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Category: Character
Category: Education
Category: Health
Category: Leisure

Teach Your Child How to Be a Good Guest

Children usually love to visit the homes of friends and family. Being in new surroundings and enjoying special activities and time spent together is exciting. That’s one reason why kids need to learn proper visiting etiquette – so they will be invited back!

Being a good example is the most effective teaching tool, but taking the time to teach your child how to be a good guest will increase the chances of them behaving properly.

Basic manners always apply. Phrases like “please, thank you, excuse me and may I” can be taught as early as two or three. But learning manners is a gradual process. This means prioritizing and selecting one manner to focus on at a time. Being sensitive to developmental readiness and individual temperament will help you decide when and how to teach your child good visiting manners.


Preschoolers are in learning-mode! Capitalize on your child’s willingness and ability to try and to learn new things by beginning to teach basic manners at this time.

Focus on polite phrases, modeling the civility you expect from your youngster. Praise your child when they greet you or another adult when entering a room, when asking permission to do something and when saying thank you. Most very young children can say “Hello” when meeting someone new.

By age 5 or 6 your child should be able to:

  • Wash their hands before eating
  • Stay seated when at the table
  • Dictate and sign a thank-you note
  • Greet adults properly and shake hands
  • Pick up toys, clothes and playthings
  • Ask where the bathroom is, flush, and wash their hands

Practicing each one of these graces ahead of time will increase the likelihood of remembering them when needed! Make it a game to practice going to a friend’s house for a visit. Take turns being the guest and the host. Practice really does make perfect.

Most preschoolers will have no problem being a good guest, as they will seldom be out of your care when visiting someone. If they goof up, and they will, correct them quietly and in private. Kids really can and do say the “darn’dest things”. Try to react calmly and take the incident as a learning opportunity.

Expect a gradual increase in manners as the years go on. Focus on one thing at a time. Be positive and loving as you correct and affirm. Eventually they will have the kind of manners and behavior that will make you proud and glad you taught them!

Main points to address:

  • Kids 2 to 5 or 6 are able to learn basic manners. Focus on one thing at a time.
  • Modeling good manners at home and during visits is your best teaching tool.
  • React calmly to breaches of conduct. Correct in private.

Grades K- 3rd

Young school age children already know right from wrong in the larger sense, but they will still need to fine-tune their behavior as they mature. Because most kids this age love to visit friends and family, they will have many chances to practice proper guest behavior and be motivated to learn what that entails. Basically, children aged 6 to 9 should know these rules of etiquette:

  • Say please, thank you, may I, and excuse me.
  • Never enter a bedroom without being invited in.
  • Never touch personal items without permission. This means the contents of drawers, cupboards, closets, desktops and vanities.
  • Do not help yourself to food or drink. If hungry or thirsty, ask politely.
  • If something is served that you don’t care for, say “No thank you.”
  • Chew with your mouth closed, and do not talk, sing or whistle with food in your mouth.
  • Ask before using the phone, the computer or any appliance.
  • Respect bedtime and any other quiet time. Remember every family has their own rules.
  • If you feel uncomfortable, or wish to go home, ask to call Mom or Dad.

Children this age may or may not be ready for overnight stays. Children become ready at different times. If your child is very shy, or if they have not incorporated basic visiting manners into their behavior, you may want to wait until they are ready before encouraging sleepovers.

There are many good storybooks that feature manners. Reading them with your child will make him or her more aware of the importance of good manners.

Main points to address:

  • Children need to know what they should and should not do when visiting.
  • Teaching your child ahead of time will maximize the chance of using good visiting manners.
  • Enlist the help of the host or hostess in reinforcing whichever manner or rule you are currently working on.
  • Over night stays need special instructions and practice.

Grades 4 – 6th

By this age children should be fairly good guests. But there is still more to learn. Issues of privacy and appropriateness arise at this age, making it necessary to address specific situations such as:

  • Knock before entering the bathroom.
  • Always ask permission to enter a room by saying, “May I come in?”
  • Use a robe when out of bed and still in pajamas- even to go to the bathroom.
  • If you make an unexpected mess, or accidentally break something, tell an adult as soon as it happens.
  • When ready to leave the table, ask to be excused and clear your plate, glass and silverware.
  • Ask if you can help set or clear the table, and if you can help with dishes.
  • If you are not sure of a household rule, ask.
  • Respect bedtime and the call for “lights out”.
  • Pick up toys, games and other items used by putting them where they go.
  • Be kind to pets and your host’s siblings.
  • Send a thank you after the visit.

Your older child may enjoy reading an age-appropriate book on manners and being a good guest. If they are an older sibling, have them create a book of etiquette for their younger brother or sister. Before going on a visit, rehearse situations that may require newly acquired manners. Let your child know you believe in their ability to behave well and have fun at the same time.

Learning how to behave as a guest involves a set of social skills your child will use their whole life. Studies show that much of how a person is perceived hinges on the manners they do or do not possess. Equipping them to succeed in social situations will be among the most important teachings you will impart to your child. Focus on one manner at a time, keep your expectations high, use a kind and consistent approach and above all model the kind of behavior you are looking for. Good luck!

Main points to address:

  • Issues of privacy and appropriateness must be specifically addressed.
  • Being a good guest is an issue of respect.
  • The social skills your child learns now will stick with them into adulthood.
  • Keep high but realistic expectations.
  • Practice desired behavior. Let your older child teach a younger child the basics of etiquette.


Resources that can help you in your venture include:

Posted in Character.

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