Victorian Etiquette for Children

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Etiquette during the Victorian era was vitally important to a family's social standing, financial success and general happiness. Having well-behaved children that adhered to society's rules and standards directly reflected on the quality of the family.

While Victorian parents could be kind and loving, children that did not adhere to the strict rules and guidelines would often be beaten. Generally, etiquette during this era could be divided into four categories: home etiquette, personal etiquette, school etiquette and social etiquette.

Home Etiquette

The Victorian era had many rules that children were expected to learn and follow when at home. They were never to talk back to or argue with elders, especially their parents. They had to rise when someone entered a room, greet them politely and say goodbye politely. They had to never run, talk loudly, interrupt or contradict, and they always had to be responsible for their younger siblings. Lastly, they were expected to learn correct table manners, how to correctly set a table, how to properly throw a party for guests and how to make an excellent impression, in general, in all aspects of home life.

Personal Etiquette

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Children had to be clean and well-groomed at all times. Their hair had to be combed, neat and clean and their nails free of dirt. Their shoes had to be polished, and their clothes pressed. They had to focus on having good posture and, if their family could afford it, they had to be dressed as fashionably as possible.

School Etiquette

School etiquette in the Victorian era was strict, difficult, and mired in rules and standards. Children were expected to stand whenever the teacher entered the room as well as when they wanted to answer a question. They were not permitted to ask questions and could only speak after adequate permission was given. They referred to their teachers as "Sir," "Miss," or "Mrs.," could never talk, fidget, enter class late or use their left hand when writing. Punishment for any offence was often a caning.

Social Etiquette

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Social etiquette was probably the most important category because it was how children represented their families when out in the world. Children were expected to be quiet, polite and civil at all times. Many rules addressed making introductions, writing thank-you letters, knowing when to speak and when to be silent, and addressing a host or hostess.