Toddler Etiquette: The Truly Rich Lady's Guide to Managing Your Children

Let these broad strokes be your quick-test when governing the sometimes ungovernable.

What is lovable but germy, a big ball of cute but also a big pain in the you-know-what?

Why, those two- to six-year old human beings, in the life stage right after I'm-a-helpless-thing and just before the beginnings of self-mastery.

Let us focus on these little people because, in a world where adults (the parents) can oftentimes be the babies, it’s best to instill correct and perfect etiquette while they are very young.

Now, I, the Truly Rich Lady, who is not a parent (yet), don’t want to call these rules, because parenting is a minefield of different opinions and I respect your unconventional style, Mrs. X, but let these broad strokes be your quick-test when governing the sometimes ungovernable.

May I introduce you to Rose? Oh, wait... Rose!

For toddlers, it’s just natural to be distracted. It is because of the pervasive wonder that invades their minds at all times (“What does this button do?”). That, however, is no excuse to not practice the foundation of all etiquette, a proper greeting. When little Rose fails to raise her head, make eye contact, and say her hellos because she is too busy with a doll or a doll on her iPad, call her attention. Let a bright greeting become standard practice.

Help! The thing is shouting! What do I do?

Quietly alert the nanny—if she hasn't already handled the situation. If by chance the nanny is taking her twice-a-day bathroom break, do not be afraid to break a fingernail and deal with this yourself. Disruptive behavior, like shouting, running, and fighting, should not be left unaddressed. How you do this is up to you, but may we suggest taking your toddler to somewhere quiet to explain why pulling his pants down in the cake shop was improper? And please don't make a scene.

I’d like to show you these pictures of my darling Ken.

Uh, yes. I looked at them yesterday and the day before that and the day before that, so is it okay if I go on with my life? Do read the room. If you think your companion is receptive to kids, provide daily digests. But if her eyes have glazed over from boredom, maybe do it only when there are milestones or if the photo is really cute. (For the record, I love toddlers with giant doggies! Show me.)

Is it okay to bring kids to a group vacation?

My Truly Rich Sibling once roped me into a quick seven-day trip to Tokyo (“Beautiful Si-si, please come. I will arrange everything. All you need to do is hop on the jet!”), where, upon settling in my hotel room, I found out that her invitation was really for the reason of helping mind her toddlers! It turned out to be the sweatiest week of my life. And I don’t sweat! If you are vacationing with a group and you insist that your toddlers come along, bring the nannies.

Well, what about dinner? Surely, yes!

Sure! But only if you or a representative is ready to mind your toddler or if your toddler has an advanced level of kiddie table manners. Usually, there will be a kids' table where they can play with mashed potatoes to their hearts' content. This is the best compromise for grown-up affairs with children. If you really want them at the adult's table, be ready to police every bite. Tip: If you do this, you won’t get to eat. Actually, just leave them at home. They won’t mind.


Can I talk in baby talk when talking to my toddler… in public?

Okay, but only if I don’t hear it.

Manners are hard to master! How do I even begin?

One true thing about toddlers is that their habits are influenced by what they see or, more specifically, who they see. So, if they witness a paragon of perfect manners in you, they will turn out that way, too. But let’s face it, we can’t be angels all the time. A terrible day can turn even the most genial person into a crabby monster, but when the toddler and his already sharp intuition walks into a room, the hot-headed grump should put on a smile.

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