Growing up, my grandma, Earlene, sparked my interest in southern hospitality and manners. She always used to say, “Pretty is as pretty does.”
When I think of Grandma Earlene, I’m reminded that while the world may keep changing and becoming more casual, good etiquette never goes out of style.
The golden years of the 1950s and 60s offer us a plethora of wonderful social practices to learn from. Knowledge that many grandparents are happy to pass down if grandchildren are willing to listen. Indeed, when children are well behaved, it opens the doors of opportunity and enriches their lives. My hope is more grandparents will share the knowledge they have with the little ones in their lives and, consequently, make the world a more pleasant place to be.
To help guide your lessons, here are 10 classic etiquette tips grandparents can pass on to their grandchildren.
Thank you kindly.
Asking for something politely and thanking the giver is one of the most basic, yet powerful etiquette skills a child can possess. Encourage children to ask nicely and express gratitude for even the simplest of gestures, such as requesting to play with a toy or asking for a treat!
Yes ma’am, no sir.
Children who demonstrate respect by referring to adults as “ma’am,” “miss” or “sir” are sure to bring smiles to the faces of adults. Teach your grandchildren to refer to elders respectfully. Miss LAST NAME, Mrs. LAST NAME or Mr. LAST NAME are also a polite way to refer to adults.
How do you do?
When meeting an adult, children should introduce themselves and shake hands. Practice with your grandchildren ahead of an introduction to ensure they are comfortable using their skills with an unfamiliar adult. A game of dress up or make-believe is a perfect time to practice the skills of a good introduction!
Take a seat.
When riding public transportation, sitting in a waiting room or in a setting where there aren’t enough seats, children should offer their seats to the elderly or ladies.
Children should hold the door for others who are also approaching an entrance or exit. Be sure the child continues to hold the door until everyone has safely passed through to avoid hitting anyone when the door shuts.
May I be excused?
Children who demonstrate basic table manners are more pleasant guests to have, and more likely to receive more invitations—a win-win! Teach your grandchildren to keep their elbows off the table, not to chew with their mouths full and ask to be excused when they are finished eating.
Let’s take a walk.
When walking on the sidewalk, it is proper for the gentleman of the group to walk closest to the road to protect the ladies. Now, depending on how young your grandchildren are, this may not yet be a safe skill to teach. However, be sure to point out the polite gesture to your grandchildren if their grandfather demonstrates the practice while on a family walk. This is a skill that will serve young men well on future dates!
During social occasions, young men should stand when a lady leaves or joins a group. It is also most polite to stand when shaking hands, so ask your grandchildren to stand when making introductions.
Both men and women should remove casual hats (like baseball caps) when indoors or while making an introduction. Ladies are allowed to leave fashion hats on indoors, however. Young men should be conscious of where they are wearing their hats and demonstrate proper hat etiquette depending on the situation.
Seen and not heard.
While I love having children take part in adult conversation to learn, I do think it is important to teach children conversational boundaries. This can include not interrupting when adults are speaking and exercising the correct volume during a chat (e.g., not yelling indoors).
What tips from your childhood would you include to help polish future generations? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!