It’s cold outside and kids and adults are restless. Playdates are a great way to keep your children connected to their friends during the winter months. With more socialization comes an opportunity to help your little one learn to be a kind host and a respectful guest.
Respect house rules
Whether it’s removing shoes at the door or avoiding certain rooms, kids should always be informed of and obey the rules of the house. Kliethermes says your child should “know the rules of the host house and follow them.” For example, Kliethermes explains that your child shouldn’t assume it is okay to eat in their friend’s living room, just because they can at home.
When visiting: Prep your child before the playdate, telling them which adult will be in charge while you are not there. If the host or hostess does not explain the rules of the house when you arrive, ask them to do so before you leave.
When hosting: Explain to both children what is and isn’t allowed. Be brief and end on a positive note. For example, you can simply say, “Don’t go in the office, don’t go outside without asking and most of all, have fun!”
Remember five phrases
Lecturing your child about good manners is a sure-fire way to get them to tune out. Instead, Swiech suggests that you reinforce good manners by using ‘the five magic phrases’ on a regular basis: “Please, thank you, you’re welcome, excuse me and I’m sorry.” Using these phrases consistently at home helps your child not only learn to respect others and feel respected, but also helps these phrases become a familiar part of everyday vocabulary.
When visiting: Encourage your child to use the five magical phrases with both the adult and child they will be visiting. Swiech encourages her daughter to simply say, “Thank you for your hospitality,” when a playdate ends.
When hosting: At appropriate times during the playdate, say please and thank you to both children, demonstrating respectful behavior. When the playdate ends, prompt your child to say, “Thank you for playing with me,” and teach them to walk their friend to the door.
Avoid food faux pas
It is extremely frustrating to host a playdate when the visiting child is constantly asking for food or complaining about what you have (or don’t have) available to eat. Kliethermes emphasizes the importance of staying out of someone else’s refrigerator. Instead, she recommends reminding your child to ask the parent of the house if they need food or anything else.
When visiting: Prepare your child a snack before they leave and remind them that they are going to their friend’s house to play, not to eat. Tell them that it is okay to try new food, if offered, but it’s not okay to help him or herself to the food in other’s homes or to complain when someone prepares a meal for you.
When hosting: If you choose to provide a snack or meal during a playdate, offer reasonable choices. For example, “Would you like fish sticks or chicken nuggets for lunch today?” Designate a time and place for eating and then encourage children to move on with playing.
Swiech teaches her students the importance of making eye contact and shaking hands with the adult host or hostess, “I tell my students, ‘If you are meeting someone for the first time, especially an adult, please don’t be looking down at your feet to make sure they’re still there. Trust me, they are still there; otherwise, you’d fall over.’”
When visiting: Begin developing good habits with your child by standing beside them and reminding them to make eye contact and extend their hand. Practice with them at home until they are comfortable. If your child is shy, encourage proper behavior and demonstrate by shaking hands with the host.
When hosting: Allow your child to practice by shaking their friend’s hand and telling the friend, “Thank you for visiting.” Make it fun and extend your hand to the visiting child as well.
Have fun and be an example
Swiech teaches manners using funny names like ‘Mr. Grabby’ and ‘Susie Shouts.’ She also encourages role-playing in her classes, asking two children to engage in a private conversation before she barges in and uses herself as an example of how not to behave. “We also play games, do crafts and listen to songs, which underscore the need for good manners,” says Swiech.
Kliethermes reminds parents, “Kids learn by example. Let them see how you behave outside your home. Be persistent in your words and actions. You can’t expect your kids to take you seriously if you don’t follow the same rules.”
Julie is a freelance writer.
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