Mind Your Manners Monday: How to Be a Good Guest....or “It’s Not Your Party, So You Can’t Cry Even If You Want To”

Today I have the Lovely Lilly Lemontree as my guest writer. I simply adore her stylish, elegant and charming blog, and if you have not had the chance to visit it,
please stop by her blog after reading this piece about party manners

As an etiquette trainer for children, one of my favourite segments to teach is the area of party manners. Not only because the children get so excited about going to a ‘party’ or because I have the kiddies dress in their Sunday best, but because it is the one area of children’s etiquette where they get to experience the immediate pleasures of displaying ‘good manners’. Most children find that they have a far better time as good hosts and guests when they don’t hang up their proper party manners at the door with their hats and coats.

We usually discuss party manners in context to the little host/hostess who is having the party (remembering to say thank you enthusiastically, greeting their guests when they arrive, etc.) but how about the gracious guest? Do we spend as much time discussing with our children what it takes to be a good guest? Do we understand that the manners (party and otherwise) we are taught as children are the foundations of our social lives as adults? Do we realize that most often as adults, parties and non-work gatherings are the one area that cause the most stress for adults in their social lives? 

Wow, has that put enough pressure on you as a parent?? No one wants to be responsible for their adult child’s bad social life or awkward behaviour with others, for heaven’s sake you will never get them out of the house at that rate! Don’t fret friends, this is the best time to teach our young children proper party manners! For most of us our children will not be attending dinner at the White House or meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace so we need not worry about not drinking our of a finger bowl or how to curtsey properly.

The few basics we should be concerned with are:
A Timely Response: Most children get really excited about getting a party invitation in the mail. We all know that it is important to respond within the appropriate timeframe as to whether or not our children will be attending the party but how many of us involve our children in this activity? Explain to your child what RSVP stands for and its importance, and if they are old enough (and they probably are!) get them to take part in the actual response call or in the return of a response card. 

The value of being prompt: If an invitation says 3:00 pm, be there at 3:00 (or as close to it as possible.) Children’s parties usually have specific time frames. If a party last 2 hours and you show up 45 minutes into the party, not only does it give your child less time to enjoy themselves but it begins a pattern of making it ‘okay’ to show up to functions (or school, work, etc.) whenever they deem it is acceptable, and let us not forget the inconsideration it shows to our host/hostess (whose parents spent the time and money to ensure that your little one has a good time), a grade A no-no when we are talking about party manners.

Proper party attire and grooming: By no means am I suggesting that you send your son dressed in a three piece suit to play on a jungle gym or have your daughter done up like she is in a pageant to go bowling but let’s make sure we are sending our children out to a party (and in general out of the house) with no less attention spent on their appearance than you would your own. There is never a good reason for a child to leave their home with their hair or teeth unbrushed, dirty hands that could use a scrubbing or in clothes that look like a child took a nap in. You may think that most of this would be common knowledge but you would be surprised what we can overlook when we are running late for time and have numerous drops off and pick-ups on a Saturday afternoon. Again you may think, what is the big deal, they are just kids! The big deal is that kids have a unique way of expressing their distaste for ‘bad’ grooming in other children-THEY DONT PLAY WITH THEM. And don’t think for a moment that other children don’t notice things like that. As far back as the stone ages, no one ever wants to play with the stinky kid!

Taking Part in Activities: What can spoil a party faster than a child who sulks in a corner and refuses to participate in party activities?? Not a whole heck of a lot, that is for sure. While we can’t predict the mood swings of our children, we can explain to them the importance of thinking of others (in this case, the birthday girl/boy or party host/hostess). I like to have a child pretend to be the host and ask them how they would feel if a guest acted that way at their party. Most children really don’t want to hurt or upset their friends and it is most important to impress upon them that this type of behaviour could make their friend sad and ruin this special day for them. 

We should always remember that these are children we are talking about, nothing is 100 percent foolproof and there will be moments when even the best behaved children will forget what they have been taught by their parents or teachers and occasionally act like children (can you believe it???). That is okay. Be patient with your children, praise them on their good manners and calmly correct and counsel them at the appropriate time (not in front of their friends). You will find that in time you will be pleased with their progress and always remember-Rome was not built in a day........