Manners Matter: The Kid who wouldn’t go home
When my husband was a child he was “the kid who wouldn’t go home.” The only child of a single working mother, he much preferred the after school company of the rowdy Nelson family down the street to the television alone at home. Shirley Nelson had been his babysitter when he was younger, but even when he was old enough to stay home alone, he migrated to the activity and fun of the five Nelson children in their large, rambling house. Fortunately, the Nelsons didn’t mind and enveloped him in as one of their own.
There are many reasons why children are attracted to other’s homes and families. As in my husband’s case, loneliness and boredom probably top the list.
According to etiquette expert, Jana Christian, president and founder of The Etiquette School of Oklahoma, there aren’t any hard and fast rules of etiquette for hosting neighborhood children in your home.
“Etiquette is employing common sense and being courteous in doing so,” says Christian.
It is perfectly acceptable to set ground rules for visiting children. “Remember,” says Christian, “most children aren’t meaning to be rude. They may not have had courteous behavior modeled for them. You have the opportunity to show the child, in a kind manner, how to treat others and how to be a good guest.”
Here are some tips for hosting children in your home:
1. Children should understand that they are only allowed in your home if their parents know where they are.
2. Visiting children should be expected to follow the same rules your children follow.
3. If the guest and your child get into a squabble it is okay to say, “It looks like you both need some time apart. Mary, you are welcome to come back tomorrow and play.”
4. Children should be taught to respect your family’s private time. According to Christian, when you are ready for a child to go home, you can simply and kindly say, “Jimmy, we’ve enjoyed having you over, but it’s time for our dinner. We look forward to seeing you tomorrow.”
5. While you are under no obligation to feed the neighborhood children, it is courteous to offer simple drinks and snacks.
If your child is the frequent visitor in someone else’s home, you need to make sure your child is a welcome guest, not an annoying pest! A polite gesture would be to visit or call the host family and say something like, “Hi, Trudy, you know how much Sara enjoys playing with Ellen in your home, but please feel free to send her home at any time. Also, we’d love to have Ellen visit here sometimes.”
Additionally, make sure your child understands and exhibits good manners and is a courteous guest.
“As a parent it is always good to teach children that when you are in someone else’s home, their rules apply. If everyone in the family removes their shoes inside the house, your child needs to as well,” says Christian. “Your children should respect the boundaries of the family they are visiting. Children should be taught that if a family is going somewhere, it is not polite to invite themselves along. Instead they should be taught to say, ‘Thank you for having me over. Can I come back later and play?’”
Christian offers these additional tips for making sure your child understands how to be a polite guest:
• Wait until invited to enter a home; don’t barge right in
• No running, jumping or stomping indoors
• Do not jump or climb on furniture
• Do not touch things that aren’t yours without permission
• Do not turn on anything that is off, or turn off anything that is on
• Put things away and help clean up
• Avoid tattling, being bossy and teasing
• Remember to share
• Avoid snooping in other people’s cabinets or cupboards
• If there are pets in the home, do not play with them unless invited
• If you break or spill something, apologize and offer to help clean it up
• Always ask first if you need a drink of water or a snack. Never help yourself to the refrigerator or the cupboards
• Additionally, if you are the parent of a child who frequently visits in someone else’s home, it would be polite to contribute snacks or drinks to the hosting family once in awhile. Also, don’t forget to reciprocate and invite your children’s friends to your home.
“Good manners are very important,” adds Christian, “because good guests are invited back!”
Jana Christian is a leading expert in etiquette and protocol. Her company, The Etiquette School of Oklahoma, trains preschoolers to CEOs.. For more information, visit www.esokla.com.