Miss Manners: Add toilet training to topics not discussed at dinner

December 19, 2013

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter just turned 3, and for the past year the recurring question I get from strangers is, “Is she potty trained?” or even worse.

This is not a rare occurrence. I get it everywhere, from restaurants while I am actively eating, to stores, to the post office. My other girlfriends assure me they also get this question often and they are equally annoyed.

I do not wish to raise a child thinking it is acceptable to talk about her bathroom activities over meals or with strangers.

Last night, after repeated questioning from a waitress, my daughter announced that she had “gone poop in the potty!” earlier that day. The waitress immediately told the other staff, who passed this information around the restaurant in loud voices. My daughter then told them about an accident she had because she was playing and did not make it to the bathroom on time.

I told her it was not an appropriate dinner topic, but the people ignored me and kept discussing it. How do I make a child behave when the adults have no idea how to behave?

I also do not want to answer people who ask what type of undergarments she wears. I have tried looking horrified, but people seem to feel it is an appropriate subject. Since she has been getting these comments, she has actually regressed in her potty training, and strangers comment on that as well.

Can you please come up with a polite way to point out to people that some subjects are not appropriate for general public discussion? I am on the verge of telling people she is just wearing normal underwear. How about you?

GENTLE READER: Thank you just the same, but Miss Manners also would prefer not to comment on her undergarments.

While you can’t reprimand the adults, you can certainly advocate on your child’s behalf. “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to embarrass my daughter by talking about her bathroom habits. I’m sure you understand.”

This has the added benefit of modeling for your daughter what her own reaction should be . . . and that “I pooped on the potty!” is not, and never will be, a conversation starter.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the polite way to ask the person sitting next to you at a bar to stop flicking her hair in your direction while you’re eating?

GENTLE READER: “I’m afraid that my food is getting in your hair’s way. Perhaps I should move it.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When walking my dog, I am constantly being stopped by people who tell me he is just darling, cute, beautiful, etc. As my dog is unable to reply, what should my response be? I don’t feel it is appropriate to say thank you, as I had nothing to do with it.

GENTLE READER: “Thank you” is the correct answer. Miss Manners offers you the choice between training your dog to say it or saying it on his behalf.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on www.washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com.

, by Judith Martin

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