Etiquette :: Manners That Matter

The other day, I was walking out of a store and a dad and son were walking in. Just seconds before I got to the door, I heard Dad say to the probably ten-ish boy, “Grab that door, Son.” I thanked them both and let the boy know how much I appreciated his good manners. I meant it.

Manners That MatterMany manners seem to be lost on people. I don’t know, maybe it’s being from the South, but simple manners go a long way with me. I don’t think being polite should be a geographical thing. Regardless, we are in TEXAS, y’all!

We just LOVED when our toddler said “Peas!” and “Cank You!” which is proof that even the littlest of Littles can learn some manners, right!?

My favorite was Meghan’s, “Peas I be scused?” Translation :: May I please be excused? I mean, is that the cutest?

At eleven and thirteen, my girls, while exceptionally polite, sometimes still need gentle reminders of proper etiquette in certain situations. I’m not saying we stress the use of certain forks. {We are paper plate people most of the time.} I mean what we refer to in our house as “proper home trainin’.” I guess I want my girls to understand that being polite to someone is a demonstration of respect for the other person. Key phrase is “respect for the other person.” <smile>

Here’s a list of manners that matter in our home ::

Be a Good Host.

  • Appropriate invitations. Ask Mom or Dad {privately} if it’s okay before inviting guests over. Don’t wait for this to happen before you explain this!
  • Make eye contact, shake hands, and introduce yourself. You may need to actually practice this with your kids.
  • Introduce guests. Introduce your guests to one another, if necessary. This is whether at home or out. If you are with folks who do not know each other, introduce them.
  • Make guests comfortable. Show guests around your house. Offer refreshments, a place to store their things, etc. Model this for your kids.
  • I’ve walked in to someone’s home to have one of the children, about seven or eight, say, “What are you doing here?” Um. Nope. Guests are not to be treated that way.

Be a Good Guest.

  • When at someone else’s home, wait to be invited in.
  • Wait to be offered a drink or food. I want everyone to feel comfortable in my home, and I will offer anything I have – but it still takes me back when someone walks in my house and immediately says, “Hey, got any…?” It’s just rude. {I mean, if it goes a while, I think it’s appropriate to ask for a cup of water.} Do not take food or drink out of the kitchen until invited to do so.
  • Clean up after yourself. Period. If you play with toys, eat, or build a snowman, don’t wait to be asked to clean up. Just do it.
  • Thank your host. Thank your  host for the invitation, for the meal, hospitality, whatever applies. Just be grateful.
  • P.O.O. – Positive Opinions Only. Do not comment negatively on someone’s appearance or that of their home. The cleanliness, wallpaper, or even smell. Let. It. Go. If it’s disgusting, you don’t have to go there again, but there is no need to say anything about it.
  • Have a MayDay Phrase. Have a phrase that means, “I’d really like to go home now, please.” It can be something like, “What’s the temperature outside?” or “Mom, who sings that song Sweet Home Alabama?” Whatever. Just have a random phrase that you can “explain” away and then, if you deem necessary, plan an exit. Note :: this could be the same phrase spoken on the phone or texted meaning, “Come get me now, please.”, when you are not there.

Have Good Table Manners.

Oh, man. This is big with me. Nothing makes me lose my appetite than sharing the table with someone who should know better and just doesn’t show it. 
  • Please and Thank You. This is at a restaurant or someone’s home. Be respectful and grateful to those who serve a meal.
  • Wait for everyone to be served. Again, this is privately or in public. Do not start eating until everyone has been served. I am pretty sure if you are reading this, your kids are not in fact “starving” as mine like to proclaim. I remind them, “You are not starving. You are hungry. Chug the water and chill.”
  • Pass food. For the love of  Peter’s sake, let’s teach these little ones that they do not have to be “crumb snatchers,” as my grandaddy called us. Ask for food to be passed. Recently, I had an arm reach across my table so close to my face, I could have bit it like a corn on the cob!
  • If you serve yourself, start small. You know! You’ve seen a kid walk up to the food table and load up! This is inconsiderate.
  • Only touch what you are going to eat. If you reach for a cookie on the cookie plate or whatever, you don’t need to fondle all the cookies. Only touch the one you are going to eat! Which brings me to…
  • Only touch the food on your plate. Enough said.
  • Leave the last piece…of bread, of dessert, etc., until you are sure no one else wants it. We have trouble with this one.
  • Food offerings. Decide how you want to handle being served food they don’t like. This is a tough one for a lot of people. I say, take a bite or two and suck it up. {Allergy issues aside, of course.} This is just my take on that. Which reminds me…
  • Let’s not ask for others’ food off of their plate. Um. Just don’t. If you are with your BFF and you KNOW your BFF isn’t going to eat that pickle on the side, I think it is fine to request the pickle. But to ask, “Are you going to eat your rice?” to a person whose grandmother you can’t name? Nope.
  • Thank You. This deserves a second mention. Be grateful. Compliment the chef. There is something positive that can be found!
  • Be positive. Even if you are being served liver and onions with a side of rattlesnake stew, do not say, “Eww. Gross!” Okay. Maybe that would be appropriate in the liver and onion case, but you get the point, yes?
  • Basically, the rule of thumb at our house is – Act like you’ve had some home trainin’! They know.

When You’re Out and About.

