Sneezing in America: How to respond without invoking religion

Q: As my child is getting older and I am trying to instill good manners, I have a question regarding the polite response to a person sneezing. The German “gesundheit” speaks of wishes to good health. In the U.S. we use “Bless you” or “God bless you.” Is there a polite response to a sneeze in the U.S. that doesn’t involve God or blessing?

A: You can use the traditional German response, or simply say “Bless you” without including God. Blessings come in many forms and don’t necessarily invoke God’s name. This may be more comfortable for you if you don’t wish to use the word God.

Breastfeeding Basics: Can it be done in public?

Q: Is it appropriate to breastfeed at the table in a public restaurant (even when the mother’s breast is covered)?

A: It is fine, assuming the  mother is discreet and, as you suggested, keeps her breasts covered. It is preferable to choose or request a discreet location in the restaurant, as well.


Birthday Budget: Multiple kids, multiple gifts?

Q: What is the etiquette on the number of gifts to bring to a child’s birthday party when multiple children of ours are invited?

A: There are two ways to handle this. The first is to have each of your children give his/her own gift; the other is to have one, larger gift from all your children together. Probably the best way to do this is to determine what you ordinarily would spend (or give) on a gift from one child to a friend and basically multiply that value times the number of your children invited to the party to set a price point for what you might want to spend on a joint gift.

Milk Manners: What to do with milk at the bottom of the bowl

Q: Is it considered improper etiquette to drink milk out of a cereal bowl? Our 2-year-old has started doing this at breakfast with her cereal and my wife and I want to teach her good manners.

A: She is very young and it is great that she enjoys her milk! However, eventually you would want to teach her to spoon any leftover milk rather than tip her bowl and drink it.

Identity Crisis: How to sign a thank-you note from a toddler

Q: I have a 2 year old and I have note cards with her name printed on the front. When I write the thank-you note on the card do I sign my name and write the note from me, the mother, or do I write it in the 3rd person as if the child is writing it and sign her name to the card?

A: You do not write as though your two-year-old had written the note. You can have her draw a picture on her note card and enclose a note from you, but patently she would not be writing a heartfelt thank-you note at her age and it is best not to pretend that she has or use this as a contrivance. As she gets older, you can encourage her to continue with pictures, and eventually with writing her name, until such time as she really can write her own thank-you notes. It is a great way to build an excellent habit.