Rules about…guests

Hello readers!  This week is bound to be a doozy for all of us!  If you aren’t hosting guests then you are bound to be a guest in someone else’s home.  This is a great week to teach our kids proper etiquette with having house guests and when being a house guest.  So, let’s start by discussing what to teach kids when you have guests staying in your home.

Hosting Guests

First and foremost, be sure you have the space for your guests.  If your guests will be staying in your kid’s room, then be sure to have your kids clean up their toys and keep their rooms tidy for the week until your guests arrive.  You may have to help, but you should plan to change sheets the day before your guests arrive anyway.  Wait to vacuum the room until the day your guests are to arrive, too.  But, remind kids to help you by keeping everything clean and tidy.  And, make sure your kids pack their own bag with clothes and any necessary sleep aids like stuffed animals, favorite blankies, and whatnot.  Their bags should be sufficient for the duration of your guests’ stay to ensure that your guests can have their privacy in your kid’s room.

Next, remind your kids that when guests are around they need to keep the bathroom neat and tidy to ensure a comfortable stay for your guests.  They should always pick up their belongings from the bathroom, put away toys and towels, and be sure that guests have clean towels at all times.  Even though younger kids may not fully be able to follow this, do remind all kids to pick up after themselves when guests are around.

As for the common areas, remind kids that they need to be sociable and friendly to guests, mind their manners, and put down electronic devices during gatherings.  While it is acceptable for them to watch television or play with their electronics in down periods, such as in between gatherings or when guests are away, you should remind them just before larger gatherings that they need to be sociable and courteous with guests.  This should be at larger mealtimes such as breakfast and dinner, usual meet and greet gatherings (or established events), and on Thanksgiving Day, unless your family watches the usual Thanksgiving Day parade and games.  Other than at those specified times, allow kids their usual luxuries like games and electronics but do encourage them to socialize with guests, answer their questions, be mindful of guests’ needs, and be more active and go outside.

Being a House Guest

Similarly, remind kids to be mindful of their manners.  I will highly stress leaving electronics at home instead of taking them to a host’s home.  While I understand the issues that many parents face (kid’s boredom, whining, fighting, etc.), I will stress that electronics were not a huge part of our lives until 1989 when Nintendo released the first Game Boy.  Before that kids had to come up with ways to entertain themselves.  Instead, have them take a book they want to read or a magazine they like.  This can provide them with entertainment while still being portable and quiet while traveling.

Next, remind kids that they need to maintain their best behavior while traveling.  Proper table manners and guest manners are important, so remind them that they need to avoid activities such as jumping on furniture, private bodily functions in public (especially the smelly ones), and using their inside voice.  Remind them, too, that as a guest they need to clean up after themselves while staying at the host’s home.

Punishment or Correcting Attitudes

It can sometimes be nerve-wracking to punish your child in public, especially since everyone claims to have a different method.  And while you may use a certain form at home, it may seem inappropriate for hosts or guests or it can cause awkwardness when playing host or being a guest.  For example, I was raised in a home where we were spanked for misbehaving until I was about 12, and my husband was not spanked as a kid.  Some parents agree with spanking, some don’t.  Some consider it abusive while some consider it necessary.  On the flip side, some people are dismayed with parents that refuse to punish their children or refuse to spank their kids.  Either way, there are some steps to take with regard to your own children that are socially acceptable and will be useful for all.  I like to call it the “three strikes” system, which I’ll explain below:

  1. Start before you arrive.  Tell your children that you expect them to be on their best behavior while guests are there or while you are the guest.  Remind them of their manners and explain briefly the “three strikes” system to them.
  2. Strike One.  Verbal warning.  Maintain a low voice, drop to their level and say, “<Child’s name>, this is unacceptable because <state why it’s wrong>.  This is your first strike.  Remember what I said about the three strikes? <Let them respond.  If they don’t remember, briefly explain that they only get three strikes of punishment.> Now, will you stop doing <the unacceptable activity>?   Okay.  Then let’s remember our manners.”  And let it go.  If they don’t do anything else, then that’s it.  If they continue the activity or begin doing something else that’s unacceptable, then move on to the next step.
  3. Strike Two.  Time out.  Maintain a calm demeanor, but take them aside to a chair away from the activity or a step on the staircase, and say the following: “<Child’s name>, that was unacceptable because <briefly explain why it’s wrong>.  This is your second strike.  You will sit and think about what you did wrong for <child’s age, in years> minutes.”  And then walk away.  Set your timer on your phone.  When it goes off, return to the child and say the following: “<Child’s name>, do you understand why you were placed in time out? <Let them respond.  If they say yes, move on.  If they say no, explain it to them.>  Are you going to not do that anymore? <If they say no, then move on.  If they say yes, or they begin arguing, then say, “I’m not going to have this discussion with you here.  I think you need another time out.” Do another time out and repeat.>  Okay, I love you and I’m sorry.  Can I have a hug?”  Hug your child and let them go back to playing. If the bad behavior continues, then move on to the next move.
  4. Strike Three. Nap/Sleep.  Sometimes, kids act up because they are tired.  Remember that if the bad behavior starts around their usual naptime or bedtime, then you may want to skip strike two and move directly to strike three.  In any case, follow these steps.  Approach the child and say, “I think we need a break.”  Take the child gently by the hand, or pick them up, and say, “Let’s take a short rest, and then we can come back and play so more, okay?  Say ‘good night’ to everyone.  Let’s take a nap.”  Take them into a quiet room (theirs, a guest room, or a place your host will let them rest) and say lightly, “Why don’t you take a nap?  Mommy/Daddy will come get you after you’ve taken a nap, and then you can play some more.”  And walk away.  Most likely, they’ll cry but they will probably sleep.  If they get up or misbehave, just keep taking them back into the room and telling them to take a nap or go to sleep.  Don’t show any frustration over it.  Maintain a calm demeanor and keep telling them “good night” or “have a nice nap”.  Eventually, they will go to sleep.  Give them at least a forty five minute nap.
  5. When they wake up, start over.  Be cheerful.  Don’t remind them of the bad behavior.  Just act like you just arrived and they never had any issues or that they were ever not on their best behavior.  Chances are, they will be much more well behaved.

It is important to remember that you need to be realistic about your expectations for your kids.  While they should respect the general social norms such as using table manners and saying “please” and “thank you”, they shouldn’t be expected to sit still for a long length of time.  If you are going somewhere that isn’t familiar with children, be sure to bring an activity for them, such as a favorite coloring book and crayons, or have them bring a favorite toy or two.  If there are other kids around, and they are noisy, let your kids join in on the fun.  If they aren’t hurting anyone and no one is bothered by their actions or words, then that should be acceptable.  Also, remember that parties and get togethers should be fun for kids as well.

Hopefully, these tips will help you prepare for being guests somewhere or for having guests.

Until next time,

-BBM

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