A few thoughts about being respectful to others when in public.
  • Don’t interrupt. DO NOT INTERRUPT. DO NOT INTERRUPT. We don’t need to incorporate this much anymore, because my girls are old enough to communicate with facial expressions, but when they were younger, they knew how to get my attention without interrupting adult conversation. They would walk up, touch me, and wait.
  • Don’t interrupt a phone conversation. Obviously, I have a thing. As I type this, I think we are regressing in this area. I commit to fixing this trash immediately! We are getting back to the rule :: Do not interrupt unless you are gushing blood!
  • Take phone conversations away from the table, group, elevator, etc. I realize this might be…um…generational…but this biz with taking cell phone calls on a bus or at a doctor’s office or at a table can drive me bat crazy. I don’t know why, but it just kills me. I’m not talking about kids hiding out at home to talk – we do NOT want that – I’m talking in public. Cell phone etiquette may be a post on its own, but let’s practice it and teach it.
  • Elevator etiquette. Mercy. Please teach the children {and some grown ups} to wait for those inside the elevator to exit before you enter.
  • Doorholders. Just in general, I’m not talking about men/women here. I mean, if someone is coming, just hold the door for them. I saw a teenage-ish girl walk through a door at the mall and let it close just in front of a mom pushing a double stroller here a while back. Nope. My girls and I all at the same time, started high-stepping it to the door to grab it. It was funny, really. We were all, “Here, I’ll get it!”
  • Leave it better than you found it. Anything. A store, library, whatever. Don’t be messy. Throw trash away.
  • Interpersonal communication. I think if a two year old can tell Mom she wants a “kicken nugget”, she can tell a server. Once they started talking, our kids ordered for themselves, introduced themselves, and generally spoke for themselves. When at a restaurant, my practice was to get the server’s name and then say to my daughter, “Meghan, this is Miss Rachel. Rachel takes our order, tell her what you would like, please.” Sometimes, translation was necessary, but we worked through it.
  • Whisper. I know adults that just do not have a good whisper voice. Kills me. Talking in church like you’re at a dadgum ball game. We can all learn when it’s appropriate to whisper.
  • Be considerate. In general, that is what it’s all about, right? Just be considerate of others. If the rest of the room is sort of quiet, then we shouldn’t be climbing the walls.

Our mantra has always been, “If the adults are doing it, then you can do it.”  Meaning, if you are in a situation in which the adults are doing cartwheels, then you are likely in an appropriate setting for cartwheels.  If the adults are going for the dessert table, then it is likely time for dessert.  Otherwise, don’t come ask me every 4.25 seconds for dessert!  This is all in the context of manners, y’all.  Not trying to raise little conformists.

I just know I’m forgetting something.  What are YOUR manners that matter?  And on the other hand, do any of these not seem like a big deal to you?

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Melissa is a native Floridian currently making Houston home. She has a background in English education, but ended up teaching sex ed to middle and high school students. This passion for teaching healthy relationship education transformed into a ministry of teaching parents to speak early and often to their kids about healthy sexuality. {Which she says was way more fun than teaching poetry.} But that’s all “Doppleganger Melissa” now. These days, she is a full-time homeschooling mama to two future world-changers, Meghan and Maddy. She is an unapologetic sanguine who loves having people around her table eating off of paper plates and drinking sweet tea. When “Mel’s Diner” {the kitchen} isn’t open, she may be working off calories at the gym, driving her girls around town, or trying to round up some twenty-somethings to feed and mother. Melissa believes in a few things pretty strongly :: Jesus, her spouse, the power of Diet Coke, and that traveling should be a sport. You can find her over at Spouseisms, or on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook {@Spouseisms}.


  1. Chew with your mouth closed.
    Elbows off the table. It is NOT nap time.

    Just generally be respectful of others. This is not YOUR world. It is everyone’s and we should all be comfortable.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this one!

    • Chew with your mouth closed! Yes!

      You know what I didn’t mention? Body function: actions & talk! Keep it in the bathroom and ignore all accidents! 🙂

  2. Good tips on a very important topic! Habits in our society have changed so much in recent years as families have become more kid-centric (teaching kids to be self-focused) and as the use of technology has increased.

    I love that you suggested practicing greetings/introductions with our kids. I think that simple skill is foundational to so many others that today’s young generation struggles with.

    Another area where I often see people fail at etiquette (I’ve been guilty too) is at a checkout counter. It’s sad to see people so distracted that they don’t even seem to notice the cashier serving them. We can’t expect our kids to do much better than us if we’re not showing consideration.

    Thank you for the reminder that our children learn good manners as they see us model them!

    • Betsy, I agree that the kid-centric mentality is in play here. “They’re just kids…” is a phrase often heard, but kids for many years were taught to “behave” (the phrase I often heard, and I knew what it meant!).

      Thank you for bringing up the check out process and the cashier. I do not like to be on the phone or distracted during check out. I have done it, and I apologize, but that’s not really helpful. More often, I say to my caller, “Let me call you back in 5 when I finish checking out.”

      Good stuff and good conversation!

  3. Hi, Melissa,
    I am Grandma and I am so upset when my 8 year old grandson wants to excuse himself one minute after we sit down to eat and his mother allows it.. I think conversation at the table is important.
    Also, i believe a prayer from a 5 year old is not always appropriate when it minimizes the message.
    Thank you for the reminder..

  4. I am from New Jersey and New York City, and much to the dismay of many… Northern people have manners too, so in my opinion it is not geographical in any way… BUT… My personal pet peeve is that childten today are not being taught courtesy. Things like saying thank you when a car stops for you to cross the road or a parking lot really bothers me! Kids today don’t seem to be taught to talk to adults, it makes me crazy with all this “strangers are the boogey man” because we are losing social skills, and back to that word… Courtesy. I love your article, but don’t generalize about geographics because there are a lot of “southern” rudness too… Like judgements. Gossips and backhanded compliments. LOL (just being a sarcastic jersey girl) kisses


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