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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Co-Worker's Sweet Treats Inspire a Slightly Sour Response

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Whether dining out with friends and their families, or joining in a congregational dinner where you might be dining with folks you are just meeting, many parents allow their children to be on their hand-held devices during the entire dinner, while my grade-school son tries to make conversation with the kids -- to his credit, but mostly to no avail.

Granted, some of these are teenagers. Is there anything polite you think that we can say when this happens again to change the dynamic in the moment? Maybe there is a polite request to make in advance. What about asking if we can hold off on the electronic devices until after dessert?

GENTLE READER: You did such a good job of teaching your own child to make conversation instead of bitcoin deals that it is a shame that you cannot politely issue instructions to other people's children.

It is also a shame that he gets stuck with mannerless teenagers (whom Miss Manners refuses to grant an age-based -- or any other -- excuse). You might try asking the hosts loudly where they want the young people to park their devices.

If this fails to encourage other parents to direct their children to do as your son will do, you should draw him into the adult conversation. (This is presuming that there is electronic-less adult conversation, and that these dinner parties are not like study halls.)

That will serve him well in future situations -- such as college interviews. And if it annoys the other parents to listen to his opinions or have him listen to theirs, then perhaps they will think more about instructing their own children on how to behave in company.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

Read more in: Teens | Etiquette & Ethics