Sure, you love the freedom that (sometimes) comes with dropping your kindergartner off at a birthday party or playdate. But maybe you also feel a twinge of anxiety — what if he unwittingly commits a social faux pas, like eating with his mouth wide open or blurting out comments like “Why is that kid so fat?”
As school-agers start making more forays into public without parents, it’s important that they take their manners with them. “Manners make life more enjoyable,” says Louise Fox, owner of Etiquette Ladies in Toronto. “We get treated better by others if we treat them well.” Here’s how to make sure that happens.
Well before Start right now — even if there’s no outing on the calendar. Help your child understand the general rules of civility and why we need them. “If you’ve instilled basic manners, they’ll be polite without thinking,” says Fox. Regularly remind your child to say hello and goodbye, please, thank you and excuse me. Explain that it’s rude to ask adults their age or root through someone’s stuff. Encourage them to use these skills when you’re with them in public, but be cautious: Constantly being asked “What’s the magic word?” in front of others can be embarrassing for kids.
And since kids actually learn most social rules by watching, be sure you’re modelling good manners yourself.
Right before When your child gets an invitation, talk to him about specifics. If it’s a home-based birthday party, go through a couple of things that might be an issue, such as accepting the food put in front of him and staying in the public parts of the house (checking out the parents’ bedroom is a no-no). If it’s an outing to the zoo, you might have your child practise asking to go to the bathroom and not asking for something from the gift shop. Try to avoid overwhelming him with rules; talk about your expectations in a positive way, for example, “I know you’ll remember to say thank you to Ava’s mom.”
If your child is shy, role-play saying hello to her hosts. If she tends to be rambunctious, suggest she wiggle her toes and count to 10 before getting up from her seat during the movie.
You can also help your child succeed by giving him details in advance, such as how he’s getting home. Let the hosts know if he has strong fears that might impact his behaviour or needs. And send him off with a full tummy or an empty bladder so he won’t need to ask about food or bathrooms right away.
Afterward When the outing is over, ask your child if thanked his hosts, and be sure to congratulate him if he did. After all, good manners beget good manners!