TIME Parenting

How To Explain the Point of Manners to Modern Kids

Soren Hald—Getty Images

It's not about rules

Sometimes it seems like all parents talk to kids about is manners, whether it’s prompting them to remember a “please” or “thank you,” or hurriedly informing them that it’s not polite to point out that their teacher’s new pantsuit is not overly flattering.

Manners can also be a source of conflict: some adults expect to be called “Mr. Smith,” while others offer a breezy “call me Jim!” And when kids aren’t sure what the rules are, manners can be a big source of anxiety.

But when kids understand how to handle themselves, it can give them confidence, says Elaine Swann, a nationally recognized etiquette expert, and the author of Let Crazy Be Crazy: Then Politely Get What You Want, Get Your Point Across, and Gently Put Rude People in Their Place.
That was true for Swann, who moved to the U.S. from Panama as a child, and found the assurance to make her way in a new culture by learning the etiquette.

It’s tempting to just drill elementary school kids on basic rules, Swann says. But it’s more important to help kids of any age understand that manners are about far more than obeying a set of requirements. “Manners are about putting other people at ease,” Swann says. So even at a young age, parents can encourage kids to offer kind words to others with questions like, “What kind of people do you like to be around?” followed by “How can we be more like that?”

By middle school, parents have usually hammered home the message that it’s not O.K. to talk with your mouth full. But Swann says that learning how to hold a conversation at mealtime is actually a far more important aspect of etiquette. Kids will need that skill all their lives, whether they’re interviewing for a job, or meeting prospective in-laws. And they learn best, Swann says, by doing. She encourages families to take every opportunity to sit down for a meal together, and really talk. Questions like “How was your day?” or “What do you think about the recent news?” aren’t just small talk—they’re key training to help kids get comfortable in all social settings.

High school kids can begin to think in terms of what Swann describes as the three core values of manners: respect, honesty, and consideration. A lot has changed since Swann started teaching etiquette 20 years ago, she says, in both culture and technology. But those core values remain the heart of all manners. Teaching kids to make eye contact and put away the phone at mealtimes is important. But it’s even more important, Swann says, to help them focus on what others are thinking and feeling. Parents can help kids think in these terms by asking questions like, “How do you think you would feel in that situation? How would you like to be treated?”

And at any age, Swann says, it’s important for parents to communicate that manners are not “something you turn on and off.” They are a way of life—learning how to be considerate of others, which helps kids feel confident themselves.

This article first appeared in TIME for Parents. Subscribe here!

MONEY money etiquette

Help! Should I Accept Money From a Neighbor I Barely Know?

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TIME Crime

Somebody Hit A Man With A Chair For Burping At Taco Bell

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Fuse—Getty Images/Fuse Taco

Mind your manners, people

Remember: It never hurts to listen to your mother and mind your manners, but it can definitely hurt if you don’t.

A 20-year old South Carolina man was reminded of that lesson the hard way this weekend.

Isaiah Morris was eating at noted fine dining establishment Taco Bell on Sunday when another man in the restaurant demanded to know whether he had belched without saying “excuse me.”

While there’s no word on whether Morris actually committed the rude offense, a police report obtained by The Smoking Gun says that when Morris asked the manners-minded man to repeat himself, he instead grabbed a chair and hit Morris on the elbow. The man then grabbed Morris’s throat and tried to head butt him, presumably to remind him to be more polite in the future. That’s when a restaurant worker intervened and told the man to leave.

According to WYFF, police said the man left in what might have been a white pickup truck, but there are no further leads in the case.

[Via The Smoking Gun/ WYFF ]

TIME Opinion

5 Annoying Tech Habits That Need to Stop

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Texting while having a real-life conversation ranks as one of the top annoying tech habits. Texting while having a real-life conversation ranks as one of the top annoying tech habits.

Unfortunately, not everyone reviewed their copy of the Common Courtesy Rulebook that should have come with their beloved devices.

Technology has become a part of our everyday lives over the last 10 years. Seeing people running around with smartphones, tablets and laptops on a daily basis doesn’t even garner a second look as it did in the early 2000’s.

