Supporting middle school manners: Here's what to know

Good social skills involve polite behaviors such as minding one’s manners.

Good social skills involve polite behaviors such as taking turns, listening, saying “please” and “thank you” and minding one’s manners. During the middle-school years, adolescents may not always apply their social skills to every interaction, although they may be fully aware of what good etiquette is. These important skills can help contribute to your child’s social success, and if you try to talk to her regularly about the value of these abilities and provide concrete examples, she will better-able to understand and apply them in her daily life.

Talk to your teen about good manners. When you’re out, point out acts of good and poor etiquette by others, either on television or in person, and ask your teen what she thought about this behavior. The negative examples can be particularly influential, as well as a cause for some shared laughter. You can use this opportunity to discuss proper etiquette in different situations, such as maintaining eye contact when meeting new people or holding the door open when someone has their hands full. Try to give your middle-schooler immediate positive feedback when you notice that she minds her manners. If you see your child forget to use her manners or say “please” or “thank you,” take her aside and gently remind her, or wait until later if you don’t think you can intervene immediately in a gracious way. Adolescents are very concerned about how others perceive them, and it may embarrass them if they are corrected in front of their friends.

Set up an etiquette policy for electronic devices. Since your adolescent will be spending a considerable amount of time using electronic devices and social media, you can help build her online etiquette by establishing a screen time politeness policy. Work with her to come up with this policy together, and include examples, like not answering her cell phone or texting during a conversation with someone else or while at the dinner table. Giving specific examples of proper online behavior is a good way to add to your adolescent’s understanding of manners in the real and virtual worlds. New York City-based teacher Anne Harlam adds that parents should try to lead by example and follow the same rules that apply to their children.

Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including de Muyshondt, socialsklz:-) for SUCCESS, and Anne Morrison, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, Lycée Français de New York.