Thursday, March 17, 2011

Teaching Children Hospitality as the Guest

Every party has two groups of people present: the hostess and the guests. Teaching my four year old daughter, Ellie, to be a considerate guest is just as important as teaching her to be thoughtful hostess.*

As Ellie is getting older, she is receiving more invitations to play dates and birthday parties. I am using these social events to teach her appropriate guest behavior.

Practice polite behavior at home

If I want my daughter to act politely as a guest then I must teach and require the behavior at home first. By doing so, appropriate behavior becomes habitual and second nature. She won't have to think about how to act.

One way we do this is by always using polite words ("yes, please;" "no, thank you;" "yes, ma'am;" "no, sir;" etc.). I model this behavior for my daughter and require it of her also. Honestly, I sometimes forget but we are working on it.

Another way we practice guest behavior is by eating together at our kitchen table. We wait patiently to eat until everyone is served. We sit on our bottoms in our chairs. And no one leaves the table until everyone is finished eating (unless they need to use the bathroom). We also talk about the days events. Each of these unwritten rules trains my daughter how to act is a social situation.

Discuss appropriate behavior BEFORE attending a party or play date.

As we drive to a party I verbally remind Ellie of what I expect from her. I also ask her "what if" questions to help her understand how to apply the rules.

Here are some of the Guest Rules I have given my daughter:
  1. Use your polite words.
  2. Listen to and obey the adults who are present.
  3. Stay in the rooms where your hostess says you may play.
  4. Respect your hostess's possessions. Handle toys carefully so you don't break anything.
  5. Your hostess might not want you to play with certain toys because they are special to her. Go along with her wishes.
  6. Eat and drink what is offered to you. Don't tell your hostess you don't like a certain food and ask for something that hasn't been put out for you. If you don't like something just leave it on your plate and don't talk about it.
  7. Stay in your seat while eating until your hostess and other guests have finished.
  8. Help your hostess clean up toys and clear the table before you leave.
Good guest behavior continues after the party ends.

I try to let Ellie know what time a party will end and give her a reminder a few minutes before it's time to go home. This helps her transition smoothly from having fun to saying good-bye and we leave with smiles instead of tears.

When it's time to leave, Ellie asks for her coat and says, "Thank you for inviting me to your party (or home). I had a fun time." And then we drive home.

Once home, if it was a play date, we will write a hand made thank you note to give to our hostess.

With a little instruction and practice, my daughter is learning to be a polite guest. And that makes me happy.

How are you teaching your daughter appropriate guest behavior?

* In this post I have used the term "guest" and used my daughter as an example. It should be understood that I am using the same methods to teach my sons to be welcomed guests.


  1. Great post and great suggestions! We usually run through our rules verbally as we're driving to someone else's house or having someone come over to ours. (The last minute reminders seem to stick better at this age!) But we do try because it is important. I think a lot of people avoid having families with children over because many children are not taught to respect the property of others. Raising children to be enjoyable guests can go a long ways towards a family being able to build and maintain fellowship with others.

  2. Love the simple, but complete, list of reminders. Often we talk about one or the other... either being a great host/hostess OR being a great guest. It's really important that BOTH are addressed with our kids.

  3. I find the verbal reminders on the way to a party are VERY important.

    I've also come to the conclusion that drop-off parties shouldn't happen until kids are tweens or teens. Mainly because kids learn best if you can correct their behavior at the moment. If I'm not there to tell my daughter to stay in her seat until the hostess is finished, then more than likely she won't be corrected by the hostess's parents.

  4. I'm loving this little series Stephanie! Very practical advice. I agree about the drop off parties as well. I have been the kinda awkward "other grown-up" at parties more than once, but you know what? My child wasn't the one running amuck either. So albeit awkward I'm glad I go along.

  5. Great ideas! Verbal reminders are key! Valuable lessons...thanks for the encouragement to keep at it! :)