So your college-bound teen knows how to take out the trash (questionable) and do his or her laundry (also iffy), but does he know what common courtesy is or how to be benevolent? Although it might seem like the ship has sailed for your offspring to learn lessons that may have been inadvertently missed, it’s not too late to teach your teen the basics.
So here are some lessons you can teach or remind them of to make sure your child can be a contributing member of society.
These 6 lessons will help your child be a contributing member of society
1. Common courtesy
This habit is questionably the most underrated quality used in our society today. Does your teen know how to speak to his elders and the authorities respectfully? Does he know how to be on time?
With every younger generation, the older folks love complaining about the poor customer service they give, whether at a drive-thru or an office job. And sometimes they’re right. I’ll admit, “Were you raised in a barn?” has often gone through my mind when yet another teenager scrolls through their phone as I’m asking where the dressing room is.
But make sure to practice what you preach. Please-and-thank-you’s should roll off your tongue consistently. Teaching your kids how to be polite when you’re regularly flipping off slow left-lane drivers is tough.
Tip: A good place to start is to look up from the phone and engage with those around you.
2. Phone courtesy
Speaking of phones, if your child is answering said phone with anything other than “Hello,” then Houston, we have a problem. Tell them adults greet people this way, and if they want to be taken seriously, they need to learn this social norm. Hopefully, this will be enough to snap them into reality. There are acceptable and unacceptable phone manners.
Tip: “‘Sup” is defined as a sip of liquid. Not a phone greeting.
“Lol,” “brb,” and “OMG” are all fine and dandy when your child is sending a text to a friend, but consider this: They will be writing things for the rest of their lives — there’s no way around it. What will they do when “ROFL” is completely inappropriate?
Cover letters, business emails, applications, and more will be hurdles they need to jump. Sit them down and teach them how to correspond professionally and appropriately.
Teach them the importance of writing. It makes the possibilities of life endless.
Tip: Acronyms are not appropriate in a cover letter.
4. How to give
Benevolence isn’t a trait we’re born with. It’s taught. If you teach your child how to give, they’ll realize being kind and unselfish is good for everyone. Most importantly, let them learn from your example.
When my 18-year-old daughter was a young girl, we approached people at Christmas who were working hard at their jobs and handed them a card with some money. It made her uncomfortable, but we did it anyway, and now she is comfortable giving to people in need.
Let them know they can also give things other than money, like an in-kind donation or their time. Passing down the lesson of knowing how to give is one of the most important things you can give them.
Tip: Giving is a muscle, and you must learn to use it.
5. How to meet someone
No eye contact. Grunts. Stone-cold silence with a shift in body weight. I know what I speak about when I say, for the love of all things pumpkin spice, teach your kids to say, “Hello. Nice to meet you.”
My daughter and I had numerous practice conversations when she was young, yet I continually had to remind her that people’s feelings matter. (I never said it was easy).
Let them know everything’s not about them (surprise!) and that they might make a person’s day if they extend the most basic greeting.
Tip: Again, get off the devices and engage with the people around you.
6. How to prepare for a job interview
Once they get this under their belts, they’ll be thanking you. Teach your child that it’s not okay to wear a hoodie unless they’re applying for a coaching position because they might be having an interview via Zoom.
Explain that the interviewer might notice a nice shirt. They can wear boxer shorts or footy pajamas from the waist down if they’d like but may feel better completely dressing the part.
Go over questions that might be asked (“Where would you like to be in five years?” “What is your experience with Word/PowerPoint/social media?”) and what questions your child could ask besides salary inquiries. Encourage Googling information on all things interview and stress the need to research the company website.
Tip: If they’re going to interview in person, ditch the footy pajamas.
Learning these “small” life lessons will help your teens be more responsible and balanced and experience less stress
Use opportunities like riding in the car or cleaning the kitchen together to teach your teen these basics. You don’t need to be sitting and staring into their eyes to get their attention. They often respond better when something else is happening besides being eye-balled with a hypnotist’s laser focus. Take the pressure off.
It’s not too late. You haven’t missed the boat. The only mistake you’ll make is if you fail to teach them these basics now. Then, after they’ve learned, you can text them, “OMG! I’m so proud of you!”
More Great Reading:
The Adulting 101 Syllabus: 20 Life Skills I’m Teaching My Teens