A New Code of Etiquette for Teenage Boys

Do the old rules even apply? Here are some new ones to consider.

My son opened a door for me. He actually opened the door, stood aside and let me walk through. It took 20 years, but something I taught him finally clicked. 

Don’t get me wrong, both my boys are usually very polite to everyone else. Many people have complimented me on how nice and respectful they are, but I usually look around just to make sure someone else’s kid didn’t just walk into the room. Are we talking about the same kid I drop off at high school every morning and say, “Have a good day! Love you!” to which he responds by slamming the door? I have given serious consideration to jumping out of the car and yelling, “Make good choices!” to him in front of the entire student body. 

Since most of the students I see in my academic coaching business have trouble with organization, procrastination, motivation, and so on, I spend quite a lot of time with teenage boys. My sons are very social creatures, so teenagers are often roaming around my house as well. In both circumstances, these boys are, for the most part, polite, respectful, and a pleasure to be around. That’s not the issue. What I notice is not a lack of manners, but a lack of etiquette. At the end of summer vacation, my son brought a friend home from overnight camp — a lovely young man from Great Britain, who left the toilet seat up all week. 

I sometimes wonder if these boys even know what proper etiquette is, or if they even need to. After all, many of these customs are quite antiquated. Does any female born after the Great Depression feel comfortable when a man stands as she enters a room? How about pulling out a chair? Only a certain kind of guy can pull this off. However, a guy offering a jacket when it’s chilly outside or opening a car door? Yes, please! Using proper utensils, no, using utensils at all, yes. I think the rules of etiquette need to be revised to be relevant today. So, here are some new rules for kids:

  • Do not text while in the company of another unless it is urgent information, such as being nominated for a People’s Choice Award.
  • Do not play video games when females are in the room. They do not enjoy watching you play Madden NFL ‘13.
  • When you accidentally whack someone with your backpack, stop, say excuse me, and pick up whatever you knocked out of the other person’s hand.
  • If there is only one seat left, give it to anyone who has more trouble standing than you.
  • Don’t swear, it’s rude and shows a lack of imagination.
  • Always greet people and say “thank you” when you leave a friend’s house.

Keep teaching manners and etiquette to your sons because they are actually listening, even if it doesn’t look that way. One day your son will open the door for you, too, and you will know you have done your job well. 

RobertM September 26, 2012 at 07:50 PM
One point of contention on an otherwise very thoughtful article: Ms. Shaefer states, "<i>Do not play video games when females are in the room.</i>" Clearly you mustn't have girls in your home or you'd know that girls are just as avid and adept at videogames as any boy. As the father of two girls (now grown), seldom was the day that one or the other (or both) daughters weren't front and center in the family room, controllers in hand, fragging monsters, flying steampunk airships to new lands, or chasing Mario around the Kart Circuits. Boys don't hold a monopoly on videogame play -- just ask my son, much to his chagrin. If Ms. Shaefer was referring to being respectful (volume down please, and no zombie decapitations) during a visit from Aunt Mabel, that's one thing. Suggesting that no video games be on when females are in the room? My daughters - and millions of other young (and not so young!) women probably have a bone to pick with you.
Michelle D September 26, 2012 at 09:15 PM
I absolutely agree with RobertM's statements. Also, people frequently forget that video games are like any other media in that genres exist. Any blanket statement about video games would be like making a sweeping statement about ALL books, movies, or television programs. I think it might be worth revising that point to, "read your audience/company and show discretion."
Susan Schaefer September 27, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Robert and Michelle, I was referring to the interesting phenomenon that seems to occur when a group of boys and girls get together in a basement and the video games go on. The boys tend to play and the girls tend to watch. Boys use this as a way to "show off" for the girls." I said nothing about girls being uninterested in playing. Although statistically, boys are more interested in video games and girls are more interested in social media. Are there boys who are into social media and girls who love video games? Of course. The best etiquette would be turning off video games altogether and interacting with each other.


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