Mom Etiquette: 10 Things Every Mom Should Know

I often find myself thinking, “they (ie other moms) should know better than that,” or “isn’t that a little rude?”, or “I can’t believe they think that’s cool.” Maybe since I’m older, I was raised when there were certain social graces that everyone knew how to follow. But now, many moms behave in ways that I can’t always tolerate. Here are ten ways to tactfully manage your child’s social interactions:

1. Party Etiquette: If your child is invited to a children’s birthday party, some reciprocity is expected (especially if your child attends the party). If they invite you, you should invite them. Yes, I know some parents need to keep parties small for financial reasons, but if that’s the case, have a party in your backyard or basement. Kids just want to run and have fun.

Please RSVP to the party invitations as soon as possible. Don’t show up without an RSVP: If you don’t know if you can make it, let them know as soon as you can. Parents hosting the party don’t know how many party bags to make etc. If you RSVP to say you’re coming, then come! If an emergency arises, call the other parent to let them know as soon as possible. Also, if your child is invited to a party, that doesn’t mean all his siblings can attend too. The invitation is for the child whose name is on the envelope. If it is an electronic invitation that is sent to the parents’ email, clarify which child or children must attend.

If your child is attending a birthday party, don’t show up empty-handed. A gift is expected (unless donations are requested to a charity instead). There are plenty of gifts under $5 that kids are happy with. Browse the dollar store as a last resort.

2. Play Date Etiquette – Play dates should also be reciprocated. If you can’t arrange a playdate at home, go to the park.

If another mom asks if you want a playdate, contact her right away. Don’t leave them hanging wondering if it’s a yes or a no. If you don’t know her hours, tell her.

If you have a young child, always offer to stay for the playdate, especially if your child has separation anxiety or you know they may be a “handful.”

3. Playground Etiquette – Younger children must have a parent or babysitter present while on the playground. If your child needs help with the equipment, the parent or babysitter should be the one to help, not the other moms or dads. I have seen some parents and babysitters let the kids run free on the playground while they sit and talk on their cell phone completely ignorant of what is going on. Once, while in the inner courtyard of a mall, a little boy sat with us for 15 minutes (I gave him a snack because he asked for it) and the babysitter was nowhere to be found. She had no idea who the child belonged to, but eventually a young woman who looked embarrassed came to claim the child. This was a small enough playground that if she was there, she would have seen it with us (I guess she had some shopping to do, ahem!)

4. Don’t gossip about other kids to other moms. Gossip is downright bad no matter who it is. If you have a real problem with a certain child, call his mother directly and discuss it. No one else needs to know or hear about the problem.

5. Don’t tell other moms how to raise their children. If you have a problem with another child and you need to tell her mother about it, do so tactfully. What works for one child may not necessarily work for another, so she skips the part about how she would handle it herself or what she does with her child. Chorus of lecturing other moms about how she enforces the rules, how she requires them to eat their meals, etc. The vast majority of mothers do a completely adequate job of raising their children. Unless you are genuinely concerned about the welfare of a child, don’t get involved.

6. Do not comment on another child’s physical appearance. This is common sense, right? Apparently not for some people. Please refrain from commenting on how tall another child is, how short another child is, how heavy or skinny a child is, etc. Chances are if a child is too big or too small, it could be something the mother and/or child are sensitive about. Your comments only state the obvious and lead to embarrassment or hurt feelings. Keep it to yourself!

7. Do not discipline other children. If you are at the park or in an area where a lot of children are playing, and a child does something that is clearly not right, do your best to find her mom and discuss it. If you can’t find the other mother, gently approach the child and say, “Honey, my son/daughter doesn’t like being pushed, can you be a little nicer to him/her?” or “My son just got that bike for Christmas and it’s not ready for anyone else to ride yet.” In fact, I was in a park when a child started riding another child’s bike and the mother of the bike owner yelled, “THIS IS NOT YOUR BIKE, GET OFF!” On another occasion, I heard a mother tell a child (not hers) “you have to learn to share”, the child’s mother was sitting there and raised her eyebrows at the comment. I know there are times when you want the mother of a child to take certain steps, but that doesn’t give you the right to take those steps for them.

8. Don’t punish your own child in front of other children (or parents). Yes, I know there are times when you need to tell your child to stop doing something, but whenever possible, step aside and say so quietly. Constantly yelling or scolding your child in public can give other children “license” to do the same. This can lead to other children ganging up on yours or other parents labeling your child a troublemaker. Another option for less urgent matters is to bring it up and discuss it once he is home alone. Similarly, don’t announce to others that your child is grounded or “in trouble.” If punishing is part of your discipline, simply tell others that your child will not be able to attend that day.

9. Don’t brag. Period. If someone asks you about one of her child’s accomplishments, she answers honestly and doesn’t embellish. I realize that parents (and grandparents) feel like they’ve earned bragging rights, but it’s annoying and makes other parents and kids feel inferior. Actually, that’s one of the reasons other kids may not want to hang out with yours. Your child’s achievements will stand on their own. Teach your child not to brag…he will be more respected if he doesn’t constantly sing his own praises.

Similarly, don’t brag to other parents about all the parties, play dates, or fun things your child is doing or going to do. Teach your child not to talk about play dates or parties with other children. If the child they are talking to is not invited, they feel hurt: no one likes to be left out. This not only hurts the child, it also hurts the mother.

10. If your child is going to the movies, the pool, or anywhere else admission is charged (even if invited by another child), send them with enough money to cover admission and perhaps a snack. Unless it’s a party, don’t assume the other parent will cover the cost. They may turn down the money, but you should always offer.

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