Should I Be the Manners Police? -- Ask Mrs Manners

manners and etiquette

Photo by sstepph

The toddler years are the perfect age to start teaching your kids manners and good habits. And MrsManners aka: Angela Pitre, owner of the CM group Manners for the Modern Family and, is here to help.

Dear MrsManners:

I'd love to know how to deal with manners situations involving other people's children. I have several friends who interact with their children very differently from the way I do with mine, and I always wonder where to draw the line (especially when I'm alone with their children!). -- tyheamma

MrsManners says:

We all have our own unique way of parenting. It is what makes society so fascinating. If we all did everything the same way, we'd be pumping out the same kids everywhere, right?


While individuality is grand, there are and should be a common set of "rules" that we all follow to live in harmony. Those would be called "manners." That said, I believe everyone should have three different sets of manners -- Here, There, and Formalwhere.

Here -- The rules and standards that you set in your home.

There -- The basic rules of etiquette set by society and that should be taught to children regardless of what your Here manners are: please, thank you, you're welcome, making eye contact, listening when spoken to, etc.

Formalwhere -- Used when dining with Heads of State (and are pretty irrelevant when talking about most toddlers). 

While getting everyone to follow the Here and There philosophy is one of my life goals, we're not there ... yet. In the meantime, here are some basic rules to follow when dealing with other people's not-so-mannerly children:

Kids visiting your home. They should follow your house rules. Begin by explaining what the rules are and that they are expected to follow them just like your own children.

Caring for other kids in a neutral space. You are limited in what you can say and do when at shopping centers or other public places. It's still fine to encourage proper manners -- saying things like "Our family likes to say 'please' when we ask for something" would be acceptable, but demanding it would be harder because you are forced to stop short of disciplining the child.

Caring for other kids in their home. Do your best to follow the rules that are laid out for them in their home. It's totally acceptable to ask your friend or family member what those rules are before watching their child. But your child should still follow your own rules because you are with them.

Parents and kids in another home. You can't parent for someone else.  At the end of the day, these parents are going to do things their way and we have to respect that. It is okay to open up a dialogue about your differences as long as you are not doing it in a condescending manner. For example, ask a question like "Do you think manners are important in a child's developmental process?"  Maybe understanding where a parent is coming from can help alleviate some of the tension. 


It can be challenging to have a friend who is so different that you are constantly at odds with parenting styles. I've found that women tend to end up spending time around other like-minded moms because it's just easier. But keep holding the manners torch! The best case is that you are a positive influence in someone else's life.



Got a question for MrsManners? Leave it here or PM her, and she'll answer it in a future column ...


Past Ask Mrs Manners columns:

Should You Force Etiquette?

Making Embarrassing Comments

Taking Other Kids' Food

Dealing with Trash Talk

Refusing to Pick Up Toys

Dining Out With Toddlers

Attention, Please!

Spoiling vs. Nurturing

Strangling the Dog

Please Don't Interrupt!

10 Signs Your Toddler Is a Brat

Banish the Burp

Should Kids Be Forced to Share Toys?

Winging the Pacifier

Should Parents Say 'Thank You'?

Toddlers Eating Everything

Throwing-Obsessed Toddlers

Are You a Hypocrite?

Pushy Toddlers

Taming the Messy Eater

How to Have Well Behaved Toddlers

My Son Won't Stop Touching Other Moms' Breasts!

Is Shyness Impolite?

Stop Peer Pressure Early

Read More >