By Robin Abrahams
Jean Berko Gleason, a psychologist and one of the world's top experts in language development, offers some guidelines on what parents can expect from their children tomorrow night:
1. Don't expect your tiniest kids to be able to say anything. They just stand there with their little bags open, if they are toddlers (2 or 3 years old).
2. Somewhat older kids (preschoolers of 4 or 5) will say "trick or treat" and that is all, unless they are coached.
3. Grade schoolers up to about 10 years old typically say "trick or treat" and "thank you."
4. Kids older than 10 are more likely to say "trick or treat," "thank you," and "goodbye."
Our study showed that parents who accompany their kids are pretty insistent that they do all of the right routines, but, well, if your kid is a terrifying monster from outer space, maybe we don't have to INSIST that it say thanks and goodbye, just this once.
Finally, it should be noted that although "Good evening" is a perfectly fine thing to say on greeting someone at the door, kids can only say this if they are Dracula.
(Jean is a former advisor and current friend of mine, and her comments above are based on her 1976 article "The acquisition of routines in child language," in Language in Society, Vol 5(2), pp. 129-136; co-author, Sandra Weintraub.)