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Miss Manners: Use clean-up as teaching moment

Fri., May 2, 2014

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I often host play dates at my home with young children and their mothers. The kids all play together while the moms chat. When it is time to end the play date, the mothers often try to make the kids pick up the toys, or the mothers will pick them up themselves.

I would prefer they leave the toys for me and my children to pick up ourselves. For one thing, I am trying to teach my children that when you are hosting, it is your duty to clean up. Secondly, I don’t want to make visiting our house a chore for the children or the parents.

Lastly, we have a very organized, set way we pick up toys. Everything has a specific place. When the kids and parents pick up the toys willy-nilly, it actually makes twice as much work for us because we have to go back and reorganize everything.

I have tried to gently tell the parents that picking up is not required. Some listen, but others are quite insistent on ignoring me and picking everything up incorrectly. What is the best way to go about getting them to leave the picking up for us to do after everyone leaves?

GENTLE READER: “Please let me, it is my pleasure. I’m sure that when you have the play group over, you will want to clean up, too. I’m trying to teach Sebastian how to be a good host.”

If you must, you may add “… and put everything in its proper place,” but Miss Manners warns you that you will do better acting the gracious hostess and using the “teaching moment” card, than implying, “You’re doing it all wrong!”

Your guests will then also be more receptive to taking the hint to host a play date in the future.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email, dearmissmanners@; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.


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