Prepare your young ones for dinner guests, it’s worth it!

This dining room has housed many memories indeed!

This dining room has housed many memories.

When our olive shoots were small, we had little training sessions about manners.

We stressed several important things with our guys to prepare them for “company.” Now that they are 23, 18 and 16 respectively, I see the fruit of our labors. They really know how to be gracious hosts.

Here are the things we worked on:

1. Firm handshakes

2. Eye contact

3. Addressing adults by their last names.

Yes, this kid does have manners...

Yes, this kid does have manners…

To make the teaching time fun, (and I realize that the word “fun” might be a stretch), either one of my olive shoots or I would go into the hall closet. It was filled with coats and whatnot and after a second, I’d knock on the door or pretend to ring the doorbell. When the guys would “answer” the door, I would extend my hand and give them a hearty “Hello!”

From there, we practiced those aforementioned skills – often I’d invent a wildly funny last name with ample alliteration. One of my favorite last names was Mrs. Schpuhboodydootin. Oh the giggles we shared while learning the importance of addressing adults with respect. Occasionally I’d even hyphenate her name to keep things interesting.

This boy needed some teaching but that's ok!

This boy needed some teaching but that’s ok!

Let me tell you something. There isn’t anything cuter than being greeted by a little ginger boy with a strong handshake. Follow that up with a big brother who addresses you with  confidence and a middle guy asking to take your coat and welcome you into the home and shablam, there was a sweet mood in the air before the dinner even got started.

All this cost me was time and these guys were worth the investment.

I can’t tell you how many people have told me how conversational my boys were even during the awkward growing years. Those light-hearted training sessions were useful!

Controversial as it may seem, I do find the whole last-name thing ironic. We applaud our little children as they develop an ample vocabulary but we dumb them down when it comes to using an adult’s last name. People even put their kids in language classes to help them become bi-lingual but wow, ask them to use an adult’s last name and the parents instantly think it’s impossible!

That same dining room many years ago. Ike still sits in the same chair.

That same dining room many years ago. Ike still sits in the same chair.

Yes there are cultural preferences but people have told me that calling me Mrs. Cindy is a Northern thing, then others inform me that calling me Mrs. Cindy is a Southern phenomenon. I really don’t care, the standard in our home was to use an adult’s last name out of respect. We wanted to keep the bar high because it shows the preciousness of others.

As we taught our guys the fine art of cordiality, I always wanted to lift the standard. I can’t tell you how many people would say my last name was too difficult for their kids to pronounce. Really? My boys found a sense of comfort in acknowledging that they were in the midst of their elders.

This guy is now an officer in the Army!

This guy is now an officer in the Army!

Of course we had no idea one day our oldest OS would be a West Point graduate and an officer in the Army.

I know Nate appreciates the significance of rank and decorum. Maybe he learned some of that in our home training ground. Now it makes me smile when I hear people refer to him with respect and honor. A part of my heart leaps when people salute him, how can that be? He’s just a sugar boy after all.

Sugar boy/Soldier

Sugar boy/Soldier

I’d love to hear what you think about my suggestions. I realize I might have opened up a can of controversy with the whole last name thing but I want to put it out there. What are you doing to train your kids to be ready for guests?

11 thoughts on “Prepare your young ones for dinner guests, it’s worth it!

  1. This is truly awesome and definitely something we’ll try at our home. All three actions are important to me however it hurts when a young person either lacks the confidence or respect to look at the adult their addressing. Both were instilled in me as a child. Keep teaching Lil Mama…keep teaching!

    Love it!

    • Oh yes, I understand. It does make a difference to teach our kids (our boys) the value of creating a strong first impression. And it goes beyond that, we want our kids to glorify the Lord in even the smallest of gestures. It’s interesting how those seemingly small efforts can be of tremendous benefit. I know you are a passionate mama, keep breathing into those babies!

  2. My children regularly encounter other children who use foul language. This, to me, is the ultimate rudeness (plus, when you hear a child say the ‘f’ word, it is shocking!). My children are very clear that we do *not* use that kind of language and that we choose to be different. This leads helpfully into other ways in which we choose to be different (being Christian already puts us in the minority in our country).

    In the UK using an adult’s last name would not be considered more polite unless the adult had been introduced as Mrs So-and-so (e.g. at school), but knowing how to shake hands and say ‘how do you do’ is a good one. Plus knowing to eat nicely, with a knife and fork, and knowing when to use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. So many children are not taught even this! Good manners last a lifetime – it’s so encouraging to know that what we instill at a young age will pay off later 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing, Sandy! You are so right about foul language, I want our company to feel welcome in our home but that would be wayyyyy out of line. You are doing the Lord’s work in the UK and I’m glad there are some bright lights in your beautiful country. I think we undervalue the importance of manners and training, I appreciate your efforts! We aren’t perfect here to be sure but we have to not give up! Great hearing from you!

  3. We played a fun “secret game” to encourage eye contact with our five kiddos… Before greeting an adult, I would coach the kids to look “up the nose” of the person without letting him or her realize what they were doing. Invariably, the kids would smile all the while, which had the added benefit of making them appear happy to see their “victim.” You were the unwitting beneficiary of this unusual treatment, Mrs. WHo-gee-wigit, I am sure! As much consternation as this unorthodox approach may incur, it worked beautifully, and my kids learned to love “meet and greet” as a result. Alas, they all outgrew me and are now too tall to enjoy this particular family tradition…

    • That is a great idea, Elizabeth! My guys would have loved that! Your home is always so welcoming and relaxed. The food is wonderful and there is genuine love for your guests. Aside from the Benadryl Nate had to take before coming over because of the cat, he treasures his time spent with your family. I bet you have many more ideas, I’d LOVE to hear them! Thanks for sharing, please do it more often!

  4. Great post! We also practice the firm handshake and eye contact at church. Hunter loves talking to men as he shakes their hand but we’re having trouble helping him to remember the eye contact! So I’ve been playing the staring game with him. 🙂 And lots of reminders. Not sure what else to do other than keep practicing. I LOVE your dining room photo. It looks like such a fun and cheerful room! It looks like the kind of room I imagine you would have. Finally I totally agree about kids being taught to use adults last names. That is what I have taught my kids from day one. I think the first name thing does show less respect – though many people don’t seem to see that anymore. (One of those things where it’s happened slow enough people don’t think.)

  5. Although we work on eye contact (and it’s the most important of those 3 factors above, in my opinion), it is very difficult with a child with ASD, as eye contact can be almost painful at times for them. I appreciate that looking up the nose trick. Thanks, Elizabeth.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s