Put out the welcome mat for your children's friends

What is the cordiality quotient at your house? Do your children's friends like to visit there? Where would you fit on the list of parent types a youngster explained to me recently?

"Some parents are, well, dutifulm -- they don't really want extra kids over, but it's like replacing outgrown shoes, something they gotta do for their kid even if they wish they didn't.

"Some parents are polite. They say, 'Hello, how are you?' when you come and 'Goodbye' when you go.

"But somem parents are really glad to see you. They're actually gladm you came and they treat you like someone real and not a kid."

John's right! There are some people who make you feel wanted and enjoyed. They make you feel special -- like they'd been hoping you would come.

Cordiality is a personal quality that is an enormous asset in life. Some people have it in abundance. It frequently runs in families. A child who grows up with parents who have this special quality will often emulate it --and reap lifelong benefits. It is one of the unwrappable gifts we can give our children.

We have a responsibility to make our children's friends welcome -- to make them feel wanted when they visit. And certainly most parents meanm to do this. But do they succeed?

I know parents who provide beautifully furnished family rooms, games, recreational equipment, stereos, swimming pools -- only to find them rarely used. They are disappointed.

And when, as not infrequently happens, they find their child and his friends prefer to spend their time at a small, unpretentious, modestly equipped home, they are totally bewildered.

Wherem children like to visit depends less on the color coordinated family room furnishings and facilities than it does on the friendliness of the family that lives there. What one home lacks in luxuries, it may make up for in genuine warmth and cordiality.m

Think back to your own childhood. Which of your friends did you like to visit best? Why? Which homes did you avoid?

Carol Kaiser's house was my favorite. Her mother worked long hours in a department store and was raising three children alone. I'm sure she was tired and busy evenings and weekends. But she always greeted me warmly. She always took time to talk with me.If she was reading the paper when I arrived, she laid it aside. I remember feeling so special when I dropped by unexpectedly and she invited me in for a chat even if Carol wasn't at home.

In junior high, one of the girls in my class had a mother who, when displeased with her, gave her visiting friends a chilly reception. A frosty hello, a crip goodbye.No one ever felt really comfortable there.

In her autobiography, "Blackberry Winter," Margaret Meade wrote of the cordiality in her home when she was a child. She recalled that years later one of her childhood friends still remembered it and said, "In my house I was a child. In your family's home, I was a person."m

Isn't that something for all of us to strive for -- that every young visitor in our home feels that he or she is a person?

One of the pleasantest parts of being a parent can be getting to knowm your children's friends. Meetingm your child's friends and knowingm them are, of course, very different.

Some parents greet a visiting youngster with warmth and enthusiasm. They take a few minutes to talk -- to ask how his soccer team is doing, if math is going better this year, how the new puppy is working out, or if she's started thinking of colleges yet.

Youngsters want -- and appreciate -- parental interest. But they want genuinem interest. And none spot insincerity so quickly as the young.

Sixteen-year-old Karen complains that her father never remembers her friends' names. "But he knows that being friendly is the proper thing to do. So he actsm friendly. He sees Carol and says, 'Hi, Linda!" He meets Tom, and when he sees him again a few days later, says, 'I don't believe I've met this young man.' People who are interested, remember."m

One word of caution. You don't get to know children by interrogating them.

A student once told me, "My parents say they want to know my friends, so they always ask two questions, 'Where do you live?' and 'What does your father do?'"

The boy realizes, as his parents do not, that the father's position or their address say nothing about the child's character or personality.

Conversation with a visiting child should never be used to try to rectify your own child's shortcomings. "Do you keep your room clean? Well! Isn't your mother lucky. Nancy's is a pig sty!"

Both youngsters will wish they'd played somewhere else.

Children want their friends to like their parents. An aloof or unfriendly parent can be an embarrassment to a child.

There is a vast difference between politeness and warmth, between good manners and genuine glad-you're-here hospitality.

Cordiality, says Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, is sincere affection and kindness. Webster's defines cordial as relating to the heart, tending to revive, cheer or invigorate.

If cordiality is one of your attributes, your child will very likely emulate your warmth and friendly manner. If you make people feel welcome, wanted, and enjoyed, your youngster is apt to do so.

The child who grows up in a home where cordiality prevails is given a very special gift -- unwrappable gift, to be sure, but then they are the best gifts of all.

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