Etiquette According to Classic Cartoons

Child watching cartoon
Use cartoons to help teach your child proper manners. Peter Cade/Getty Images

Most parents work hard to teach our children right from wrong and how to be polite. Then we let them watch cartoons and wonder why they act in an unbecoming manner. Why are you surprised that they forget what the "real" adults in their lives tell them when the cartoon people are so much more interesting?

Rather than ban certain cartoons because of the characters' bad manners, I recommend letting the children watch.

Then later, have a family discussion about what the characters did wrong and what they should have done. I think this is a lot more fun than listing manners without any practical application, plus it helps them remember what to do—or not to do—because it holds their interest.

Now go watch some cartoons with your kids and work on a list of manners together. To help you get started, here is a list of my observations about etiquette in some of the classic cartoons


Fred and Barney are constantly scheming to get their way, whether it's to avoid going somewhere with their wives or playing hooky at work. This generally involves some lying, which is normally not a good thing.

Fred and Barney frequently get into petty arguments over things that could be resolved with a simple conversation. If they would take the time to learn how to be good neighbors, this wouldn't happen to begin with. I'm actually surprised that they're still friends after all the things they do to each other.

Wilma and Betty go wild when they meet a couple of celebrities that they are absolutely crazy about. They need to learn the proper etiquette of being fan-girls.

Fred and Barney are terrible dancers, and they do all kinds of rude things to improve. Before they continue, they need to learn more about ballroom dance manners.

When Fred takes the money Wilma has been saving to buy himself a new bowling ball, I can't help but think that he needs some tips on a family code of conduct.

Both Fred and Barney struggle with work related issues, so they could use some lessons in developing business relationships so they can live up to their potential and get ahead.

Richie Rich

I have to admit, I find Richie Rich quite charming, but he'd be even better if he didn't act so clueless about his money. I mean, he flaunts it a tad too much for my taste, but he's still cute.

Tom and Jerry

Have you ever noticed that in most of the old cartoons, we root for the mouse to outsmart the cat? What's up with this? Who wants a mouse living in the wall? While I don't think Tom would make the best house cat, I still think he should get credit for trying to do his job as a mouser.


Speaking of cats, I think Garfield is one cool dude. He has boatloads of poise but still manages to show his flaws. In other words, he makes an excellent flawed hero. And yes, he could use some etiquette lessons, but his coolness (almost) makes up for a few bad manners.

Yogi Bear

Yogi might be "smarter than the average bear," but I still take issue with the fact that he steals food from picnickers.

He and Boo-Boo could also use some lessons in table manners.

The Simpsons

I find all of the Simpsons quite rude. They treat others with disdain and use sarcasm in almost everything they say. If I knew this family in real life, I would run the other way when I saw them coming. The children in this family need discipline and could certainly use my manners cheat sheet before going out among people.


Although Mickey's dog Pluto is clumsy and awkward, there's a sweetness about him that makes me smile. I like seeing a cartoon dog that I wouldn't mind taking out in public because I don't think he'd ever growl or bite anyone unless the person deserves to be growled at. Plus I'm pretty sure he's housebroken.

Lady (of Lady and the Tramp)

Lady is one example of a dog that has been through the best obedience training money can buy, and she knows how to live up to her name.

She's polite and unassuming. I love her so much I'm willing to forgive her spaghetti-eating manners infraction because it's such a sweet scene with Tramp.