Age-Appropriate Etiquette

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Good manners aren't just for grown-ups - but all manners aren't for all ages. Parents encourage their preschoolers, for example, to say "please" and "thank you," but wouldn't expect them to hang up Grandma's coat, use an escargot fork, or discreetly inform a snack-time tablemate that he has celery string stuck between his teeth. Or should they? To understand age-appropriate etiquette, we enlisted the help of two local etiquette experts: Cathi Fallon, owner of Magnificent Manners, and Jo Ann Lohne, owner of The Etiquette School of Columbus. Here's where they say children should be manners-wise - and when.

Realistic Rules

Age 3

  • EATING: Stay seated during a meal and use a fork, spoon and napkin.
  • GREETING: Say "please," "thank you" and "hello" while making eye contact. Lohne says that a child, even this young, "shouldn't have to hide behind Mommy and Daddy" when meeting other people if properly instructed ahead of time about who they'll be meeting.
  • GROOMING: Wash hands before and after a meal. As with all good manners, Fallon says, parental role-modeling is a must.

Age 6

  • EATING: Hold a napkin in the lap, thank the cook and make no negative comments about the food. Lohne recommends storybooks like Manners by popular children's author Aliki to help children visualize situations, like a meal, that require good manners.
  • GREETING: Greet someone by his or her full name and with a pleasantly firm handshake. Also reasonable, says Fallon, is to ask the child to remain focused on that person and answer any questions he or she might ask.
  • GROOMING: Wash hands and face before and after meals and after every trip to the bathroom.

Age 9

  • EATING: Wait to begin eating until an adult has, chew with mouth closed and don't talk with mouth full, participate in the dinner conversation.
  • GREETING: Stand when an adult enters the room and initiate a greeting.
  • GROOMING: Tidy up bedrooms and bathrooms after use.

Age 12

  • EATING: Eat at least one bite of any new food and sit with good posture. And use a knife blade, not one's fingers, to push food onto a fork or spoon, says Fallon.
  • GREETING: Be able to act as a parent's co-host in social situations by greeting and conversing with guests, putting away coats and offering refreshments.
  • GROOMING: Understand that first impressions are important, says Lohne: Any job offer, whether to baby-sit or run a Fortune 500 company, may well hinge on a respectfully tidy appearance.

For more information:

Magnificent Manners, 614-459-2158,

The Etiquette School of Columbus, 614-214-4480