The Civilized Minute

a minute of manners and musings

5 ways your next party can teach your kids manners

When you are planning a party at your house, Lord knows you have enough to think about. Is the yard presentable? Whose shoe is that in the driveway?? What will I use for a centerpiece? I wonder if I can find that snazzy brie and brown sugar recipe…But, take heart! You have built-in little helpers right under your nose AND helping you pull off a fun and fabulous event actually prepares them for a mannerly life.

Ask your kids to help you de-clutter and add special touches around the house. My mood can head south in a hurry if I ask one of my children to straighten up the den and get this response: “But, that’s not my stuff.” Without fail – cough, cough – I reply calmly, “It doesn’t matter. We just don’t want our guests to be blinded by the sun’s reflection off the foil granola bar wrapper peeping from underneath the sofa cushion, right?” Help your kiddo see that they are working toward a bigger goal than simply cleaning up one room. They are getting ready for a big shindig! Ask them what special touches (flowers, candles, etc.) they think your guests might enjoy.

Let them make suggestions about the menu and help you prepare. Children are born thinking about themselves and their needs. Screaming when they are hungry ring a bell? Guide them through the menu conversation by reminding them that some people may have allergies to nuts or seafood or some foods might be difficult to eat while standing. This forces them to move beyond what they think would be good and think from another person’s perspective. Then, let the younger ones wash vegetables and the older ones chop. Let them put forth effort for another person’s enjoyment.

Have your children set the table. On a non-party-preparation day, teach your children to set the table correctly. This exercise is an easy way to reinforce table manners and it’s helpful to you when it’s dinner party time.

Let your children greet the guests at the door and direct them to you. Being able to talk to an adult without mumbling and darting their eyes about is a hard thing for kids to learn. Once they master a simple introduction and greeting, it will be easy for them to have an actual conversation. Remember to have them dress appropriately because it’s respectful of the occasion and the guests. Little ones could wear cute pajamas! 

And, they’re gone… It is not appropriate for your children to hang around your guests during the party. They need to perform their jobs and disappear. Remind them that sometimes we do things for other people and receive no enjoyment whatsoever except the gratification that we helped out.  

These are small things you can do to ensure your children move through those teenage years and into adulthood with the ability to put someone else’s needs ahead of their own, to talk – not text –  to another person politely and to be aware of how their actions impact other people in the room and in their world.

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