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How Can I Teach My Teenager Manners?

Of course, you taught your child to say “please” and “thank you” and to take turns, and not to talk with their mouths full. So, why does your teenager act like they have forgotten their manners? Teens often think being polite is just not cool. Sometimes teens forget to use the manners they’ve been taught, or they fall into bad habits and don’t want to be bothered with correct social behavior.

Why Manners Matter For Teens

There are so many reasons to be kind and courteous. Help your teen to understand why manners matter. People don’t want to be around someone who is rude and inconsiderate. It will affect their friendships. It will influence how often they get invited to social events, or even over to a friend’s house. Manners, and the way they treat others, really matter when they start dating. It will affect how they get along with other students and teachers at school. When they apply for a job, their manners during an interview will determine whether they get the job or not. It will affect how they interact with their employer and coworkers, and if they have a good day at work or not. In short, your manners, and how you treat others, will affect all of your relationships throughout your life.

Having good manners is a matter of behaving with dignity and self-respect. Teens often feel like they are not being treated with respect. They complain that adults treat them as children. Explain to your teen that people will treat them with respect, when they act respectfully. Adults will treat teens as an adult, when teens behave with maturity. Good manners are a sign of maturity. They show that you are capable of taking into consideration the rights of others to be treated with decency.

Teaching Teens Social Skills

Teens are often uncertain about how to behave in social situations – especially when it’s a new experience, like a date, a dance, a funeral, a vacation with a friend’s family. Explain that we all feel awkward in some social situations, but if you know how to behave appropriately, it will make the situation easier. Parents need to prepare their teens for what will likely happen at a social event they’ve never gone to before. Tell them what is acceptable and unacceptable in each situation. Role play, if possible, how to behave and what to say.

If, for example, you’re going to a funeral or wake, talk in the car as you drive there about what people generally say and do at a funeral. Family traditions may differ, but let your teen know what to expect when you get there, and how to express sympathy and behave with respect for the grieving family. When in doubt, observe the behavior of others at the funeral and imitate it.

Teach your teen about going on dates, eating in restaurants, and meeting their date’s parents. Males especially need to be aware of appropriate behavior toward females. Tell your teen how to be a considerate guest when staying at someone else’s house. Even if you’ve already taught them these social skills, a gentle reminder just before the event, can help assure they remember.

Provide Feedback To Your Teenager

If your teen does behave well in a social situation, be sure to comment on their good manners. If you see a breach in etiquette, don’t embarrass your teen by correcting them in front of others. Wait until later and explain what they did that was inappropriate. The only exception would be for outright disrespectful and rude behavior. This should be addressed immediately. If possible, take your teen aside and talk to them privately. Let them know why their behavior is disrespectful and what the consequence will be, especially if they continue. It may be necessary to leave with them or make them leave, if they can’t behave with respect for others.

Model Courteous Behavior

Make sure that you are also a good role model for courteous behavior. Pay attention to how you treat the waiter at the restaurant, the cashier at the grocery store, or people you encounter in public. How do you act toward your friends and family? One sign of good manners is to stay courteous even when someone is not being polite to you. Don’t sink to the level of someone who is being rude.

Encourage your teens to try some social interactions on their own, rather than doing it for them. Give them some guidance and then let them call the dentist and make an appointment. Teach them how to order at a restaurant, or request a refund at a store. Remind them that people will be more helpful and cooperative when you are polite and friendly to them.

Develop a Polite Policy for Your Home

Make sure your teen understands how you expect them to behave at home and toward family members. Adopt a policy of politeness in your home that everyone is required to follow. Often, we are more polite to strangers than to the people in our own home. Make your expectations clear. Common courtesy is required. Say “please” and “thank you”. Say “hello” and “good night”. Be considerate. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Don’t mess with the possessions of others. If your teen has been rude and disrespectful, require them to apologize. Be clear about consequences for a breach in etiquette.

Discuss Expectations and Consequences

As always, you will need to be clear about the behavior you expect, and clear about the consequences of not behaving as expected. You can give a reminder and a warning for some minor lapse in manners, but disrespect will not be tolerated. Teens learn to be responsible for their actions when they have to accept consequences for their choices. A good way to discipline teens is to suspend privileges- such as driving or going out with friends – or to take away electronics, such as phones, computer, or video games. You can also require extra chores to make up for bad behaviors.

General Life Etiquette

Proper etiquette doesn’t just mean saying “please” and “thank you” and knowing what fork to use. Manners also include being considerate to others. Respond to an RSVP so that the host knows how to plan for food and beverages. Don’t keep your friends waiting when you’ve made plans, or back out at the last minute when they are counting on you to be there. Treat the property of others with respect. Understand that others will trust and respect you if you are considerate, and you do what you say you will do, like being somewhere at an agreed time.

Require your teen to send thank you notes for things like graduation presents – or a thank you email or text for a birthday gift. Sit with them as they write thank you notes and help them to find the right words to use. You may have to write out a few phrases that they can copy until they find their own words.

Teach your teens, and model for them, proper electronic etiquette as well. When you’re with someone, keep phone calls and texting brief. Or excuse yourself to take an important call elsewhere. Teach your teen about appropriate texting and comments online, and talk about cyber bullying.

Talk About “The Golden Rule”

So much of polite behavior just comes down to treating others the way you would like to be treated. Discuss situations that you and your teen witness, in which one person ignores the rights or feelings of another. Watch TV shows or movies together and discuss social interactions that are portrayed. While the rude guy in a sitcom may get all the laughs, ask your teen if they would really want to hang out with that guy for any length of time. Discuss the “perfect date” shown in a movie and what behaviors made it so appealing. Ask teens how they feel when they’re with someone who is inconsiderate to others.

Unacceptable Teenage Behaviors

There is a point at which a teen is not just displaying poor manners, but they are belligerent, defiant, and perhaps even violent. These behaviors require more intervention. If you have already worked with school counselors and family therapists, and your teen’s behavior is still unmanageable, it may be time to seek additional help.

A therapeutic boarding school for troubled teens gives parents a way to provide their teen intensive therapy for emotional, psychological and behavioral problems, and to keep their teen enrolled in an academic program that is tailored to help them succeed. Living at a therapeutic boarding school removes the teen from the environment and the peer influences that may be contributing to their bad behavior. Teens are taught to accept the consequences for poor choices and bad behavior. They participate in group counseling sessions and learn to understand the feelings of others.

Sundance Canyon Academy is a therapeutic boarding school for troubled teenage boys. They have a trained, experienced, licensed and certified staff who are dedicated to helping teen boys and their families.

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