Visiting a friend or even a relative with your kids in tow can often be a trying experience instead of the enjoyable occasion it is meant to be. Kids often get very excited when they find out they are going to a new place or visiting someone that they deeply love. Their emotions can get the upper hand and make them throw all caution, and unfortunately manners, to the wind. It’s up to parents to make their kids understand that while they can be happy about going on a visit, they must also exercise the best manners, especially if they want to be invited back in the future. Parents must also equip their children with the proper tools to succeed in being a good guest. Setting your own example of how to behave properly, whether in someone’s home or in public, is the fastest way to show your kids how to behave. Children are visual creatures and can benefit from seeing good manners first hand.
Manners Are Taught
Children can also be taught how to behave starting from the moment they understand what you are saying. “If we teach them manners from a young age we can instill in them the best behaviour in our homes as well as when visiting another home. We want happy, yet well behaved little Muslims as they are the future leaders of the Ummah,” shares Sister Zawajatul Moinuddin, who is a mother residing in Georgia, USA. Think of your child as an empty palette; as you teach them a new manner of behaving, a ‘colour’ is added to their repertoire of good behaviour. Before you know it, your child will have a whole rainbow of good manners to draw from no matter what circumstance arises.
Remember communication is key when teaching your kids about manners. Tell your children why they should behave properly. “I always explain to my kids that we are representatives of Islam and that we have to behave so people will get a good idea of our religion. I also remind them about the ‘recording angels’ on our right and left who record our good and bad deeds. I tell them we want the angels to always record the good deeds,” says Sister Zawajatul Moinuddin.
Children can be taught simple manners when visiting guests based on their age group:
• Wash their hands before and after the meal;
• Snack on some dried cereal that you brought for him while waiting for refreshments to be served.
• Say “Assalamu Alaikum” when entering the home;
• Say ‘Please’ and “Jazakallah khayr”;
• Sit still when adults are talking and not interrupt without saying “Excuse Me” first;
• Play quietly with some toys they’ve brought from home;
• Help clear dishes and tidy up;
Ages 10 –Teens
• Greet adults properly and carry on a conversation about school or friends if asked;
• Ask permission before touching anything in the home like the computer or video games;
• Don’t open up drawers, cupboards or enter rooms without permission;
• Help prepare refreshments like filling glasses for the host or helping to set the table;
• Assist their mother with smaller siblings;
• Play cooperatively with other children without bickering or getting rowdy;
Cease and Desist
There will be times when your children will misbehave. It’s inevitable as they might react to factors beyond their control like someone bullying them or if they get hurt while visiting. In this event, you should have an established code word that you can say to your child so that he knows that while you understand he is upset, he still needs to keep a hold on his manners for the sake of the hosts. The code word should be something that you agree upon prior to any visit and one that you will both remember. For example, suppose your code word is ‘bunny’. When you feel that a situation is getting out of hand while visiting, gently pull your child aside and whisper the code word in his ear. Insha Allah he will be able to calm down and discuss the issue with you later out of view of your friends or family.
When All Else Fails
When a situation arises and your child simply cannot be coaxed into settling down, turn to your hostess for advice. There is nothing to be embarrassed about as all mothers have had their share of temper tantrums and embarassments at different stages of their child’s development. “All of my friends and I are on the same page that we cannot let a child who is misbehaving continue to do so. I sometimes tell my friends’ kids to settle down and straighten up and they do the same with mine. At the end of the day, we are responsible for how our children behave. If we let them run wild they will continue to do so and will never learn from this kind of behaviour,” summates Sister Zawajatul Moinuddin.
Visiting a friend or relative is a wonderful way to escape the routine you live day in and day out and, at times of celebration like Ramadhan, they are especially important. As far as possible, such visits should be free from stress and give you an opportunity to have a social experience with another adult from with which you both can benefit. Kids can profit also by using the experience as a learning tool to see the proper way to behave in a social setting. Teaching your children how to behave when visiting a guest will be an important life skill that will carry them well into adulthood and they will always remember that their mother was the one who taught them good manners.