Parents, Don't Forget To Teach Your Teens How To Tip Well And Clean Up After Themselves In Public

by Karen Johnson
Parents, Don't Forget To Teach Your Teens How To Tip Well And Clean Up After Themselves In Public: T...
Sarah Casillas/Getty

Tie your shoes.

Zip your coat.

Wipe your butt.

Wash your hands.

Chew with your mouth closed.

Say please and thank you.

Hold the door for the person behind you.


The list of things we have to teach our kids in order to mold them into decent, functional members of society is endless. Far beyond their ABCs and how to write their name (or in later years, how to drive or manage money), we also have to teach them how to simply be good people. And not just at home when they’re at the dinner table. And not just in school as they sit at their desks, raising their hand or on the playground, inviting the new kid to play.

We have to teach our kids how to behave in all public settings—and basically, how to not be entitled jerks. Unfortunately, it appears that a lot of parents have missed the memo on this part of parenting and have raised kids who leave trash on the floor or disgusting disasters in hotel rooms (because “it’s the custodian’s and housekeeping staff’s job to clean it up”). And they raise kids who leave their popcorn buckets and soda cups in movie theaters, even though there is a trash can on the way out. And who disrespect restaurant waitstaff by leaving horrific messes at their table, speaking rudely, making unfair demands, and leaving little to no tip. The most depressing part is that usually kids who act like little douchebags learn it from the bigger douchebags raising them. Because if you see your dad demean a waitress, guess what? You might grow up to demean waitresses. Hmmmm.

Recently, however, an employee at Red Dog Saloon in Milford, MI shared a positive story that has renewed hope in us all. It’s a story of a group of 6th grade boys who acted like—get this—kind, well-mannered kids in public.

“Today my faith in future generations was restored!!” the waitress writes in a now-viral Facebook post. “I had 7, 6th grade boys come in while I was working and they wanted to order wings.”

She goes on to admit that even she hesitated at first, wondering if these young kids had enough money to cover the bill and questioned where their parents were.

“I asked if they were alone and they said yes and we’ve been looking forward to this for weeks!” she goes on to say.

And this group of tween boys—enjoying a privilege they’d obviously been looking forward to, a privilege they’d obviously earned—did not take it for granted.

She continues: “They were so excited and were EXTREMELY polite the whole entire time, using please and thank you and trying to make it as easy as possible for me to get their order; they even told me they’d tip well 😂. One of the boys even told his friend to get off the phone when I was talking to them! It was so heartwarming to see how much they were trying, especially when there were no parents around to scold them if they weren’t on their best behavior. They were so good that a neighboring customer ended up picking up their tab and telling them to pay it forward! I just wanted to give a big props to the parents of these boys — keep doing what you’re doing!!”

And then she closes her post with a picture of how neat and tidy the kids left the table — far better than many adults would.

This is how it’s done, parents. This waitress, and all service employees, deserve to hear please and thank you. And although her job is to take food orders, bring meals, and clear dishes away, she’s still a human being who deserves respect.

We have to add this to the list.

Tie your shoes.

Wipe your butt.

Wash your hands.

Hold the door for the person behind you.

Also, when someone brings you food, look them in the eye and say thank you.

When you are done eating, tidy up after yourself.

If you drop something on the floor, pick it up. Find a trash can. Throw it away.

Basically, do not act like an entitled asshole.

And parents, it starts with us. When our kids are little and we take them to see Frozen at the movie theater, they notice if we carry out our trash or just leave it to be someone else’s problem. If we we stop at Applebees and we have to wait a few extra minutes for our food, or if the waitress forgets to bring us a soda, they are watching how we respond. Do we berate her? Or do we kindly say, “Excuse me, can I get my soda when you have a chance? Thank you so much.”

If you have a tween or a teen who drops food on the floor and grinds it into the carpet with their shoe, laughing at the fact that the restaurant employees will have to clean it up, your kid is a douchebag and you haven’t done your job.

If you have a high school senior or college kid who trashes a hotel room and takes no accountability for how vile their behavior is, your kid is a douchebag and you haven’t done your job.

Because at some point in their childhood, someone in your family dropped food or garbage on the ground. And your child watched your reaction. At some point in their childhood, your child learned how to treat service workers when they go out into the world. They learned how to speak to cashiers and waitstaff. They learned how to treat custodians and housekeeping staff. They learned it from you.

They watched you pick up that piece of trash off the floor as your family finished eating, and they watched you throw it away. They watched you leave a couple bucks and a “thank you” note to the housekeeping staff at a hotel.

Or they didn’t.

Instead, they saw you completely ignore the mess you and your family had made. They watched you leave shitty tips for hard-working waitstaff who are at the mercy of the cooks in the kitchen and usually have no control over how fast your precious food gets placed in front of you. They heard you make comments about how it’s “their job” to clean up after you as your way of justifying being a dick. And now your kids are dicks.

So I’d like to shout out a huge KUDOS and do a slow clap to the parents of these 6th grade (sixth grade) boys who know better and do better than many adults. Who understand how to conduct themselves out in the world. Who already, at age 12, are good, decent, respectful humans.

Also, as a society, let’s keep catching kids being good and bragging about them when they do things like this. Tweens and teens too often get a bad rap, when in actuality, there are groups of kids just like this one who are trying to go out into the world, order some chicken wings, and prove that they’re kind. We need to let them.