Aside from the travails of parenting a teen, any mother of a teener will know that there still is a part of parenting that most parents seem to neglect, and that is teaching them the proper way to behave socially.
Most teens I meet these days are lacking in the basic social courtesies when dealing with people. I am writing this as a reminder to parents that education on manners begins at home. This is something we cannot just leave to schools to teach.
My own son, who basically grew up with his grandmother, the original etiquette guru, has impeccable table manners. This is partly because he was exposed at a very young age. Yet, when we eat at home, he would not practice it.
So I asked him why. He said, “I behave the way I am supposed to behave when I’m out, but when I am home I want to be comfortable.”
That’s when it hit me and I realized that most parents, myself included, do teach children the proper way to behave outside the home, but they are also brought up to believe that at home, anything goes.
My answer to him was that behavior has nothing to do with where you are or whom you are with.
Then he answered, “But I behave properly when I’m with others so that they think better of me.” And that is when I realized that I was doing things all wrong. I explained to him that it had nothing to do with what people think. This confused him even more.
So I went on to explain that behavior, whether at the dining table or in your everyday interaction with people, is an expression of who you are. Well, at age 13, he got it.
So basically, what I am saying is that teaching your children manners comes with the underlying lesson that it is not about what to do or not to do, but rather, who they are. This way it is not mechanical; it comes from within.
Teach your teens or children the basic courtesy of greeting their friends’ parents and introducing themselves when they go to someone’s home. Teach them to say thank you when they leave their friends’ homes, not because it is the “right” or “proper” thing to do, but because they are acknowledging the owner of the home.
Teach teenage boys to open the door of a car, or any door for that matter, for any girl, whether they are their girlfriends or not. This includes holding elevator doors or letting women step out of the elevator first.
These practices are not passé; they are simply declarations of the kind of persons they are.
Teach teenage boys to help their girlfriends carry books in school, or at least make the offer. When crossing the street, teach your teen boys to stay on the side of the girl where traffic is approaching, which means when they get to the other side, the boy moves around toward the side of traffic.
This is almost never done by adult males, much less teens. Is it because it is not taught, or is it because it is the modern age? It doesn’t matter.
Allowing women to sit by pulling their chairs before sitting down to dinner in a restaurant is another example. When we raise teen boys to act like gentlemen, we also raise them to respect women. Moms can do this by making it an everyday act for her teen son to open her car door or pull out her chair so that it becomes second nature. What you practice at home, your son will practice outside the home.
My son’s friends come over a lot, and now that they are young adults, they are always so polite, and it speaks so highly of them as well as their parents.
Just recently, I was at the Davao airport waiting for my flight. A young man, who must be in his early 20s, was traveling alone and was seated right by the gate.
A man came along pushing an elderly woman on a wheelchair. I thought to myself, I wonder if this young man would give up his seat? The man wheeled the woman right in front of this young man. Immediately, the young man stood up and offered his seat so that the wheelchair could be parked by the side of the gate. I was so pleasantly surprised by this and immediately told myself, kudos to this guy’s parents.
Shoved by a man
Just yesterday in the cinema, as the movie ended, as usual, everyone raced to the exit. I was waiting to move out to the aisle. There was a man on the step right above, and I made my way toward the step in front of me, mistakenly thinking that he would let me through. Believe it or not, I was shoved. Enough said. Now this was a grown man in his 40s more or less, but such behavior just told me what kind of man this was, and how he probably treats people.
I recently went out with friends, and a man I met that night, the cousin of a friend, offered to take me home. This was not a date, so I pretty much had no expectations in terms of him opening my car door. As soon as his car arrived, he rushed to open the door but the restaurant’s doorman beat him to it, so he simply made a gesture. And instead of letting me crawl to the other side of the back seat so he could get in through the same door, he quickly went to the other side of the car.
When I got home, the doorman opened my door so I turned to his side to say thank you, and he was already outside the car on my side, ready to say goodbye. Now that is breeding. See the difference?
Of course, I notice these things more than the average person. But I am making this illustration to show how one’s behavior really shows the kind of person you are.
I am certainly not one to meddle on how parents raise their children but this much I can tell: How your teen behaves is a direct reflection on you.
Teach your teenage son to respect girl friends, not just girlfriends they are dating, but all girls, regardless of who they are, and you will find yet another reason to be happy and proud of them. We should embody basic courtesies for our children. Same thing works for teenage girls, but this will make for an even longer article later.
Just remember that teenage boys who practice good manners and courtesy toward others grow up to become men who respect people in general.