MOB Alert: Teaching Boys to be Good Dates

by Lian on May 12, 2010

Hello, Mothers of Boys! And Mothers of Girls Who are Interested in Boys! This week at, the editors there asked me to write about etiquette for children. I laughed discreetly, thinking about the constant “encouragement” I provide at my house to my two sons. I don’t have all the answers and I’m no Emily Post, but I have tried to instill some manners in my sons, a Sisyphean task at times.  And I believe that I am not alone, although the overall decline in etiquette can be seen everywhere, everyday. I know there are other mothers out there trying to fight the polite fight.

To focus my efforts, I have always had one simple approach to teaching my boys etiquette: Be a Good Date. I know you’re asking yourself, “Do kids still date?”  While that’s debatable,  should the opportunity arise, I would like Brookes and Colin to know a few manners to impress the young ladies in their lives. Because some day, those young ladies may become part of  the family, so my job is vital to the continuation of the family name!  I’m think of future generation when I insist ( nightly) my sons take their elbows off the table!  You can read my complete list here at

So here’s my question to you, Mothers of Girls, what are you doing for me? How are the etiquette lessons going in your house? May I make a request? Having two sons, I do worry who will carry on the Thanksgiving tradition when I am old and infirmed. So far, my sons do not seem inclined to do large scale entertaining that involves multiple sets of plates. Can a few of you MOGs  work on that, so I have some place to have Thanksgiving in my Golden Years?

Many thanks in advance.

Embracing my Chaos, Lian



Virginia June 4, 2010 at 12:29 PM

Love your blog; your writing. Ms. Debra Lassiter of ELI recommended I find your article. Along with Ms. Lassiter, I am an etiquette consultant. I live in Texas, hold “Manners Boot Camps.” It IS a dying art; but there are (quite a few) consultants out there – many trained by ELI (Etiquette & Leadership Institute of Georgia). It’s my passion, a blast and I’m far more blessed than my students. Love your short list for boys! Best to you!
…because nice matters!

Cyndi May 13, 2010 at 1:07 PM

I think teaching compassion for others, respecting human dignity and always finding common ground are the keys to any good manners. Still working on elbows off the table though!

chpdlivr May 13, 2010 at 8:39 AM

When I hear my 24 year old son on the phone saying “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am” I am amazed and proud. It’s worth it……..I still get compliments when we’re out and about and he exhibits those manners!

Meg May 13, 2010 at 5:28 AM

Big ticket etiquette items in our house: eye contact! The art of conversation! Disguising disgust at menu items! Good handshakes! Clearing the table, even at a friend’s house! Please and thank you, of course, and, something my daughter says “nobody else ever, ever does, mommy,” : standing up when an older woman enters the room. I swear and I have tattoos, but darn it, we represent pretty well.

rose May 13, 2010 at 4:01 AM

I am all over the place with some of the inherent sexism in the boy/girl manners, i.e holding the door, pulling out the chair. Each is a lovely gesture when someone does it, but I have always had a slightly angry internal response, as if the doer assumed I was weak/incompetent. It was not the way I was raised, and but it’s a very visceral response. That said, I am all for teaching young men to treat women with respect, and I am all for young women to expecting that. This needs to be a bigger fight for parents. Our kids are exposed to hour after hour of really bad behavior on TV. There is no modeling of manners and respect, and this is bound to become a lost art. It is really just civility and consideration, but our kids are seeing less and less of it.

Laura May 12, 2010 at 5:36 PM

Right now we are working on “please” and “thank you” at our house (I have a 3 year old and a 6 month old), as well as table manners. I will be teaching my daughters to open doors for others, as well as to say “thank you ” when someone opens a door for them.

William J. May 12, 2010 at 5:07 PM

Manners are such a lost art today do I ever agree with you about teaching your sons manners.

My mom can’t walk long distances so when I take her to lunch or dinner she uses a wheelchair. I cannot tell you the number of times both the young and old almost trip over the wheelchair to beat us to the door, not to hold it but to get out first . They often just slam the door in Mom’s face. It really stands out when teens and sometimes kids as young as six will politely hold the door for her. I make darn sure I recognize them and tell the parents that they have a young gentlemen or well mannered young lady in their family.

My parents taught my sister, brother, and I manners from the time we were old enough to understand the words “salad fork.” Every report card I received during school would have two comments: “The most well mannered student in class and not working up to his ability.”

I can give many instances of how manners paid off for me but will just share one. Once I was hired for a summer intern job because I picked up a magazine that was on the floor of the receptionist area and put it where it should have been. Turns out the guy doing the interviewing purposely put the magazine on the floor. Out of ten applicants I was the only that put it away. He said it was a test of manners, cleanliness, and how observant the applicants were.

You are doing your sons a great service that will benefit them the rest of their lives. Great going.

Beckett Graham May 12, 2010 at 3:40 PM

Jett (5) loves to open doors for ladies! (including me). One of my co-workers was horrified that I was teaching him to do that, but I’m not budging.
One thing I would add is the willingness to give a random and sincere compliment. The number of times he has charmed someone by simply stating “I like your pretty earrings.”…. I just tell him that if something nice pops in your head, you should tell the person to make their heart feel happy.

He’s all about it. :)

Sue in NJ May 12, 2010 at 2:46 PM

I second the thank you notes, Susan! Even some of my own relatives are a bit lax in that area. Not my son or daughter, of course :-)

Amie May 12, 2010 at 10:40 AM

Besides just opening the door for ladies, I teach my kids, one boy two girls, to notice what is going on around them. Open a door for people with full hands, help pick up if somebody drops a bag of groceries, stopping to help if somenone looks upset or lost. I want to help them learn that even small helpful gestures are important.

Susan May 12, 2010 at 8:52 AM

Love the short list of good etiquette and polite behaviors. I would add thank you notes. I’m a fan of the old-fashioned, hand-written note.

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