DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a new nanny learning the ins and outs of the play date. My problem is in the confusion created by everyone trying to teach their child proper hosting etiquette without teaching how to behave as a guest.
I have had a number of children who demand their rights as a guest. For example, both girls want to wear the same plastic tiara. The visiting child will say, “But you have to let me wear it because I’m a guest.”
I even had one child change her mind every time her host gave in and seemed content with the toy she ended up with. In that case, I told our visitor that though she is a guest, she is also a friend and has to be a good friend no matter whose house she is in.
I’m sure their thinking comes from the way their mothers have taught them to treat their own guests. I have talked to the child I care for about how to be a good guest in an attempt to prevent her behaving similarly when she is in someone else’s home.
As the supervising adult, is it appropriate to correct another child’s manners? How would such a correction be phrased in order to avoid giving the child I’m with daily the idea that it is OK not to allow her guest to choose first?
Also, I’m sure the other girls’ mothers are not aware of their behavior. Should I mention it so that they can have a conversation at home? When picking up their daughters, they always ask specifically about their behavior.
GENTLE READER: Well, there’s your opening. But Miss Manners supposes that mothers who have taken the trouble to teach hostess manners will be grateful if you continue the lesson – as long as you mention it in a nonaccusatory, if not actually flattering, way.
“I can see you taught her good hostess manners,” you can say pleasantly, “and she’s cleverly figured out that this means she can make up for it as a guest. Nice try – they all do it. I’ve had to teach Magdalena that guests have responsibilities, too. And of course when I’m supervising play dates, I have to explain this to everyone to keep the peace.”