Teaching Good Manners to Your Tween

What every tween should know about good manners.

Mother and daughter talking in living room
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Every parent wants their child to understand and practice good manners. Today's tweens are exposed to rude behavior everywhere they go. They see it on the school bus, in the classroom, on television -- everywhere.

It almost seems as though rude behavior has become the norm, but despite the habits of our modern day culture you can teach kids good manners and impress everyone around them with their knowledge of basic etiquette.

Below are expectations you should have for your child, and tips on making them a reality. These tips will help you teach your child good manners and raise a well mannered preteen.

Start with "Please," "Thank You," and "You're Welcome"

Getting your child to say "Please," "Thank You," and "You're Welcome" when appropriate is the first step to raising a polite tween. It's also one of the hardest habits to establish. Role playing can help you reinforce how to respond to kindness, a compliment, or any other situation that would require her to react positively. When she uses her good manners, let her know that you noticed and that you're proud she remembered to use them.

Don't overlook the lost art of writing thank you notes, they are a must when it comes to teaching kids manners. Tweens are old enough to write a note of thanks to friends, grandparents, or anyone who offers him a gift at Christmas, his birthday, or any other occasion.

Emails and phone calls don't take the place of a hand-written note. You can encourage your tween by purchasing stationary with his initials or have him choose something of his own liking.

Point Out Good Examples at the Dinner Table

Children often forget everything they know about table manners when they hit the tween years.
But now is the time to make sure your child understands table manners. Show him to place his napkin in his lap, and teach him to wait to eat until everyone at the table has been served. Tweens should be told to take small bites of food at a time and to chew their food with their mouths closed. Teaching kids manners also means showing them that it's impolite to pick food out of their teeth or their braces at the table. That's something they can do in private.

Also, explain that it's very rude to complain about food that someone else prepared. If your child is dining at a friend's house, he should make an effort to try everything that is presented to him, and to thank the cook for a wonderful meal.

Other table habits he should avoid:

  • Talking or laughing with food in his mouth
  • Slouching over his meal or plate
  • Putting his feet on the table
  • Reaching for food rather than asking for someone to pass it to him

Don't Gloat

Tweens can be super competitive and that's not necessarily a bad thing. But sometimes competition can go too far, especially on the playing field.
Every tween should know the basics of good sportsmanship, and that includes knowing how to win and lose with grace. If your child is on the winning team, he should withhold taunting and gloating, and instead make the effort to thank his competitor for a good game and a fun time. If your child is on the losing team, he should reach out and congratulate the winner with the shake of a hand and a smile.

Offer to Help

Imagine how impressed your neighbor would be when your child is asked for dinner, and then offers to help clean the table? Other examples of offering to help might include asking his teacher if he needs help preparing for a project during recess, or calling grandparents to see if they need their lawn mowed.

Your child should also be taught to hold doors open for people, especially older people or people who have been injured, have children, are carrying packages, or have other distractions.

Watch Your Language

It's normal for tweens to try-out new words, even salty ones, from time to time. But if your tween is taking a lot of liberties with her vocabulary you have some work to do to get her to clean up her language. As many times as your child says, "Please" and "Thank you" it won't make up for conversation that's littered with vulgar words.

Know How To Take a Compliment

Tweens can be very self-conscious and sometimes it can be difficult for them when someone offers them a compliment. It doesn't matter if your child has been complimented for scoring the winning goal in a soccer game, or for a great new hair cut, she should respond to a compliment by replying, "Thank you very much."

Tweens should also know how to respond to questions from adults in complete sentences, rather than just one word responses like "Yes," "No," or "Maybe."

Brush Up on Greetings and Introductions

It's important that your child feel comfortable introducing herself to others and greeting people in public and on the phone. If your child is meeting someone for the first time, she should know to say, "My name is Courtney, pleased to meet you." You can also teach her to offer her hand in a handshake. She should be just as careful on the telephone. A polite greeting for the phone might be, "Hello, this is the Walker family, Courtney speaking." Or, "Hello, this is the Walker family, how can I help you?" When phoning others, she should begin the conversation with, "Hello, this is Courtney, may I please speak to Ashley?"

Clean Up After Yourself

When you teach kids manners, it's important to remember personal responsibility. It's absolutely mandatory that your child understand the importance of cleaning up after himself at home, school, and even his friends' houses. Cleaning up means leaving the room the way he found it. Cups and plates should be returned to the kitchen, toys should be placed back where they were found. At school, your child should make an effort to keep his desk clean and his belongings organized.

Respect Elders

It's difficult in this day in age to raise children to respect their elders, especially when television does such a good job of portraying children as sassy and disrespectful. Even so, your child should know how to address a grownup who is not a relative, as well as to avoid back talk and other bad behaviors. In addition, all tweens should know that when they are visiting a friend's house, it's important that they listen and respect any rules of the house while they're there.

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