Parents Share The "Unwritten Rules" Tweens & Teens Should Know

Teaching your kid to say “please” and “thank you” is arguably easy. Beyond that, things get a little hairy. It’s shockingly hard to get children to follow other social norms like “your sleeve is not a napkin” and “don’t say poop in front of Grandma.”

Even though it’s challenging, helping your child develop good manners gives them a competitive edge for the rest of their life. Plus, there are already too many selfish jerks in the world — who wants to add their beautiful child to the pile?

Parenting coach Darlene Taylor says you can teach kids basic social etiquette by paying more attention to daily interactions. “Some of the most important rules are not stated outright, and adults forget when or how we learned them. Adults ‘just know’ and can sometimes forget that kids don’t.”

Taylor says the best approach is through modeling and discussing interactions as they happen. Point out good behavior and offer feedback when a situation could have been handled better.

A rulebook would be nice, and 100 years ago, there actually were entire books devoted to polite behavior, the most famous being Emily Post’s Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage. There is a new version, but let’s be honest: Most moms are too busy to read an etiquette book.

So, Scary Mommy asked parents to reveal the most valuable “unwritten rules” they think tweens and teens should know. Here are the words of wisdom that they shared.

Personal Space

  1. Say “excuse me” if you bump into someone.
  2. Never wake a sleeping baby.
  3. Don’t throw sand… or rocks… or playground mulch.
  4. Ask before touching someone.
  5. Knock on a closed door before entering.
  6. Give people three feet of personal space.

Making and Keeping Friends

  1. Beware of the person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter.
  2. If they show you who they really are, believe them.
  3. Only trust people as far as you can throw them.
  4. You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
  5. When someone shows you a picture on their phone, no swiping allowed.
  6. Ask before taking photos or posting photos online.
  7. Celebrate your friends’ accomplishments and be humble about your own.

Public Places

  1. Wait for people to exit the elevator before entering.
  2. Face the door of the elevator when you’re inside.
  3. Wave to a driver when they stop to let you cross the street.
  4. Hold the door for the person behind you.
  5. Walk to the right.
  6. If you need to stop on the sidewalk, step to the side.
  7. Walk behind people taking pictures.
  8. Don’t cut the line!
  9. Always return your shopping cart.
  10. Leave it in better condition than you found it.


  1. Use a napkin, not your sleeve.
  2. Wait to start eating until everyone is served.
  3. Don’t criticize food that someone else is eating.
  4. Stay at the table until everyone is finished eating.
  5. Use the utensils, not your hands (unless it’s a hand-based cuisine).

Good Conversations

  1. Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it helpful?
  2. Put your phone away when someone is talking to you.
  3. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
  4. Wait for a pause in conversation instead of interrupting.
  5. Never ask a person if they’re pregnant.
  6. Don’t ask adults how old they are.
  7. Tread lightly when discussing politics or religion at holidays, family gatherings, or in other social settings that could lead to mood-crushing debates.

Invites and Gifts

  1. Always RSVP.
  2. Avoid discussing party plans in front of someone who may not be invited.
  3. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Translation: be grateful.
  4. If a gift is sent, at least acknowledge that you received it and that you appreciate the gesture.


  1. Never trust a fart.
  2. Don’t eat yellow snow.
  3. If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be neat and wipe the seat.
  4. Cough or sneeze into your elbow.
  5. Spit your gum in the trash and not on the ground.
  6. Don’t pick your nose.

Staying Safe

  1. Forgive a bully but remember their name.
  2. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is.
  3. Buy the plunger before you need the plunger.
  4. ​​Look both ways before crossing the street.
  5. Ask before you pet someone’s dog in public.

What would you add to the list?

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