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Modern Manners + Etiquette: Parents’ Playground Etiquette & More

Saturday, September 01, 2012


Sometimes it's the adults on the playground who get into trouble--are you prepared with the best response? Photo: danorth1/flickr

Etiquette questions about playground manners for parents (not kids), being late, keeping in touch with family members at college, and house guest rules for family, were all a concern this week at Didi Lorillard's NewportManners.com.

Dear Didi,
What is the etiquette when you see another parent overreacting to their four-year-old's behavior on the playground? As mothers of two of the four year-old's friends, we jumped in and told the kid's father off. The argument that ensued was far more intense than the incident itself. His boy didn't hurt either of our boys. The father told his son to stop shoving and the kid didn't obey him. Then the father wouldn't stop loudly berating his kid in front of everyone. We threatened to call the police if he mistreated his son again. He is in the military but that shouldn't justify the way he humiliated his son. He left the playground in a huff. Were we wrong to interfere?  J.M., Newport

Dear J.M.,
The big picture is that you three grownups are role models and by adamantly arguing in front of your children, you're teaching them how to solve problems the wrong way. A friendly debate is more civilized. It was wrong of the father to humiliate his son in front of the other children. Many military fathers suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and bring the war home to their families. This dad should have taken his son outside the playground and talked to him gently about why shoving won't make him friends. Instead, he got your goat and you and your friend came to the child's defense—but not to his rescue. If you find yourself in a similar situation again, one of you should mind the children while the other invites the parent to step aside out of earshot and talk. Special programs are finally available for rescuing military parents with PTSD.   ~Didi

Dear Didi,
What about being late? Is that no longer rude? I did not see it in your list of Don'ts.  A.S., Chicago

Dear A.S. ,
Very good catch. How late one can show up depends upon the occasion. Professionally, you should always be on time. Five minutes late is late. Ten minutes late is too late. Time is money.

It's different in social situations. For instance, the average early evening reception or cocktail party runs about two hours. Unless you are the guest of honor, you wouldn't stay for longer than an hour and a half. Hosts don't want everyone arriving and leaving at exactly the same time. If, however, you are invited for dinner at a restaurant, you would need to be on time because the other guests would be fed up at not having been fed—or not seated—until you arrived: your tardiness could annoy the rest of the party. The same applies, if you are having dinner at someone's house. Many dinner invitations will state cocktails at seven and dinner at eight which is good to know when you need some leeway. You can arrive somewhat late for cocktails, but not for dinner. When meeting one's friend for dinner, lunch, drinks, or a cup of coffee, it is extremely rude to keep the friend waiting more than five minutes. Being late signals to the friend that you are dysfunctional, self-absorbed, inconsiderate, and not a good friend. You know what they say, friends don't keep friends waiting. Look at it this way: if you're late, you pick up the check.  ~Didi

Dear Didi,
We took our son to college. Our daughter is pretty good at keeping in touch, but boys don't call home. How can we get him to call now that he's left home?  S.H., Springfield, MA

Dear S.H.,
Boys will be boys and he won't think that you need to hear from him. Try as you might, aside from withholding debit card infusions, the only way to get E.T. or any young adult to call home is to give them a weekly task that becomes routine. For instance, make Sunday your contact day. If he doesn't call you by six o'clock, text him to find out when you can call him. Get him in the habit of knowing you expect him to call, say, every Sunday. They only want to talk to you when they want to talk to you, so it's best to wait for the call or text. Chances are he'll text/call you first. ~Didi

Dear Didi,
What are the rules of etiquette for invited house guests when this is your family?  D.B., Martha's Vineyard, MA

Dear D.B.,
Being a house guest isn't easy. Etiquette is all about being respectful to others. Whether house guests are family or not, it would be considerate for house guests to remember the following: communicate to your host the exact time of your arrival AND departure. Be a self-sustaining guest who does not need to be entertained 24/7. Go out and do activities on your own. Offer to help with the dishes and pitch in with the chores. Pay for a meal or two, depending upon how long you are visiting, either by purchasing groceries and cooking a meal or inviting your host out to breakfast, lunch or dinner. Before leaving be sure to take the sheets and pillow cases off your bed and fold them and your towels, leaving them at the foot of your bed (unless you are instructed otherwise). Remember to call your host when you get home to thank them again for a wonderful visit -- even if you're family. That is especially important if you didn't bring a house present.  ~Didi

Didi Lorillard researches shifting etiquette at NewportManners.com by answering questions on relationship dilemmas, wedding etiquette, dress codes and manners. Or find Didi on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, or Pinterest after reading her earlier GoLocal columns, some of which are listed below.


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