The Importance of Etiquette and Manners for Teens and Young Adults

It’s essential for teens to learn how to get along positively with others and show respect when interacting. A solid foundation in good manners and proper etiquette is key when it comes to developing strong social skills. As a parent, you'll want to ensure that you teen understands the importance of appropriate behavior as it can directly contribute to her success in young adulthood and beyond.

Definition and Purpose of Etiquette

The word “etiquette” is French and means “little sign” or “ticket,” according to Cindy Post Senning and Peggy Post, authors of “Teen Manners.” As a literal translation, etiquette simply means a collection of little reminders to help people understand how to behave in various situations. Etiquette ensures that people know what society in general expects; it provides standard rules for appropriate behavior. The purpose of etiquette isn't to put on a show for the benefit of others with appearances and facades. Instead, it involves an attitude of respect and concern toward others to ensure that everyone feels valued and comfortable.

Basic Etiquette

As a parent, you want to provide guidance about basic etiquette to your children as they grow, as well as teach them how to treat others respectfully. Basic etiquette includes table manners, phone etiquette, greeting others, thanking people for gifts and computer etiquette. Even a young child can understand simple table manners like placing a napkin in his lap, talking politely and eating neatly. By adolescence, your children should practice cellphone etiquette, which includes setting a cellphone to vibrate when in public or with others and conducting both texting and voice conversations in private. Ensure that your teens understand that properly greeting someone includes smiling, making eye contact and shaking hands. Explain that proper gift etiquette involves writing and sending thank-you notes promptly when someone sends a gift. Also explain that computer etiquette includes communicating respectfully with others, despite the lack of face-to-face contact. Demonstrate proper etiquette and respectful behavior for your teens in daily life to help them learn from your example.

Lacking Etiquette

If a teenager lacks an understanding of basic etiquette, he might feel uncomfortable in social situations, according to information provided by the New Rochelle City Schools. With this discomfort, the adolescent might experience embarrassment or timidity that puts him at a disadvantage. It’s also possible that a teen could attempt to compensate for his discomfort by acting out in inappropriate or offensive ways.

Respect Translates into Success

While different situations and places can have different rules of etiquette, the common foundation is still respect. For example, the rules of etiquette in the stands of a professional baseball game vary from the rules of etiquette when walking in a shopping mall. However, a teen’s understanding that basic etiquette involves the principle of treating others respectfully should enable her to proceed successfully in either venue. At the baseball game, she would realize that it's rude to stand up in her seat because the people behind her might not be able to see the game. At the shopping mall, she would know that it's rude to run, yell and swing her purse wildly because she might disturb other shoppers. The etiquette for both venues stems from treating others how she wants them to treat her.

Strength and Confidence

With a solid foundation in etiquette and manners, a teen should feel strong and confident, even in new or unfamiliar situations. This can be particularly important for adolescents who often feel self-conscious and anxious, having trouble acclimating to new situations to which they are unaccustomed. When a teen has strong social skills and understands how to treat others respectfully and politely, he can navigate virtually anything from a college or job interview to a conversation with a teacher to meeting a new girlfriend’s father.