Back to School Etiquette

I hope everyone’s week is going well. I had the pleasure of guest posting on one of my favorite blogs this week – Not My Circus – written by my friend, Hannah Hairston. Not My Circus  is a beautifully written and designed lifestyle journal that celebrates modern motherhood, personal style, and a healthy lifestyle, and Hannah is a mom to two precious little girls. With four darling kiddos between us and school around the corner, it was only fitting that I share my tips on back to school etiquette (it’s never too early to teach our children about great manners!), and so I hope you’ll visit her blog and take a read. I’ve also posted some of the tips below, and as always, email me at if you have any etiquette questions.

Our little boy is starting preschool in a couple of weeks, and preparing for his first day and the coming school year has opened my eyes to an entirely new world. His seersucker backpack is monogrammed, first day of school outfit selected, new shoes purchased, and I even had precious little blue dump truck labels made for his water bottle and lunchbox. He’s ready to go!

Preparing for school is more than just monogramming a backpack, coordinating calendars and packing lunches though. It’s making sure our children can shine as their best selves, and helping them to have a great first day, and in turn, a great year. We can help them to shine like the little stars that they are by giving them a foundation for good manners, and that starts at home. So parents, sharpen those pencils as I share my top tips on back to school etiquette. Wishing everyone a fantastic school year!

Punctuality: Talk to your children about what time school starts (and ends) the importance of being on time. Explain that if they are late, the whole family will likely feel stressed and flustered, and it will disrupt the class. Make sure and wake them up in the morning (or if they are old enough, show them how to set their alarm clock) at least an hour before school so they have plenty of time to eat breakfast, get dressed, etc., and try to stick to a consistent morning routine. That way, they will know what to expect and it will make it easier on both of you.

Magic Words: Please & Thank You: Whether 2 or 12 years old, it’s oh so important to always say please and thank you. These powerful words show gratitude and respect and are the ABC’s of good manners.

Looking your best: Clean clothes, brushed hair, brushed teeth, clean face – kids need to look their best so they can feel their best and be confident. Talk to your children about making a great first impression with their teacher and classmates on the first day, and how that begins with taking pride in one’s appearance.

Be prepared: If you have younger children, this applies more to you, Mom and Dad. Make sure and read all of the letters and emails from your child’s school so you can send them with whatever it is that they need, be it chocolate chip cookies for the bake sale or a costume for dress-up day. Also, be sure to communicate any allergies or other need-to-know info with your child’s teacher and school.

Respect the teacher: You will likely have an opportunity to “meet the teacher” before school starts, and so be sure to remind your child of their teacher’s name and how to properly address them – Miss, Mrs., Mr. X. Also, remind them that the teacher is in charge, and the importance of listening to them and following directions, as well as talking to them if there is a problem.

Respect classmates: Just as we encourage children to respect their siblings and friends, they need to also respect their classmates. This means striving to always be kind, friendly, empathetic and inclusive. Additionally, its paramount that we help our children have compassion for children who might be different from them, and teach them how to embrace their classmates and their differences.

Playground behavior: Playgrounds are a time for children to run around, have fun and get all those wiggles out! That said, it is not ok to push, pull hair, name call, cut in line, etc. Instead, encourage your child to take turns, share toys, make new friends, and follow the school’s safety rules. This goes for sportsmanship too – help your children learn how to celebrate wins, and accept losses and above all maintain a positive attitude.

Classroom behavior: When inside the classroom, children need to use their inside voices and listen to the teacher. If they are standing up in their chair or interrupting the teacher while she’s reading a story, it will disrupt the class and make it hard for the other children to enjoy school.

Wellness: Again, mom and dad this one’s for you. If your child is sick, please keep them home and be considerate of the other children in the class who don’t want to fall ill.

How to Cancel Plans at the Last Minute


It’s wonderful to make plans with friends, be it for a double date, girls lunch or playdate with the kids. You mark it on your calendar with a star, and look forward to it all week-long. And then life happens and someone has to cancel. You might feel like Larry David, and thrilled to have one less social obligation (his motto is, “if someone cancels on me, it’s a celebration!” ha!) or you may feel a pang of disappointment. We’ve all been there! However, what if you are the one who has to cancel at the last-minute? Guilt washes over you as you pick up your phone, and yet you know its best to cancel. Again, we’ve all been there! I’m a big believer in upholding commitments, however there are times when we just can’t do it all, and have to cancel.

Several years ago, we had dinner plans with another couple and we had been looking forward to getting together for weeks. They are darling and hilarious, and it was going to be a treat to have a fun night out. I woke up that morning not feeling very well, however I wanted to put on a smile and brave face, and still meet up with our friends. The day rolled on, and I tried to rest, however as we were getting dressed to go out, I felt incredibly dizzy and nauseous and decided to sit down for a minute. I could barely peel myself off the sofa to finish my makeup, and despite my desire to uphold our commitment, my husband and agreed it was best for us to stay home and reschedule dinner for a time when I was better and we could all enjoy ourselves. I felt absolutely awful for canceling the plans – let alone at the eleventh hour – however, we needed to do what was right for my health. Moral of the story, sometimes you just have to cancel at the last-minute, and its ok.

And so, if you find yourself in a similar situation, below are my tips to handle it with grace. Enjoy!

Quick Tips

Social Etiquette: How to Cancel Plans at the Last Minute


Only cancel if there is a good reason (i.e., you’re sick, your children or spouse are sick, you have an unexpected work conflict, family emergency, your babysitter cancels, etc.) Don’t cancel because of a better offer (aka “better dealing” or because you just don’t feel like going out.

Ideally, call the person to cancel. However if you are unable to (i.e., you have a sick and screaming baby in your arms), then sending a text is ok. And no need to go overboard with details, keep it simple and sincere.

Whether calling or texting, be sure to apologize for canceling.

If you do wish to see them again, suggest another day/time when you can get together and make a point to follow through with the commitment.

Ask B: How to Handle Unwanted Parenting Advice


Dear B,

As a first time parent, I am finding that I have been inundated with the advice and opinions of family members, friends, and yes, even strangers at the local grocery store! Although the input comes from a place of  good intentions, it can be overwhelming and at times, hurtful or stress – provoking. How can I respond to the various comments with grace, but also establish healthy boundaries so that I do not allow the stress to over power my ability to be a good mother? Have other mothers shared similar sentiments? I hope I am not alone with this predicament! 


Dear S,

You are not alone! All moms can relate to your predicament and feelings, and I too have been subjected to unsolicited advice and commentary. And you are absolutely right, these comments can be both stressful and hurtful. When I announced we were expecting our second beautiful baby boy, the associate at my very favorite gift/monogram store here in Dallas responded, “Oh…don’t you wish it was a girl? Are you going to try for a girl?” – not exactly the “Congratulations!” I had been hoping for! I simply smiled and said how thrilled and lucky we were to be having another boy, and then exited the shop. Moral of the story, is that you can’t control what other people say or do, you can only control what you say or do, and your own happiness. I think (and want to believe) that most people have good intentions and are not trying to be hurtful, and so it’s important to take the high road with your response. If someone offers you unsolicited advice or commentary, I would first listen – you might learn something or gain a new perspective! However if the advice or comment is rude or just not applicable, acknowledge them and smile and consider exiting the conversation or changing the subject. Another option is to say, “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind,” and then exit the conversation or change the subject. Despite any outside opinions, always remember and have confidence that you know your child best and know what is best for them! Good luck!