Picture this: At a holiday gathering, a frustrated dad faces a group of young guests at his dinner table—all on cell phones and multitasking their way through the meal (munching, texting, talking). In a desperate attempt to get their attention, he zings off a text of his own: “Stop texting at the table!” Humor gets the point across, but he wonders, bewildered, how to eliminate the intrusion of technology altogether.
Sound like a scene from your house? Do you wish you could insist that your kids’ friends obey your house rules?
While you might not be able to control the actions of those who gather around your table, you can be sure your own child knows how to lead by example. A little preparation ahead of time can make a big difference at your next holiday bash, so brush up on household etiquette with your child and enlist her help in easing sticky social situations before guests set foot inside your home.
Start with your child’s role as a host:
Get on the same page. Have a conversation with your child about what you expect. Simply settle on a few house rules for potential trouble areas—how much TV time is allowed, which rooms are open for horseplay, the policy for cell phones at the table—and you won’t have to nag your child with dos and don’ts in front of her friends.
Encourage initiative. A good host doesn’t hang back and ask her guests, “Whatdya wanna do?” Encourage your child to have some activities in mind. She should kick off the fun, and welcome her guests’ ideas, too. She’ll also want to let her friends know where the bathroom is, which rooms may be off limits, and which snacks and drinks are up for grabs.
Be all there. If your child has a friend over, she should take a break from her cell phone, and not be fielding calls and sending texts to other friends. Remind your child that the best way to make friendships is in person—and that the calls and messages can wait.
Guests go first. That’s just common courtesy, right? Your child should let his guest serve himself first at the table, choose the first video game to play, even decide what he wants to talk about.
What about when your child is a guest in someone else’s home?
Speak up. There are plenty of simple ways your child can communicate clearly and politely: Hello, Mrs. Green… I’ll have chocolate ice cream, please… That was fun—thank you! Even if she’s shy, encourage your child to acknowledge adults, express her preferences when asked, and let her friend know she’s enjoying herself.
Travel light. If the visit is an overnight or simply an afternoon involving different activities, your child should only pack what she’ll need—and leave the games and gadgets at home. This will show her host she trusts they’ll have fun, no extra stuff needed. Do consider sending along some food—which is almost always welcome, especially if your child has any dietary restrictions.
Watch and learn. When your child is at a friend’s house, he should take cues from his friend’s family’s actions and follow suit. Do they take off their shoes before coming inside? Wash their hands before a meal? Stow their cell phones when guests are over? Recycle?
All’s well that ends well. Saying goodbye and leaving promptly when the visit is over is a good way to get invited back—and that goes for parents too. Even if you want to chat with another parent, be a good role model by respecting the other family’s time and drawing the visit to a close, then schedule some time to chat at length at a later date.
Trying to eliminate the intrusion of technology altogether? Go on a Digital Diet this season!