04/22/2015 03:24 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Manners Revival: Respect the Elderly


Grandparents have the sweetest gig. They just get to spoil their grandchildren, right? Well, grandparents in the 21st century also have a completely different perspective on grandchildren than those of previous generations. Many think that kids are losing their ability to communicate with and respect their elders.

Why? Manners seem to be disappearing. Generally, kids probably don't spend as much time around older folks, talking at the dinner table or practicing manners as a family. But, there's no excuse for not trying to at least inform our children about how to respect older folks. That's why I'm starting a manners revival.

Please comment with manners that you think are important, below!

I spoke with Joyce Gray, above, a 70 year old grandmother from North Carolina who is lovingly called "Gigi" by her 7 grandchildren. Joyce is a thoughtful speaker with a soft and proper southern drawl that makes you want to listen. She comes from the old guard of southern hospitality and strongly believes that practicing good manners is a necessity for families now as much as it was when she was growing up.

She says that:

"We help our children do homework; we ferry them back and forth so they can practice sports; we insist they practice their instruments if they happen to be taking music, and yet many children and young people don't practice good manners or even think about them."

Joyce offered me her take on what kids should be practicing to be respectful of the elderly and, well, let's just say that my manners could use a little brushing up, too. These manners aren't just to appease cranky old-fashioned grandparents, they're to make navigating life more effective and pleasant over the long haul.

  • Lead by example. If we're being courteous and respectful, they'll at least know what it looks like
  • Introduce the use of "please" and "thank you" and sitting up straight while eating at home
  • Instruct kids to use "yes, please," "yes/no, sir/ma'am," "no, thank you," and "excuse/pardon me"
  • Speak politely to the elderly and use proper language around them
  • Do not use electronics when your elderly relative is talking to you
  • Look your elderly relatives in the eyes
  • Ask thoughtful questions and respond with with thoughtful answers
  • If an elderly person enters the room, get up and offer your seat
  • Open and hold doors and assist elderly people whenever you can
  • If you see an older person drop something, pick it up and hand it back
  • Call on their birthday and wedding anniversary; being old is special
  • Call your grandparents occasionally just to talk
  • Respond to elderly family on social media and cell phones even if it's just with an emoji

Practicing manners should be part of each day just like singing songs, getting exercise and reading books. Surely you can find five minutes at bed time or bath time to talk about one example of courtesy. One short discussion each night would give your kids 365 chances to learn how to be a better person each year. If we all make an effort to make our children better people, maybe the world will be a better place when we're the elderly.

In fact, respecting the elderly is just the tip of the manners iceberg so you can expect to hear a lot more on the manners revival from me, soon.