When I shared with you the other day about the wonderful experience of my daughter’s very first theatrical performance I promised to invite the incredible Nevena Basarova-Dicheva, a specialist in good manners, to explain how to turn this adventure into a beautiful experience with a dose of style and a pinch of good manners. Often as parents, we think we can know everything, yet it is useful and enjoyable when we get timely practical guidelines which can make our most precious moments truly memorable.
What is the etiquette and the good manners guidelines when attending a theatre/cinema performance? Every parent is looking forward to a moment when their heir will transform from the little human who only eats, cries and weeps into a big person with various interests and personal hobbies. We usually aim at introducing the child to the diverse cultural life early enough and willingly buy tickets for a theater or opera and select appropriate outfits. But do we really consider the fact that our expectations for an exciting experience can greately differ from reality? This could be the case when we do not explicitely articulate to out children some basic guidlines regarding their behavior on a theatrical/opera/ballet performance. How should they behave and what are the rules of conduct subject to good manners?
Here are some really useful tips:
1. Do not rush with taking the kids to a theatrical performance when they are still too young. The fact you think it is time, does not necessarily mean it really is. We may hope that they will enjoy the performance but usually little kids get easily bored.
2. It is advisable the very first visit to a cultural event to be something musical, dynamic, with colorful decorations and costumes. They will retain the attention of the little one up to the very end and will keep them excited throughout the whole performance.
3. Select seats that are close to the exits as this will make it easier and more convenient shall you need to leave urgently in case your child is too agitated.
4. Prepare your child in advance by explaining 2-3 weeks beforehand what the cultural event in question is all about. Show them a video or other showcase and share your personal positive impressions.
5. Share with the child every step related to the organization – from buying tickets and choosing a performance to selecting appropriate clothing. The important thing is to do it in an enthusiastic way in order to enhance the interest of the child.
6. It is extremely important for the child to know that they have to arrive at the theater at least 15 minutes in advance, to leave their coats in the wardrobe and use the toilet, if necessary, before the performance starts. Emphasize on the fact that throughout the show it is better to keep quiet, as if playing hide and seek with the actors and the singers, and that in the end they will surprise the actors with applause or even flowers.
7. If the child becomes impatient and starts to make noise, tell them that there is an intermission soon and you can drink water.
8. Given the child’s young age, it is quite possible the performance to be of no particular interest. Do not insist on staying until the very end, rather use the intermission to leave. Then show empathy and explain that you expected more from the performance as well and that the previous time it was much more interesting. Give an example of the cartoon movies stating that they also are sometimes interesting, but could be occasionally pretty boring.
9. Do not make your kids feel guilty just because they did not enjoy the performance. With age interests change. After a while, when the kids grows up a bit, the same performance might surprisingly impress them.
10. From the moment of entering the theatre hall, it is important to inform the child that they can use only of the one armrests, should face the people who have already taken their seats when searching for theirs, greet them and try not to hit and kick the others around.
The first visit to the theater is always exciting and unforgettable! I wish positive and smiling memories, both for the children and for you, the parents!
Nevena Basarova-Dicheva is a recognized and loved expert on good manners, founder and manager of the First Children’s Academy of Good Manners, where children, teenagers and their parents are taught how young people shall behave in society, how to observe good manners and rules of communication. Nevena established the innovative methodology “Flexible Discipline” subject to which children are educated in respect of rules while having the freedom and space to develop.
She is a certified coach in emotional intelligence, participated in international seminars for training on social and business etiquette. Nevena speaks English and Italian. She is the winner of the Business Lady Award in the “Education and Development” category.