Etiquette In The Family

Updated by Mary Bowen on March 17, 2020

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    Etiquette in the family is one way for your family to serve God. Practicing good etiquette will make you a better family and will glorify God through the love you show others. Etiquette and morals are not necessarily connected. Etiquette without morality is dangerous as it could be used for the wrong intentions.

    Etiquette with morality is a beautiful and crucial tool for building up a Catholic culture.

    The first lesson in etiquette that must be taught is why we want to show courtesy to others. Our love of God motivates us to treat others with courtesy. The principle of etiquette is to make others feel comfortable and at ease. Another point that should be stressed within a family is that we are not to police others and that etiquette is about how we act not about how other people act. 

    Conversation Etiquette In The Family

    Upon entering a room think to yourself, "There you are! I want to hear about you." It is very natural to think, "Here I am! Come talk to me."; but we must move past this natural inclination in order to put others first.

    Be friendly and don't forget to introduce yourself. Act interested in others.

    The rules for conversation etiquette in the family and with others are as follows:

    • Don't finish other people's sentences.
    • Don't be a complainer.
    • Don't have shifting eyes, look people in the eye.
    • Don't pass along secrets (words spoken in confidence).
    • Don't contradict others in public.
    • Don't take over someone else's story.
    • Don't interrupt when others are talking.
    • Compliment but don't flatter.

    Sticking to these rules within the home will be wonderful practice for your children.

    Some that are very important to observe in big families are don't be a story snatcher and don't contradict others. One of the worst things for a guest to endure is a family who snatches one another's stories and constantly interrupts one another by saying, "No, that's not how it happened." The details don't really matter to the listener. What matters is that the main point of the story is conveyed. So teach your children not to be story snatchers or contradictors. 

    Making Introductions

    Making introductions is an important part of etiquette. How else are you suppose to have conversations if you don't introduce yourself. Introducing yourself is key to being social and friendly. When people enter a room full of strangers, they usually think: "Look at all of these people. What if none of them like me?"

    This is a terrible first impression. Instead, whenever we look at a room full of unknown faces, we should be thinking, "Look at all these friends I haven't yet met!"

    Introducing yourself is way easier if this is the top thought on your mind. Also think of the other people in the room. It may be good for them to know you! Friends are in the places where you least expect them. Introducing yourself should not be just a simple, "Hi, my name is..." You need to have a few "fishing" questions. Like:

    • "Where are you from?"
    • "What is your favorite subject in school?" or things like that.

    Try to find similarities in yourself and your new friend. This is a way to show that you care and are interested in the things they are interested in. 

    Another thing is to introduce yourself using your full name, because they may know someone who has the same last name. That person may be your relative and you can tell about how you are related.

    If someone introduced himself to you, you don't answer with one word. They are trying to start a conversation with you. It's torturing the person who is trying their utmost to make you feel more comfortable. People may do this to you, but you just need to let it go. If your doing it for Our Lord you will not feel bad about a person snubbing you. You did your best!

    Dinner Etiquette In The Family

    If possible, boys should pull out chairs for the ladies. At dinner parties, be sure to have conversations with the people on the left and the right of you so no one is left out.

    • When eating meat, cut one or two pieces at a time not the entire serving.
    • No shoveling.
    • Do not speak with food in your mouth. If someone asks you a question, motion with your finger that you need a moment. Finish chewing, swallow, take a sip of water then speak to them. If you find this happens to you often, consider taking smaller bites.
    • Don't embarrass others, motion to them if they have food on their face or something in their teeth. Don't announce it to the whole room.
    • Nothing that has been in your mouth goes back on the table cloth. Leave silverware on the plate when you are done.
    • Take a "thankful portion" of foods you do not like or usually avoid.

    Teach your children to take a "thankful portion". It isn't going to kill anyone to eat a small amount of food that they don't like. A "thankful portion" fits in very well with Franciscan spirituality.

    Hospitality overrules fasting, food aversions, and convictions. If you are entertaining guests or guests in other people's homes, take a "thankful portion". This rule is especially important for families who, like our own, are wheat free. You do not want your healthy eating to turn you and your children into food snobs. If you are not truly allergic to something, good etiquette demands you take a "thankful portion".

    As with all etiquette, be a gracious hostess and a good guest. Practice etiquette at home so it will come natural in public. Do whatever your hostess requires and allow your guests to feel comfortable. Don't be stuffy. These principles are the essence of good etiquette in the family.

    Hand-Written Thank You Notes

    Thank you notes are still a huge part of etiquette in the family. Any gift that you receive deserves a thank you note. If the person is present when the gift is given, no thank you note is required.

    Insist that your children write thank you notes. If they are too young, grab one of the many works of art you have posted on the refrigerator that they have drawn or colored or painted, and help them write thank you. That is plenty. People just want to be acknowledged.

    Write your thank you notes as soon as possible but remember a tardy note is better than no note at all.

    Etiquette In The Family: Dressing For The Occasion

    Dress appropriately. Don't over dress or under dress for an occasion. Consider your host and the event and then dress in a way that will make others feel at ease.

    Always dress your best for Mass. Dress well for interviews and for classes. Collars and nice pants are a must for boys. Girls should wear a dress or skirt along with a sweater that covers their elbows for classes and interviews or when they are giving a speech.

    If your daughters always wear skirts, there is nothing wrong with them wearing denim skirts and t-shirts when they go somewhere very casual like to the park or for a picnic. Girls and women should be aware that silk screened shirts are very casual and should be worn with discretion. You don't want your bust to be a billboard! Right?

    Family Etiquette Tips For Handling Rudeness

    Handling rudeness in others is always difficult. Never be rude back. If you feel someone is being rude, try asking them, "What do you mean by that." Oftentimes this defuses the comment as the person realizes how horrible they are behaving, or it can clear up any misunderstandings.

    When all is said and done, it's their problem and not yours. All you need to worry about is the way you respond. Finally this tip comes from the Emily Post Institute:

    Laugh it off. If you can’t come up with a friendly joke, just chuckle and change the subject.

    It is my hope that this life-long principle of seeing others as opportunities to serve will stick. The principles of etiquette that we instill in our children will make our families better. If you would like to explore etiquette in the family and the public arena further, the source for etiquette is Emily Post and this book: Etiquette - The Original Classic Edition


    Kathleen Bowen is a founding member of She is a busy homeschooling mother of ten children with seven currently in school. She loves throwing parties and having fun. She takes great pride in homemaking, gardening, flowers and creating table arrangements.

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