I have been on the receiving end of a serious amount of eye rolling when reminding my sons about good manners, thank you notes and proper etiquette.
They have ignored me or given me the time-worn, and I believe inaccurate, argument that things have changed. I am not buying it, and here is why.
A few reminders for my teens:
1. Manners suggest gratitude rather than entitlement. The rap on young people is pretty bad, so don’t prove us right. You can still be lazy and undirected, you can live in our basements and forestall adulthood, but if you appear gracious and grateful, much will be forgiven.
2. Manners are even more important in a world that is neglecting them. Standing out from the crowd is a good thing. Making eye contact, shaking hands, giving proper deference, offering assistance and putting your phone away at the dinner table are still appreciated, if sometimes neglected, habits.
3. Manners are even more important in a world of rapid first impressions. We meet hundreds or thousands of people in our lives though most of those meetings are brief and superficial. You have seconds to make a good impression. A decent haircut, genuine smile and good manners will all be noticed.
4. Manners still reflect on your family and what your parents and teachers taught you. Don’t make me look bad.
5. Manners may have changed but people haven’t and being appreciated will never, ever go out of style. I have yet to meet a single person of any age who does not like to be appreciated. You may meet someone who breaks this rule, but until then, remember your manners and thank people.
6. Someday, somewhere you may want something from someone. Manners and proper etiquette are like good will in the bank when you go to make a withdrawal. Wanting something in return is NOT a reason to use good manners, but sometime in life you may need to call on another’s kindness and it will help if you have been polite.
7. A great many adults have done some pretty wonderful things for you. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and teachers have all given of themselves to improve your life. Do not disrespect them by failing to use good manners.
8. Manners are well taught in England. In your early childhood you were taught to rise when an adult entered the room, to answer questions either “yes, please” or “no, thank you” and to send handwritten thank-you notes. You may have lost those gorgeous accents of your younger days, but there is no excuse for forgetting all that your teachers drilled into you.
9. Manners are even more important in a world where relationships may never involve eye contact. We meet people online or by email every day. They will never see our faces or hear our voices. Our words will need to say who were are; choose them wisely.
10. Manners are something that people will remember about you, even if they don’t remember why they remember. Manners make an impression and while someone may not recall why they thought well of you (or badly, if you have ignored this) it may have been your courtesy. Don’t take a risk, remember what you have been taught.
I have said it a thousand times, I have said it in the face of your pushing back, shouting “I know Mom, stop it.” and I will say it one more time. You can never say “thank you” too many times.