August 7, 2011

“Where IS Your Mother?” an Interview on Toddler Etiquette


As parents, it’s always difficult to teach our children social graces, especially when our kids are toddlers. I wanted to make certain I was on the right track and teaching my two toddlers, ages one and two, etiquette skills that would hold them in good stead for the rest of their lives. So who better steer us in the right direction than the author of “Where IS Your Mother?” Ava Carroll-Brown.  This book is available at Amazon, to view it please click here: Where IS Your Mother?: A Simple and Suggestive Guide to Basic Etiquette and Simple Grace

Q. So Ava, can you please tell the readers what inspired you to write this book?
A. We are living in a high tech world and many people, myself included, feel that it is time to get back to the basics… with basic etiquette and simple grace at the top of the list.

Q. How early should parents start teaching their children about etiquette?
A. When a child begins to understand the words yes and no, they are ready.

Q. What should a toddler’s first lesson in etiquette be?
A. Please and thank you, which goes hand in hand with patience.

Q. How should parents go about reinforcing these lessons in etiquette with their children?
A. Be consistent.


Q. What basics of etiquette should parents be teaching their toddlers at mealtimes?
A. When at the table, one sits and eats the food placed before him. The table is not playtime.

Q. Should toddlers be helping their parents to set the table?
A. Most definitely at EVERY meal. Teach the toddlers how and where to place the utensils, plates, napkins and glassware, reminding them the use of each piece.

Q. What is an effective way to teach toddlers to eat with their utensils properly?
A. Always place utensils (The spork is the first followed by the fork and spoon) in the toddlers meal space and encourage the proper way to hold the utensil, get the food on the utensil and then get the food into their mouths. An example is great and in the beginning assistance is needed. Start with easy foods – breakfast: scrambled eggs, pancakes, oatmeal. Lunch: Mac & Cheese, cut up hot dogs, etc. Dinner: carrots, chicken pieces, broccoli heads, green beans, etc. Food items that can be scooped up on the utensil and will make it into their mouths.

Q. At mealtimes, how do you reinforce to toddlers not to reach for anything on the table, but to ask to have it passed?
A. Teaching the lesson of ‘your space – my space’ which simply means that what is on my plate is mine – what is on a serving plates must be requested…nicely. Also the ‘my space – your space’ lesson says that it is never proper or polite to take something from anyone else’s plate. This lesson also carries into school.


Q. How should parents encourage their children to practice their manners in play date settings when their little playmates do not adhere to the same principles of etiquette?
A. Consistency in the lesson and continuing to remind the child that his good manners make mommy and daddy happy and proud will combat the “he didn’t play nice, why should I question”.

Q. Can you please share from your book, some simple ways to teach small kids to play nice and share with their friends?
A. Express the importance of sharing by reminding the kids that these toys will be returned to the child at the end of the play date. Tell the kids that sharing makes everyone happy and remind the child how happy he is when someone shares with him. Playing nice needs to be encouraged – pushing and fighting makes us sad so, again, consistency in the lessons and give reminders when a situation occurs, eventually these lessons will be learned.

The Art of Interacting

Q. What is the best way to ensure toddlers know the proper way of greeting people? How do parents manage greetings when their toddler is shy and not wanting to engage with others?
A. As a toddler, this lesson can begin when another child enters the space of your toddler. Parents need to make an introduction – ‘Jimmy, this is Suzie’ or ‘Do you remember Suzie?’… As the child gets older, continue the introductions and encourage them to use their words – say Hi to Suzie… this lesson may take longer to learn for some than others, but never stop the encouragement; eventually, the words will flow from the mouth of the toddler, short and sweet or a lengthy chatter.

Q. Should parents teach their toddlers the art of correspondence? And if so, what are some age appropriate ways of doing it when the children are too young to be able to write?
A. At most stationery stores, there are fill in the blank thank you notes for young children in which they can print their name or follow instruction to print letters of the alphabet. For those children that are just too young to print, having the child draw or color a pretty picture for a specific person is a great first step of correspondence – and when the piece of art is presented, encourage the child to use his words when giving the art to the person and perhaps a few words about the piece of art.

