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How to Raise an (Almost) Perfect Little Guest

7 Tips to Go from Awkward to Awesome

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A standout kid’s etiquette guide that moves beyond the basics of "please and thank you."
How to Raise an (Almost) Perfect Little Guest
Every parent wants to raise polished and polite children, and teaching them to say “Excuse me” and “I’m sorry” is a good start. But once kids nail the basics, it’s time to move on. Check out the potentially awkward situations below. And then read our tips to help your kid get it right every time.
Social situation 1: Playdate drop-off

Awkward behavior: Your child bangs on the front door, rings the bell repeatedly, and then races inside before he’s even invited to enter.

What the host is thinking: He’s going to be a handful.

How to fix it: Tell your child to ring the bell once (or knock twice), and then wait patiently for his cue to pass through the doorway. To slow your child down, place your hand on his shoulder as a gentle reminder.

Awesomeness rating: Come back again tomorrow!

Social situation 2: Dining with a bestie’s family

Awkward behavior: Ketchup drips down her chin. Milk forms a moustache. Your child chews with her mouth open or talks and chews at the same time.

What the host is thinking: Skip the next invitation.

How to fix it: At home, instruct your child to practice placing the napkin on her lap as soon as she sits at the table. Remind her to carefully wipe her mouth between bites and never talk mid-chew or mid-swallow.

Awesomeness rating: She’s restaurant ready.

Social situation 3: Unfamiliar food is on the menu.

Awkward behavior: He protests, wrinkles his nose, or even gags.

What the host is thinking: What a nightmare.

How to fix it: Confirm food preferences and strong aversions when your child accepts the invitation, but also tell your tot to reserve judgment. Coach him to say “Just a little bit, please” when something unknown is served. He should taste it and then eat what he likes.

Awesomeness rating: A 5-star foodie

Social situation 4: All over the place—and then some

Awkward behavior: He’s poking in drawers and rifling through the medicine cabinet.

What the host is thinking: Oh no! That’s personal!

How to fix it: Discuss privacy with your child and make sure he knows that closets, drawers, and closed doors are off-limits. If he needs to open a door or drawer, tell him he must ask for permission. Encourage him to practice at home or at Grandma’s.

Awesomeness rating: He’s trustworthy!

Social situation 5: You’re smart, but I’m smarter…and other conversation killers

Awkward behavior: Bragging or comparing cars, houses, or a parent’s salary

What the host is thinking: Who raised this kid?

How to fix it: Remind your child that boasting is out of line, at home with siblings or with playdates. Then check your own comments to make sure you’re not setting a poor example. Better still, catch your kid engaged in friendly conversations, such as when she pays a friend or sibling a compliment—and praise that behavior.

Awesomeness rating: A winning conversationalist

Social situation 6: When in Rome…

Awkward behavior: Eye rolling, mumbling, or other distracting behaviors—during grace at the table, before night-time prayers, or at story time

What the host is thinking: Well, this is uncomfortable.

How to fix it: Tell your kid that each family has its own traditions, and remind him again on the way out the door to a playdate or sleepover. Read books about families from other cultures, discuss their traditions, and answer his questions. As your child becomes more comfortable with different customs, he may be more willing to go along with them.

Awesomeness rating: A future world traveler

Social situation 7: The wind down

Awkward behavior: It’s time to clean up toys or clear the dinner plates, but she refuses.

What the host is thinking: Am I the maid?!

How to fix it: Picking up toys, folding blankets after a sleepover, and helping in the kitchen—without being prompted—are behaviors worth achieving. Teach your child through expectations at home. A child who makes her bed, empties the dishwasher, and feeds the dog will be more likely to pitch in as a guest.

Awesomeness rating: Being helpful is second nature!

How do you reward excellence or achievement?

Parents Talk Back
How do you reward excellence or achievement?
Praise or a pat on the back.
80% (37 votes)
An inexpensive gift or toy.
9% (4 votes)
A gift of substantial value.
7% (3 votes)
We do nothing—it’s expected.
4% (2 votes)
Total votes: 46