Halloween etiquette: Tips for the big night

Oct. 30, 2013 at 10:05 AM ET

Video: Taking your child around your community for Halloween may be their first time meeting a lot of new people at one time. Manners expert Thomas Farley shares tips on appropriate behavior for trick-or-treaters, including how to respond to unappetizing treats.

Thursday night, children and pre-teens (and the young at heart) will don costumes and go door to door to trick or treat. But just because they’re having a ghoulishly good time doesn’t mean that children should forget basic manners. 

Thomas Farley, aka Mr. Manners, shared some etiquette tips with Matt Lauer, Carson Daly, Willie Geist and Natalie Morales on TODAY.

“Halloween is a great chance to teach kids manners that make sense the rest of the year,” Farley told the anchors while he was dressed as Despicable Manners, a texting, gum-chewing, rude take on “Despicable Me.”   

Here's his advice:

Be appropriate

This rule applies for both parents and children. No one wants to hand out candy to a pre-teen dressed as a naughty librarian, just like most families would be mortified to see mom dressed the same way. Remember that the trick or treat tradition is for families and costumes should match those expectations. And guys, please no unitards. No one wants to see that.

“Don’t do it when you are around the kids,” Farley said (though some of us might think don’t do it, ever).

Say 'trick or treat'

When someone answers the door, children should say, “trick or treat,” if they are old enough. If not, say it for them. It’s important so that kids don’t wait there as if they feel entitled to candy.

“There is a give and take. You don’t get the treat if you don’t say ‘trick or treat,’” Farley said.

Say thank you

A thank you goes a long way. Remind your kids to say thanks, even if they loathe the Raisinettes or dental floss the neighbor is handing out. Also, kids should gracefully receive the disliked treat and keep any complaints to themselves.

“You don’t complain. You don’t say you don’t want that,” Farley told TODAY.  

Respect the guidelines

Children and teens shouldn’t stay out past the official trick or treat times. As the evening wears on, they should skip houses that have their lights out.  

Everybody’s got a story

Maybe your son thinks everyone knows all the characters from “Wreck-It Ralph” just like he does, but some adults might not be hip to the latest pop culture trends. Prepare your kids to share a little backstory about their costumes and remind them that they shouldn’t be offended if someone asks. Kids should be gracious when explaining their costume.

Nothing destructive

While egging and toilet papering might seem like fun mischief, it creates a big mess for homeowners the next day. Draw the line at anything remotely destructive and don't encourage any "fun" that impacts other people’s property.