Newport Manners & Etiquette: The Miraculous Magic of Toddler Etiquette, Decoding Xs, + More

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


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Deciphering the X and O closings in texts and emails, pining over an ex-lover, old fashion car door manners and the stupefying magic of toddler etiquette were subjects of questions to Didi Lorillard this week at NewportManners.

The miraculous magic of toddler étiquette

Q. This is a question about toddler etiquette and not about parenting. Some parents are out of control about letting their small child act out their feelings and rights as a free spirit, but then what? The toddler gets out of control.  AJ, Foster, RI

A. Toddler étiquette is an established code of behavior for being in the company of others. It is not about role modeling or unconditional love. Nor is it about setting boundaries that compromise their unalienable rights. Do prep work. Let the child know what to expect. Sit down on the floor with your toddler, make eye contact, and talk to him or her about the adventure they are about to undertake on a playdate with another toddler, at a birthday party, or on a visit to the grandparents at Thanksgiving. 
Here are basic tips to prepare your toddler:

  • Hitting: Be nice. No grabbing, hitting, spitting, kicking or biting. If you've ever spent time with a toddler you know that they don't hit only once, they'll repetitively hit that stick at least ten to twelve times until they're calmed. Most often, physically taking the hitter out of the room gives you both a chance to change the channel in her/his brain.
  • Annoying: When a child is being obnoxious there's not much you can do but let it play out until he decides it is boring to be annoying.
  • Snacking: Snacks should be divided into separate containers (cups, plates, bowls) to avoid a possible tantrum from a grabbing fellow hoarder. 
  • Sharing: Toys should be shared, but if a toddler isn't ready to give up his favorite truck it may mean that he isn't ready to understand the concept. Distract with other toys.
  • Dancing and singing always change the tone, so turn on and turn up music.
  • Eating: When they're ready to experiment with flatware and new foods, they'll become curious if they see utensils and different foods often. The worst things you can say are, "Look at how nicely Jack uses his fork," or "Wow, watch Serena lovingly eating her broccoli trees."



At Thanksgiving and other holiday get-togethers with adults, your toddler will vie for your attention. If you're not keeping a watchful eye and she or he does something wrong -- like hurting someone or her/himself or breaking something -- it is all YOUR fault.

  • Disruptive: Again, extract and distract your toddler. When you're alone with her/him, sit down together and while making eye contact, gently explain to her/him the consequences of exactly what s/he did that you didn't like.
  • Snobbery: Don't allow your toddler to be a snob. A child who snubs by ignoring and refusing to talk to someone who is trying to make contact and connect. Selective hearing is not a social skill and shouldn't be tolerated. It is disrespectful and unfriendly. If s/he doesn't like Uncle Tom's pipe tobacco breath, then s/he can stand back and talk to him nicely by answering a question before moving away.
  • Potty training: Don't use food to bribe a toddler to sit on the potty. Keep a surprise small toy -- a poop prize -- on hand for after s/he's used the potty. Make it a reward for not having had an accident. While potty training in someone else's home, keep her/him close by, even if you have to put her/him on your lap.
  • Bedtime: Stay on her/his sleep schedule to avoid a melt down.


Ultimately, you want your toddler around people who exude Good Vibes Only. Keep your toddler away from bitter, grouchy relatives.

Decoding kisses

Q. Tell us Didi, if you wouldn't kiss someone in real life, then why would you add kisses at the end of a text, IM or email? Most of my friends end their messages with x or xx or xxx, but I wouldn't kiss most of them when coming face to face.  SP, Cambridge, MA

A. The more Xs the more intense the relationship. Two kisses for friendship and three for an expression of love. XOXO are kisses and hugs. Also:

  • XX can stand for kiss kiss and also bye bye. 
  • xXx represents a small kiss on the left cheek, a big smack on the lips followed by a small kiss on the right cheek.
  • XXX can mean that the person is straight edge, as in I went to this party and did not drink because I'm straight edge XXX.


But be wary of using XXX which can mean your message could be blocked by pornographic controls. 

  • And, yet, could also signal that the sender doesn't smoke, drink or do drugs. Sometimes even abstinence from sex and/or advocates vegetarianism.

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The chivalry of opening car doors

Q.  Does anyone ever open a car door for another person anymore? Is it still done? Would I be remiss or dorky by not running around to open my date's car door?
WG, Bar Harbor, ME

A.  You would have to race to see who undoes their seatbelt first. The only time anyone ever opens my car door is when I valet park. He deserves a tip when he brings me back my car. 

The etiquette goes back to when ladies exited horse drawn carriages while managing layers of a long skirt with petticoat as they jumped to the ground. It was useful to have a gallant companion there to lend a hand. 
In many cases, the doors of early cars were inordinately heavy, often stuck, and difficult to open. 

The need for another person to lend a convenient hand or have the strength to open a heavy door no longer exists. 

Pining over unrequited love

Q. Since my ex and I broke up, I can't seem to love any other guy. I can't get him out of my head. Every time I have sex with a new guy, the last thing he does makes me want to break off the relationship. Most often or perhaps all the time, they come back begging but I would have already moved on in less than a week and the process continuous as I look for love.  GB, Yaounde, Cameroon

A. You must not waste any more time mooning over someone who does not want to be with you. Please find a professional to talk to about your feelings.

Talking about your heartbreak with someone who is trained to listen will perhaps lessen the pain of anxiety. 

If that's not possible, write a letter to your ex telling him how you feel about him and the breakup, but do NOT mail the letter. Hide the letter. When you're feeling extremely sad, take out the letter and reread it. Eventually, you will stop reading the letter.

Time heals most wounds of the heart. Take up Yoga or some such healing as a way of clearing your mind.

Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette at NewportManners for her forthcoming book.


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