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When I take my four year old son into another person's house (such as a relative's home or a neighbor's home), he will wander around, going into other rooms, playing on furniture that he shouldn't play on, or taking toys without asking.

What can I do to teach him proper manners in another person's home?

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    What else is there to engage his attention? Any children his own age? Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 17:04
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    Hi Nilah, welcome to the site! I have made some edits to hopefully clarify the question and phrase it in proper English; if I did not capture the question properly please clarify further. Thanks!
    – Joe
    Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 19:55

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In general, it's not unexpected for a four year old to have difficulty with boundaries in a new environment. What you can do to help your child is to define those boundaries for them.

First, when you are going to take them to a new house, prior to entering you should talk to the child about the experience to prepare their mindset. Tell them that this new house is different from what they're used to, and that they'll need to pay attention to the rules - they will be different from what they're used to.

Then, when you arrive, give them an orientation (with the host). Point out the room(s) that are okay for them to go into. Point out the areas that are not okay for them to go into. In those rooms that are okay to go into, point out the things that are available to do in those rooms.

This room is the toy room. It has a lot of toys in it. You can play with any of the toys that are on the floor! Here's a pretty cool race track! Also, the block are fun to play with, you can pick those out as long as you keep them on the block table. If you want to get into any of the toys on the shelves, please ask me or [host] - they want to make sure they're okay for you to play with!

This room is the living room. It's okay to come in here, but toys and food don't go in here - it's only for talking with people in, or sitting quietly and looking at books. You can sit on the sofa if you want to, but please don't jump on it - you'll break the cushions! I can find some fun books for you to look at if you want to, [host] has a lot of them on their bookshelves!

This is the stairs to the second floor, where [host] has their bedrooms. We don't go into other people's bedrooms without them telling us that it's okay - just like you wouldn't want other people to go into your bedroom, right? If you're curious about their bedrooms, you can ask [host]; they might be willing to show you, but don't go up the stairs without them please!

Even with older children, this is usually a good idea at least cursorily - for example, when my child [8 years old] has other children over, we point out a few things, such as the location of the kitchen (if they want snacks), and the basement stairs [off limits, as it's unfinished and not child-safe].

Beyond that, you will need to make sure he has things to do, and that you aren't just expecting him to sit quietly or find things to do on his own - as if you do, he's going to find things to do that aren't on the list of preferred options. Be proactive and give him those ideas, so he sees what to play with. If there's another child in the house, usually that isn't a big deal as that child will want to be in charge, but if it's a house without children you may need to bring things for him to do - paper and crayons, for example, or his favorite books.

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