They seem to be everywhere … kids who never say please or thank you, who cough right in your face, shove other people aside in crowds, chew with their mouths wide open, never acknowledge that they received your gift, or interupt others while they are talking. In this modern age, it can be refreshing to find a child who seems to have been taught proper manners and shows respect for others.
Manhattan-based etiquette expert and image consultant Samantha von Sperling, director of Polished, believes “it is the responsibility of every single adult in contact with a young person to pass on good manners and civil behavior.” That would include us, gung ho grandmas. We may not have the same day-to-day responsibility as parents, but we can have a lasting influence on the manners of our grandchildren through conscience teaching and by our own example.
My four children would never dream of … sitting down to a meal and not placing their napkin on their lap, starting to eat before everyone has their food, not using their breadplate, or not lighting the candles on the table. This is mainly because they have my mother-in-law Pauline (aka Miss Manners) as their grandmother. She is infamous for her adherance to table manners, and I have been grateful for the legacy she has given my kids. As they have become adults, these skills have served them well, whether they are visiting friends for supper or having dinner out with the boss. Grandmas can make a difference.
Here is a list of 24 good manners that you can help teach your grandchildren:
- Say please when asking.
- Say thank you when receiving.
- Respect others’ property. Ask permission before touching or taking something.
- Return things you have borrowed from others (with a thank you, of course).
- Clean up after yourself at home and when you are visiting someone else’s house (ex. help pick up all those toys you trashed the playroom with).
- Write a thank you note, an email or make a phone call when you have received a gift from someone to thank them (Man, this is a big deal with Pauline. She HATES it when people don’t say thank you for gifts.).
- Don’t interrupt people when they are talking or on the phone. Wait your turn to speak.
- Put away technology during conversations or meals (being constantly on their phones/computers inhibits children connecting to the people around them and is rude to do around others)
- Close your mouth while chewing and don’t talk with your mouth full.
- Don’t forget to ask to be excused from the table and clear off your plate. Bonus points if they thank the host (or mom) for the meal.
- Place your napkin on your lap during meals. It is not to use as a pirate bandana during the meal… it is to be used to wipe your mouth.
- Don’t reach across the table … ask for food to be passed.
- When you meet someone new, look them in the eye when you tell them your name and shake their hand (teach your grandkids how to shake a hand by gripping it firmly. Shaking most kids’ hands is like gripping a wet noodle).
- Say “excuse me” when you bump into someone or if you burp.
- Put litter in the garbage, not on the ground or floor.
- Do not pick your nose in public
- If you are on public transport, offer your seat to the elderly, disabled people, or preganant women.
- Hold the door open for other people. Thank someone if they do it for you.
- Do not run around or make loud noises in places, such as restaurants, stores, or museums (it shouldn’t sound like the Zombie Apocalypse is taking place).
- Cover your mouth when you cough … other people do not want to be sprayed with your germs, even if you don’t have Ebola.
- Do not say unkind things about people when you are out in public (“Look grandma, that lady has a really big bum!”)
- Knock on doors before entering.
- When someone asks how you are doing, reply and then ask the person how THEY are doing. (I taught all my grade 3 students this skill after a child did it to me and I was SO impressed at how thoughtful that was).
- When someone is talking to you, look at them (I still have to work on this as an adult!).
There are also some good books you can read to your grandchildren about etiquette such as The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners or Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book.
Another great idea to prepare for various situations in which your grandkids need to demonstrate manners is to role play. We used this kind of practice with our children when they were young and it worked brilliantly. One thing we liked to do was to pretend they were meeting someone for the first time and we practiced looking them in the eye, saying our name, and shaking their hands firmly. You could act out that they are shopping at the supermarket with you, and have your grandchild practice saying “Excuse me” if she needs to move past someone in an aisle. You could role play eating at a friend’s house and thanking their friend’s mom for the meal.
Manners are important. Manners are a way of treating others with respect and also a way of behaving with self control, discipline, and selflessness. As a grandma, I know you can make a difference. With practice, your grandchild will have the confidence to approach any situation that calls for good manners.
What manners have you helped teach to your grandchildren? Was it one of the ones I listed (I know there are many good manners I didn’t mention) or another one? Leave a comment below and share your experiences with us!
And if you like the idea of teaching manners to your grandchildren, please share it with other grandmas!