Enjoying Performances with Kids
Everyday Etiquette: Children and the theater

Picture this: You’re running late to a performance and have finally found the row in which you will be seated. Sudden panic strikes you when you realize you and your family have seats in the middle of the row and the row is completely filled on both sides. What should you do? Crawl, hop or shuffle to your seat while 10 people on both sides grimace and scowl? As in most circumstances, the best advice to follow when attending any kind of public function is to treat by Diane Gottsman other guests with the same respect that you would like to receive.

The first tip is to be on time!

Here are a few additional rules to go over with your children so your whole family can avoid awkward moments at a theater performance.

• When crossing over fellow seated theatergoers, face those that you are annoying. Smile, and politely acknowledge the inconvenience.

• Absolutely no talking, hitting, kicking or screaming before, during, or after the performance.

• Monitor your fragrance. You will be seated in close quarters and your neighbor may not appreciate your fragrance as much as you do.

• Purses, jackets and other personal articles belong on your lap.

• Do not litter. Keep paper wrappers, cups, napkins, tissues and programs with you until the end of the performance when you can properly dispose of them.

• Keep your arms to yourself. There is one armrest between you and your neighbors’ personal space.

• Leave chewing gum at home.

• Be conscious of the opening and intermission call. Get to your seat on time so that you will not disturb other patrons.

• Photographs may not be taken unless otherwise indicated by management.

• Turn your cell phone off. There is absolutely no excuse and nothing more offensive than a cell phone ringing in the middle of a performance.

• If you’re not sure when to applaud, take your cue from the other patrons. Don’t be the first or the last person clapping. Clapping in a theater should be appropriate and solid, but never accompanied by whooping, yelling, flailing hands and arms or whistling. At the end of a great performance, you may stand along with the other patrons for a “standing ovation.”

By keeping these simple rules in mind, you and everyone around you will have a more positive and enjoyable theater experience.

Diane Gottsman is a nationally recognized etiquette and protocol expert who leads age-appropriate etiquette programs for children as well as adults striving to fine-tune their skills. She has a master’s degree in sociology/education. For more information, check out

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