him chewed with their mouth open and scarfed down their food while leaning on the table and was rude. He knew the difference because I taught him. Manners and etiquette are taught at home, early in life. It's respect of others
Susan Schaefer October 15, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Thank you Debbie, that is EXACTLY what I meant!
Darren Moore October 15, 2012 at 06:18 PM
I have to agree with everything you say. As for the video games; forget the "when a girl is in the room". It has nothing to do with boys or girls. When ANYBODY enters the room to ask a question or start a conversation, that game should be paused and their attention should placed on what is happening in REAL LIFE. I have to boys (13 and 18), when my 13 year old is playing a game and I walk into the room to talk to him, I will not say anything until the game is paused and his head returns to reality. It's not a matter of etiquette, manners or respecting a parent/elder; it's about respecting another human being. Like I tell my kids all the time: "The world you live in is shared by millions of other people and in that world "perception" is 100% reality! It doesn't matter what you meant to say or what YOU think your actions mean, the important thing is how others perceive it."
Karen Robbins October 18, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Donna M. October 27, 2012 at 07:37 PM
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