According to a recent Harris Interactive study, grandparents spend more quality time with their grandchildren than previous generations. In fact, the study found that 98 percent of grandchildren learn social skills from their grandparents!
Being such an influencer on grandchildren is a blessing, but it can also be hard to know what manners to teach these children of the digital age, and how to relate to the younger generation to teach these essential social skills which include table manners, electronic etiquette, introduction skills, and how to make a good first impression.
Listed below are some tips for helping you teach your grandchildren manners and social skills.
Writing Thank You Notes
- It’s not old fashion! While most kids, and their parents, might think that hand-writing a thank you note is “old fashioned”, it isn’t! In fact, because not many people take the time to write a note and send it via “snail mail”, when a person actually does receive a hand-written note they are extremely impressed! Yes, saying “thanks” in an email or by phone is nice, but when you take the time to put pen to paper, address an envelope and put it in the mailbox, you will make a positive lasting impression!
- Teaching Tip. If your grandchild is 6 or older, you can purchase (or even make) some stationary with envelops for your grandchild, give him/her a book of stamps, and then teach them how to address an envelope and write a proper thank you note.
Table Manners at Home
- Help out. Encourage your grandchildren to can help prepare the food and/or set the table for dinner. This is also a good time to talk and bond with them, and tech them the proper way to set a table.
- Wait for everyone. Kids should sit properly in their seat and then wait for everyone else to be seated before they begin to eat. During the meal there is no reason to leave the table unless it’s to go to the bathroom.
- Teach basics. Encourage your grandchildren to hold their fork properly (like a pencil), put their napkin and the hand they’re not eating with in their lap, keep their elbows/arms off the table, and keep their mouth closed when chewing.
- Magic words. Say “please” and “thank you” and pass the food to the right.
- Give thanks. At the end of the meal ask to be excused and then say “Thank you for dinner.”
- Teaching Tip. Role model the behaviors you want to see, have patience, and be consistent. Even play games that make learning the manners more fun, for example if someone if caught putting their elbows on the table during dinner they have to sing the “Birthday Song”. Another helping tool is to purchase the Blunders® Manner Mats® and use those at the table to teach polite manners and encourage polite conversation at the dinner table.
Restaurant Etiquette and Social Skills for Kids
- Remind your grandchildren ahead of time what behavior is expected of them. For example, no running around, talking loudly, and that they must use their best manners.
- Bring something into the restaurant to entertain them if needed. This can be an activity book or something quiet for them to play with while waiting for their food.
- Remind kids what silverware to use with which course. It is also a good time to review other basic dining etiquette such as elbows off the table, napkin and hand in lap, etc.
- Don’t pick things up. If they drop something on the floor they should not ever go onto the floor to pick it up. If something like your napkin or fork drops just politely ask the waiter for a new one.
- Teaching Tip: Role model the behaviors you want to see. Bring along some Blunders® Manner Mats® to the restaurant to entertain them and to remind them about proper table manners in a restaurant.
Cell Phone Etiquette at Home
- Make your house rules that no one is allowed to use their cell phone at the table. This includes not leaving the table during a meal to answer the phone.
- People come first. Remind your grandchildren that whenever they are talking to someone in person and their cell phone rings or they get a text, it is not okay for them to answer the phone or text immediately and interrupt the person they are with. Instead, quickly turn the ringer off and continue the conversation to show that person respect.
- Be Nice! If your grandchildren use their phone (or iPad, or other electronic device) to go online and to social media sites, they should always remember that they should never write or post a picture of something that they wouldn’t want blasted on the TV news or printed on the front page of their local newspaper. The Golden Rule can be applied here of “Treat others online the way you want to be treated.”
- Teaching Tip. If your grandchildren resist putting their cell phone away, be “cool” about it most of the time and not say anything, but then be firm about the times you do expect that they will put the phone away like when a meal is served and when company is over and you would like them to socialize with the family. You might even have a basket in the kitchen that has a white sign with black stripes (to look like a jail cell) with the words “Cell Cell”.
Telephone Etiquette at Home
- Inform the caller. Each family may decide what they feel comfortable with, but if your grandchild answers the phone at your house, you may want them to say something like “Hello, this is the Smith residence. May I ask who’s calling please?” At their home, they might say “Hello, this is Luke Smith. May I ask who’s calling please?”
- Take a message. If the person the caller is looking for is not home, ask your grandchild to take a message with the person’s name and phone number. Having paper and a pen by the phone is helpful.
- Talk nicely. Remind your grandchildren to not mumble into the phone, talk too quietly or loudly, or yelling for someone to pick up the phone.
- Teaching Tip: Get 2 phones and practice, practice, practice, with your grandchild what they should say when they answer the phone, and how they should say it, until they get it right. Then, be with your grandchild when he/she answers the phone the next time and praise them when they do it right!
Introductions Social Skills: Polite Greeting and Small Talk
- Polite Body Language. Teach your grandchildren what “polite body language” means – direct eye contact, nice smile, and a firm handshake! If your grandchild can do all of that when meeting someone for the first time, they will make a great first impression with your friends, their teachers, new kids, etc.
- It’s nice to meet you. Remind your grandchildren what they need to say after they have been introduced to some. Proper things are to say “It’s nice to meet you”, and then to use their last name and add “Mr. Smith”. Kids should always call an adult by their last name unless the person asks them to call them something else.
- Then what? After the introduction, kids need to remember to make small talk which means to answer questions fully and then to ask a question of the adult. For example, they might say “I’m fine thank you. How are you today?” Or, “I live in Charlotte, NC. Where do you live?” Making good conversation is like a volleyball game and the ball is like a conversation going back and forth over the net between two people.
- Teaching Tip. Practice, practice, practice. Teach your grandchildren what to do and then have them practice meeting someone, looking them in the eyes, smiling, giving a firm handshake and then making polite conversation.
Best Advice? Make learning manners and social skills fun for your grandkids! You want this to be an opportunity for you to bond and for you to make a positive lasting impression on them. A great way to have fun while teaching them social skills is to play the board game Blunders® by Patch Products. Blunders® teaches children all of the essential social skills and manners through 300 fun and interactive questions which are fun for the whole family. Blunders can be purchased on the Patch website, at Jo-Ann fabrics, and at various toy stores throughout the country.