Are You a Good House Guest? It Translates to Your Kids Too

“Visits always give pleasure – if not the coming, then the going.” –Portuguese proverb

This past summer and these past few weeks I felt like we’ve been the consummate hosts.  Since most of our immediate family does not live in the New York City area, summer weekends are the only opportunity for us to gather together and reap some good quality family time.  In the summer, at the beach, hosting a weekend means many different add-ons for me:  buying enough food for everyone for the entire weekend (which could translate to upwards of 6 meals); cooking all that food, cleaning all that food, extra loads of laundry, organizing activities, delayed bedtimes, and just being ON at all times.   In our NYC apartment, our guests always seem strewn across our apartment in our kids’ rooms and on the sofa in our living room.  It’s truly amazing how much you learn about your friends and family when you’re all living under the same roof – whether in a cramped apartment or a more spacious house.

It’s hard not to hold a grudge (for the near future) when you have guests who seem completely oblivious to all of the effort involved with hosting.  And, when the parents are unaware, the kids usually are too.  How does this translate? From experience, here’s where I feel like a little effort goes a long way:

Thank you gift/note = the olive branch.

This should just be a small token of appreciation and can be given to the hosts while guests are mooching or after they’ve left as a follow up thank you.  One doesn’t have to spend a lot of money on this gift.  In fact, the more thoughtful the better.  I’ve had guests bring/send everything from baked treats, to cooking ingredients, to cooking utensils, to wines.  This gift is more conspicuous by its absence.

Treat your hosts’ house/apartment like it’s your house. 

Clean up after yourself and your kids.  Clear the dishes and don’t just leave them in the sink, move them to the dishwasher.  Help out wherever you can.  Make your bed in the morning. If you leave your room a mess or don’t make the bed, have the decency to close the door.  No one, let alone a host, wants to see an unkempt room.

Recognize your family’s impact.  

If you’re showing up with kids that require additional sleeping arrangements, offer suggestions, be flexible and for god’s sake, help set up the beds. Offer to help out with the shopping.  It gets mighty expensive hosting every single meal all weekend long.  Offer to go shopping, to split the food costs or to even cook one of the meals.  Simply sitting back and enjoying the food served doesn’t cut it.

Be respectful of your host’s rules.

Every family has their own set of rules: from bedtimes to tv viewing and tech-time to no desserts. It’s helpful to be supportive of these value differences.  Be prepared and willing to temporarily adopt some of your host families’ rules to avoid any drama between families.  Or, if you’re unwilling to bend, that’s fine, just don’t make a federal case out of it.

Help carve out personal time.

Everyone needs personal time.  Hosts and guests don’t have to be glued at the hip at all times.  It’s actually healthier when everyone has time to break away from the group and do their own thing.  Whether it’s reading, working out, or simply sitting on the toilet with a locked door (!) individual reprieves from the entire group are cathartic and affords much-needed time for everyone to refuel and reboot (kids and adults).

Avoid the extended stay or fire drill exit.

Everyone knows the expressions, “don’t overstay your welcome.”  Well, don’t.  Guests should clearly communicate their timetable.  Hosts should know when their guests are arriving and, guests should anticipate when it’s best to leave.  Leaving on a high is much better than leaving in the midst of your child’s tantrum.  Everyone wants their last taste of togetherness to be light and refreshing, not embarrassing and headache-bound.  Conversely, don’t pull a fire drill and have a hasty exit without thoroughly packing up all your belongings, checking every room for any lost items, and properly asking the hosts their wishes for dirty sheets and towels.  Even if your guests don’t want you to do anything, you still get the credit for offering to help.

Now this might seem really patronizing to adults but, you’d be surprised at the lack of manners out there.   And, if parents aren’t exhibiting manners, how will the kids?  I’ve had people tell me how surprised they were that my 9-year old daughter says please and thank you, puts her napkin on her lap before she eats, waits for everyone to be served before eating, doesn’t reach across the table for items, knows to clear her plate when she’s finished (and not just leave it in the sink but actually putting it in the dishwasher), makes her bed in the morning.  She’s not perfect.  Is this so hard?  As a parent, it’s my JOB to teach her these fundamental manners.

And, quite honestly, if by 9 years old she hasn’t picked these up, then I’ve already under delivered.

Have you ever hosted guests?  If so, can you add anything to my “Good House Guest” list?


  1. It’s amazing how inconsiderate some people can be. I’d like to add don’t leave your stuff in common areas. There is nothing more annoying to my to find peoples purses, sunglasses, cellphones… on my kitchen counters or in the foyer.

  2. Totally agree about table manners! Recently had a houseguest with a feral daughter – chewed with her mouth open to the point of bits of food flying out while she spoke….and it just went downhill from there. Atrocious. I don’t want to see the chewed-up food in your child’s mouth, it is just gross.

    And if you can’t discipline your child, please don’t bring them into my home. Having your little 7-year-old precious throw a tantrum over nothing while you stand by pretending you’re powerless to change the situation is just embarassing.

    • Bonnie » well, isn’t it also difficult when you are dying to parent the child except, you feel as though that’s out of your jurisdiction?

  3. just reread this one. I think being a host (and you’re the best) is a learning process. Important to give guests structure “please come at this time” or I’m going to try and get kids to bed. I don’t know how you have guests every summer weekend. Sort of nice when it’s your immediate family/your rules.

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