Good etiquette is part of being a good friend.

Etiquette Tips for Pre-Teens

by Christina Schnell

The transition from being a child to being a teenager can be challenging, especially as preteens arrange and attend more social engagements on their own. Having a sense of everyday etiquette is essential when it comes to developing strong friendships and interacting with peers and adults. Teaching your preteen a few basic etiquette tips helps her build a strong social skill foundation and personal awareness for the future.


Once your preteen invites someone somewhere, explain that it's never acceptable to disinvite that person. This rule applies to birthday party invitations, sleepovers or just getting together at the mall, according to the Emily Post website. It means that even if your preteen suddenly gets a better offer with another friend, or a third friend puts pressure on him to disinvite a particular peer, he must honor that commitment he made to the person he already invited and respect that person's feelings. Preteens must understand that disinviting someone is hurtful and poor manners. If your preteen receives an invitation from someone, he needs to reply to the invitation. If the invitation includes an RSVP that indicates how to respond and by when he needs to reply, he should respond accordingly. If the invitation is verbal or informal, he still needs to let the person inviting him know in a timely manner whether or not he is accepting the invitation. Let him know that it's inconsiderate to change his mind once he accepts an invitation; however, if he absolutely can no longer attend, he should tell the person who invited him as soon as he learns that he cannot attend. When he does this, he should apologize for any inconvenience and offer the reason he cannot attend.

Dining Etiquette

Your preteen should also understand dining etiquette so she knows what's appropriate and inappropriate when she's dining in various social situations. Make it clear to your preteen that she should always chew with her mouth closed and avoid making sounds and noises with her food, like slurping her soup. She also shouldn't eat as though she were a starving animal, stabbing at meat with her fork or shoveling peas into her mouth. She should ask others to pass food items rather than reaching over others for food. Negative comments about the food are also inappropriate. Let your preteen know that it is rude to keep cellphones on the table or to answer cellphones at the table. She should turn the sound down on her cellphone when dining with others and set it on vibrate. If she does have to take a call, she should excuse herself from the table to talk.

Introductions and Social Graces

Even if your preteen is shy, he should develop the habit of offering a friendly greeting, goodbye and thank-you when interacting with all adults and peers. Explain that while he doesn't have to carry on a long conversation with every person he meets, a smile and appropriately acknowledging others shows respect and appreciation, according to the Emily Post website. Encourage him to practice this at home, when a neighbor stops by or when his friend's parents come to pick him up.

Waiting and Patience

Whether waiting for a parent on the phone or the cafeteria server, preteens should understand the importance of waiting graciously. Sighing, cutting the line or interrupting someone when they're speaking to someone else, in person or on the phone, is inconsiderate and rude. Emphasize that graciously waiting means stepping back from the person for whom you're waiting, not intently staring at her. Set a good example yourself by waiting graciously when you're in line at the post office or doctor's office with your preteen.

About the Author

Christina Bednarz Schnell began writing full-time in 2010. Her areas of expertise include child development and behavior, medical conditions and pet health. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international relations.

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