Q. Is it too early to teach toddlers the basics of polite telephone conversation?
A. To a toddler under the age of 2, a telephone may be perceived as just another toy, but parents should point out the difference between mommy/daddy’s phone and his phone. At age 3, many toddlers can be taught to press one button of the phone and one number that has been pre-set for emergency. Sounds unbelievable but there are reports of toddlers doing just that and saving the day. Picking up a toddler’s phone and pretending that a call is coming in and using the proper words to answer, over and over again, is the first step of polite telephone conversation. Also pretending that grandparents or a parent is calling and giving the phone to the toddler and encouraging the words of the conversation politely is step number. Be consistent…it works.

Being Polite

Q. How can parents and caregivers encourage toddlers to say please and thank you?
A. Consistency and repetition… when you hand a child anything, always ask ‘what do you say’ or repeat the word ‘please’ and the child will eventually say please. When the child takes an item from your hand or gives you an item, you repeat the words thank you and eventually, the child will do the same. REPEAT, REPEAT – CONSISTENCY IS THE KEY!

Q. What can parents do to dissuade their toddlers to not interrupt mom or dad when they are on the phone, unless it’s an emergency?
A. Simply address the situation remembering that an emergency to a child may not be an emergency to you – Excuse yourself from the conversation, look at the child and say quietly, ‘I am on the phone – please be patient’. If the child persists, again, excuse yourself from the conversation, ask what the emergency is (using the word emergency). Address the issue if it is an emergency – if not, instruct the child that you are on the phone and you will address the request when you are finished.
When you are finished, again, explain the word, EMERGENCY… eventually, the child will learn that the phone on mommy’s ear is not a growth and he must be patient… again, the important thing here is consistency!

Q. How do you get toddlers to not comment on other people’s physical characteristics unless, of course, it’s to compliment them?
A. Unfortunately, it is difficult to completely control the innocent words from a child’s mouth but there are some quick save comments that can lighten the situation. First, kids are like parrots and they will repeat the words heard from their parents and others at any time. So, as a parent be very careful of what you say. Second, when out in public, if comments are made about anyone or anything; make those comments positive – never negative. Example: What a beautiful dress that lady is wearing. What a handsome little boy. Look how nicely that the girl is playing in the play area… Always positive and good comments so when the toddler uses his words, his mind will only be filled with positive thoughts.

Q. What are some practical ways to teach a toddler to have empathy for others?
A. First by example and most importantly by reminding the child at any given opportunity how good it makes one feel if they are kind and considerate of others.

Social Settings

Q. How do you get your toddler to sit quietly during concerts or church?
A. Start taking the child to these functions early in age and always sit on the end seats. Remember that they are toddlers and their attention span is not very long, especially if their little fingers are not busy. Quiet books and gold fish often work well. But if they do not want to sit quietly, get up and leave the space…then try it again. Practice makes perfect and eventually, toddlers attending adult functions will be a nice experience for all.

Q. How can caregivers and parents teach toddlers to be gracious in defeat when playing sports or games?
A. This is a hard one but it can be done. Remember, the child reacts from the energy of the parents and surrounding people. Positive or negative, the energy comes from the team parents, older siblings and coaches. When the toddler is interacting with others win or loose ALWAYS congratulate the sport or game. Great game – you played so well.

Encourage the child to approach the opposing team members and congratulate the game or sport. And when the comments come back to mom and dad that, ‘I wish we would have won’… parents, with a smile will say, “it was a great game – you did so well and we are so proud of you…”

Final Thoughts

Q. Can you give the readers any parting words of wisdom to encourage them as they attempt to teach their children the fine art of etiquette?
A. Always be consistent – repetition of a lesson is the key. Teach by example – busy or not, it only takes a few minutes to teach your child the basics of etiquette and simple grace. These lessons are not time consuming – like any good lesson they may take time to learn but throughout a day, there are many opportunities to teach the lessons…Busy world or not, the kids will always look up to their parents to learn!



