It takes time to establish house rules with your family. Old habits are hard to break. It might have been difficult to get your husband to adopt the habit of taking his shoes off at the door when he was raised in a house where that wasn't a rule. It might have been even more difficult to get your children to wash their hands before meals or to not eat in front of the TV when they've seen you or your husband breaking these rules from time to time.
But hard work pays off, and you've finally found yourself and your family in harmony with the rules you find necessary to maintain your home. But how do you get your family to continue to follow and enforce those rules when guests arrive at your door? The following are some helpful tips on maintaining house rules with guests:
Removing Shoes At The Door
This is probably the most difficult house rule for people to maintain with guests, simply because many find it awkward to ask. But if this is a house rule that is important to your family (And it should be! To find out why, check out "One Simple Step That Can Keep Your Child Healthy"), it's vital to maintain it with anyone who walks through your door.
The following are some easy, non-awkward ways to ask guest to remove their shoes:
- Place a sign by the door, and always have shoes sitting under it. Be sure that this display is prominent and the first thing guests see when they step inside. Many people will automatically scan the room for clues as to whether or not they should remove their shoes, so this will make it easy for them without having to ask.
- If you're hosting a party, include a note in the invitation. Simply state that shoes stay off inside, but fun and comfy socks are welcome. You can even make a game of it to see who wears the craziest pair of socks, and provide a prize.
- Buy a bulk package of unisex socks or slippers and place them in a basket by your front door. This will eliminate awkwardness for those who are wearing sandals or heels without socks or those who may feel uncomfortable in bare feet.
- Buy a box of shoe booties for repair or service people who might come to your house. Many companies have their employees bring their own booties, but it is safe to have some at your house in case they don't. These booties can be worn over their shoes to prevent tracking in dirt and germs. Repair technicians often cannot remove their shoes if they are working with heavy appliances, etc, as it poses a safety hazard. These booties are the perfect solutions.
While most guests will be perfectly willing to remove their shoes or wear booties over them, you might have to remind them of these two points:
- Children's shoes should be removed too. If they can walk, chances are, those shoes have the same dirt, germs and bacteria on the bottoms of them as any adult's shoes would.
- Removing their shoes inside the house, doesn't mean it is okay to walk outside barefoot and then come back into the house. Some guests might do this, especially if your party is both indoors and outdoors; they find it more convenient to just go in and out barefoot rather than putting their shoes on and taking them off each time they enter and exit the house. The same dirt, germs and bacteria can travel in on their feet as does on their shoes. If there will be a lot of entering and exiting through the back door (for a cook-out in the backyard or a pool party), after they remove their shoes at the front door, immediately place them on a mat by the back door to avoid them having to travel to the front of the house to retrieve them each time they need them.
Washing Hands Before Meals
If you have established a "hand-washing before meals" rule with your family, it is important that you maintain this rule with guests as well. If your children have to wash their hands before they eat, but they see your guests not doing the same, they will begin to question the importance of this routine. This is a tricky rule to maintain with guests, because you can't force someone to wash their hands. The very best way to get them to comply is to make an obvious statement before you sit down to eat. Speak directly to your children, but in front of your guests, and say something like:
"We're all going to wash our hands now before we eat so we don't put any germs into our mouths."
You can then go one step further and address your guest with a little explanation as to why you try to always set a good example for your children by showing them that you wash your hands before meals too. If they don't jump on board, then there's really nothing you can do. But you made the effort, and your children saw it.
If you have small children, you know how important routine is. Meal times, nap times, bath-time and bedtimes all play a vital role in the functionality of your household. When you have guests, whether for a few hours or a few days, it might become increasingly difficult to maintain these routines. But, as any mother knows, months of progression can become months of regression in one day's time. Inform your guests of the importance of these routines so that there is no room for debate.
Your guests might feel slighted as they are only visiting for a short amount of time. They might not understand why your children can't miss a nap or go to bed late so you can venture out into the city with them or see a late movie. That's why it's important to let them know ahead of time that during their visit you will be maintaining your children's routines and you will have to plan your activities around them. Your guests will be more understanding if you give them the heads up before their visit.
If you live in a smoke-free home, you want to keep it that way. It lingers on clothing, furniture, blankets and in the air; it can cause dangerous second and even third-hand effects on those exposed to it. So how do you deal with a house guest who smokes? This is probably one of the trickiest situations you will encounter.
You and your partner have to establish how much you're willing to accept when it comes to this particular situation. It is important for you both to be on the same page, because chances are, it's either going to be a friend of his or a friend of yours. It's easier to cave or not want to cause conflict when it's your friend, so you both have to establish a smoking rule together and stick to it no matter what.
When it comes to something that can affect the health and well-being of your family, they absolutely must come first before the feelings of others. If you have a house guest who will be staying with you in your home for any given amount of time, let them know that your home is smoke-free. If they are unable to refrain from smoking completely during their stay, there are things you can ask them to do to make the situation more comfortable for you.
- Ask them not to smoke in your yard or on your porch. Your children play in your yard. Your dog rolls around in the grass. You don't want them picking up cigarette butts, debris or ash. Additionally, if they stand on your front porch, every time you walk through the door, it will smell like smoke. Ask you guests to take a walk through the neighborhood while they smoke, or at least to walk to the end of the street. This will keep the smoke and ash away from your windows, yard and door.
- Ask them to change their clothes when they come back inside. Many smokers resort to throwing on a "smoking shirt" and removing it when they are finished. But smoke lingers on all of their clothing - not just their shirts.
- Ask them to wash their hands or even take a shower. Hand washing is an absolute must, at the least. Smoke also lingers in hair. A quick shower will help with any lingering smells.
While this might seem a little over the top, you have to remember why you have a no smoking rule in your house in the first place - to protect your family's health and well-being.
Remember that not every house rule will be easy to maintain with guests. A shoe might slip past your welcome mat and touch your freshly washed floors every once in a while. And a guest might get bored waiting for your child to wake up so you can go about your plans with them. But it's important to try to maintain these rules as best you can to show your children why they are important to you and your family.
Photo credit: Kristy T. and With A Red Bird On My Shoulder