Posted by: Tired mom | 2019/04/15

When do children learn certain ettiquette basics?

Hi again doc. I wrote to you a while ago regarding my daughter and her lack of attention at school and we have been enjoying some GREAT progress. She is calmer, happy about going to school and she is keeping up with her schoolwork. Now I have a question but it's not so much about MY daughter but rather another little boy age 4 years. At what point do children learn basic manners? I mean, things like knocking on a closed door, putting their hand in front of their mouths when coughing/sneezing, comprehending that no is NO, not touching EVERYTHING in your home? I was blindsided by a rather unruly 4-year-old who was thrust upon me the other evening. This family received a secondary invite because we invited a mutual friend over with their kids. Long story short, this boy was super nosy...touching everything. I was literally busy on my phone and he reached out to touch the YouTube icon because he demanded that I let him watch YouTube on my phone. Whenever my daughter or her friend went to the toilet, he tried to walk in on them. When my daughter had a shower, he tried to walk in on her. The following day, we met up again at our neighbour's house. This time the 4-year-old started going through my neighbour's stuff and got into her underwear drawer. Lucky I was there and I took the underwear out of his hand, put it away and closed the drawer. He was hitting a fish tank even after I asked him nicely not to. I was the only adult around and I felt responsible to say something and not just allow him to do whatever he wanted. Later, I was called to see what was happening. I went to investigate. My daughter was in the bathroom and the boy too. The boy was undressing and I took my daughter out, closed the door and spoke to her. She told me that she went to the loo and, while she was washing her hands, he walked in on her and used the toilet. Then, because he had wet himself, he started getting undressed. My daughter was in such shock that she was almost paralysed. We don't do this in our home. We have rules and respect. I had a huge blowout with the parents because it had been building up inside me for 2 days. My daughter started knocking on the bathroom door at age 2. She is polite, respectful and sociable. I believe she is empathetic because she cares SO much about others. No, she is not perfect....nobody is and I will not pretend like she is an angel. I'd just like to know, am I or is my family abnormal because she had such manners so young?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink
- 2019/04/15

Hello again TM,
Delighted to hear that your daughter is doing so well :  well done to you, her, indeed all of us.
The other child sounds almost feral, though young enough to still be able to learn to be civilized. Uncommonly, such a situation may be related to a child with serious developmental /neurological / psychological problems, if he has been exposed to proper disciplinary opportunities and encouragement to learn, from his parents, and is failing to learn despite all their best endeavors.  Most commonly,  it suggests really bad parenting, often absurdly over-indulgent.  Though it is too often not seen as such, spoiling a child to a serious extent is, to my mind, a form of child abuse or neglect. 
But you can't take over the upbringing of someone else's child.  You can calmly but firmly make it clear that (a) this child will not again be welcome in your home ; and (b) that you strongly recommend that they take him to see a good child psychologist for a full assessment and advice, making sure that the psychologist is told in some detail about the problems and concerns other people have noticed about his behavior.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Tired mom | 2019/04/16

Thank you doc! I hope not to have another altercation with these people but, as you said, I also do not intend on allowing my daughter to interact with the child - be it at our home or anyone else's home. We have mutual friends so we just have to plan any visits properly is all. I believe it's poor parenting because the father is always working and the mother is one of THOSE. She has a princess complex and doesn't believe it when you tell her what her child said or did. I can't control them but I can protect my child as you said. Thank you. I thought I was going nuts for a second :-P

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