Biography of Ava Carroll-Brown:

Ava Carroll-Brown and her design company, Brownstone Place, are one of the most sought after entities in the nation. Brown has over 30 years of experience skillfully and flawlessly planning elegant affairs throughout the nation as well as amongst Hollywood’s elite. Brown has worked with many A-list celebrities including Mel Gibson and his daughter, Hannah Mae, Kenny Wayne Sheppard; actor Mark Feuerstein, producer Dana Klein; MLB All-Star Mike Lieberthal, multi-NBA Championship winner and Sacramento Kings coach, Mario Elie, and news anchor Gina Gaston, to name a few. Brown meets any challenge with open arms: whether she is designing the bride’s million-dollar jewelery or coordinating wedding singer Hugh Jackman! She has a meticulous eye for detail and her passion has lead her down many paths including becoming a contributing writer for national publications and an annual columnist for Ceremony Magazine. Brown has been recognized in publications including In Style, Los Angeles Magazine, Grace Ormonde’s Wedding Style, Town and Country and Ceremony Magazine.


  1. Great post! I’m a firm believer of teaching my son social etiquette. “Please” and “Thank You’s” are so important.

  2. I love the tips to encourage your toddler to say please and thank you. They imitate you in whatever you do.

  3. Thank you so much to you and Ava. This post is so relevant to my current situation.

    You hit all the scenarios that my sister-in-law is struggling with. My 4-year-old niece is having a hard time sharing with her 2-year-old sister. She tends to get very loud when her parents talk on the phone. I will pass these tips along.

    Mila your new follower at

  4. Fantastic post! I am a really big believer of teaching toddlers etiquette and it is really sad to find that many parents just don’t teach it. In our home we still say yes or no M’am or Sir. We always say Please and thank you. We try to speak in slow tones, little things like that. It’s SO nice that you posted this as a reminder that it is never too early.
    Following you from Blog Hop til You Drop!

    • Thanks Jacqueline! Sometimes it feels like hubby and I are being repetitive in an attempt to teach our kids manners, but when I hear our two year old daughter say please and thank you without prompting, it makes it all worthwhile!-)

  5. super cute blog!

    I am your newest GFC follower from the hop!
    would love for you to follow back and say hi!

  6. What an insightful author and book. I truly enjoyed the interview and am in the midst of all of this – teaching manners, setting the table, and hoping for all hope we don’t have a public innocent toddler hurting some unsuspecting person’s feelings.

    Dropping off some love from the Wild Weekend Hop. <3

    Smile and Mama With Me

    • It’s great to know that I’m not in this boat by myself. My kids are so curious that I also don’t want an incident where they end up hurting someone’s feelings. The other day we were in the check out line and my daughter turns to the guy who was bagging our groceries and says, “You don’t have any hair!” Thank goodness he was such a good sport, he agreed with her, and turned the conversation back around to tell her that she has beautiful hair. It’s so hard to manage what comes out of a toddlers mouth, but I’m not giving up trying to teach her that it’s wonderful to be curious but we always have to be thoughtful about what we say!

  7. Great ideas! Toddlers are smart little people!

    New GFC follower from the blog hops! Stop on by when you can!

    • How true! It’s so awesome and intimidating that we get the privilege of teaching our smart little people to be smart well rounded big people! I’m now following you too!-)

  8. HI!!,

    I found you on the My Adventures in Mommy-hood Blog Hop. I am looking forward to reading your blog posts.
    I look forward to your visit.

    Lioness –

  9. new follower from blog hop would love a follow back

  10. What great advice! Thanks for linking up for the Wild Wednesday Hop! Hope you’re having a great week!

  11. Very nicely done! Great post- Thank you for sharing this with us on The Sunday Showcase

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