Unfortunately, not everyone reviewed their copy of the Common Courtesy Rulebook that should have come with their beloved devices. Annoying habits have migrated from analog to digital and it’s time for a refresher on what not to do with your tech toys.

Loud phone conversations in public

Let’s get one thing clear, person talking loudly into your smartphone in a public place: I don’t care about you. I don’t care about your horrible boss. I don’t care about your relationship issues with your boyfriend. I don’t care about your landlord who hasn’t fixed the pipes in your apartment. And, I don’t care about the stupid thing one of your friends did. Neither do the other people standing in the elevator, or on the train, or in the bathroom.

If you find yourself having a conversation while walking into the elevator, put the other person on hold or call them back. Same goes for the train and, yes, I have to say this out loud, the bathroom. The beautiful thing about smartphones is that once you hang up, you can place another call later with relative ease. Even to the same person you were just talking to. It’s magical. And far preferable to being the most hated person on your train or in your building.

Inappropriate tablet photography

Apple tried to make obnoxious tablet photography taking okay with its latest iPad commercial, but it will never be okay in my book. Unless this is the only device with a camera within 100 yards (borrow someone else’s and email it to yourself if you have to), it is never okay to take photos with a tablet. You will look like a putz.

Cameras were put into tablets for two reasons: Skype/FaceTime, and for the people who ask, “why doesn’t this tablet have a camera?” As you can see, photography didn’t make the list.

This is especially offensive at concerts. Don’t be the guy holding up an iPad blocking the view of 60 people so you can attempt to capture the blurry, out-of-focus photo that you will delete as soon as you get home. You might as well flush 10 karma points right down the toilet.

Public Wi-Fi bandwidth hogging

So you’re sitting in your favorite coffee shop, soaking up the free Wi-Fi rays, and you think to yourself, this is a good time to catch up on your favorite show on Netflix. In 1080p. As you sit in your chair drinking a $7 cup of cold coffee and eating an equally overpriced scone, you decide to press play on the video, and every internet connected device in the building comes to a crawl.

The other patrons have begun to realize the horrific consequences of your actions. As they frantically look around the room in vain, they realize the chances of locating the perpetrator are little to none. To those suffering through your poor decisions, you have become the human embodiment of selfishness. If they figure out you are the cause of this injustice, you would quickly realize the errors of your ways through the sheer evilness of the looks being thrown your way, but alas, you will continue on with your favorite episode of Storage Wars in complete ignorance.

Don’t become a social pariah just to stream your favorite show in public. If it’s available for streaming, it literally will be available forever.

Sharing photos without permission

As you sit in your home recovering from the party you attended the night before, you receive a text from a friend asking why you didn’t attend their get-together. You make up some excuse about how you had to work late and were tired. Unbeknownst to you, the friend whose party you actually went to has tagged you in a photo on Facebook, which is now on your wall for all the world to see.

In a social world filled with little white lies — some for the good of others, and some just because you can — posting photos without permission is a grave violation of the unwritten social contract. Check with your friends to see if any lies are in progress before throwing photos of them up on your social accounts. Remember, maintaining a lie is harder than coming up with one. Pitch in, do your part.

Gratuitous texting during a real-life conversation

You and I are having an in-depth conversation about something, and as you begin your sure-to-be rousing rebuttal, you receive a text message. My question goes unanswered, and our vibrant conversation comes to a screeching halt while you pound out an award-worthy thesis with your thumbs, as my disdain for your very existence grows. And now I’m forced to text you the words “LOOK UP” to shame you into acknowledging my existence.

If you have committed this egregious violation without it being an emergency, please apologize to those you have hurt. People still exist in a tangible form, and that form still has feelings. We haven’t devolved into bits of data without the concept of emotions just yet.

We must remember that we as humans still need physical contact with one another, and that everything can’t and shouldn’t be done through a keyboard and screen. Technology is a tool to be used, but using it shouldn’t offend everyone around us. Be courteous. Be thoughtful. Don’t be a tech jerk.

This article was written by Micah Singleton and originally appeared on Techlicious.
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