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Good manners are learned from your family

Etiquette for Families

Family etiquetteMeet our resident family etiquette expert on StageofLife.com

Stage of Life is pleased to introduce etiquette expert, Jay Remer, to its team.  Below you will find tips, advice and articles from Jay on important etiquette topics specifically tailored to parents, children, in-laws, and families.

But wait...

Ask Jay a wedding etiquette question ...ask us a family etiquette question now.  If you have children and have an etiquette question, contact us and we'll post your question and Jay's reply here.

Read below for real-life etiquette advice submissions about family manners, and don't forget to check out all 10 of our etiquette advice pages for the other stages of life.

Etiquette Tips for Families

Toxic Sister at Thanksgiving

How do I handle my toxic sister at my aunt's house for Thanksgiving? Should I even go? 

Dear Jay,

My relationships with my biological family has been nothing short of dysfunctional since childhood, and I have been forced to cut a lot of them out of my life entirely for my own personal safety as well as the safety of my kids, husband and in-laws or because the relationships have been toxic.  A few months ago, one of my sisters crossed the line, and my husband and I decided she is too toxic of a person and had to be cut out of our lives. We've avoided functions that she has been in attendance to, but my aunt/mom (its complicated) just invited us to Thanksgiving and my sister will also be there.

Our last argument ended with her making a very horrible comment to me: that she hoped I killed my husband and children just like our bio-mother.   Her habit of comparing me to that woman just to hurt me is a large part of why my sister is no longer part of my life.  She also refused to help the family at the last parole board meeting to keep our mother in prison even though I literally begged her to help us. She knew I was terrified for my and my family's lives. She said she doesn't really remember her so why should she care.  I do not want my kids exposed to such a horrible person and my husband agrees.  The rest of my family didn't even argue with me about forgiving her this time.

We would like to attend the family gathering because we don't see the family very often as they live several hours away and family gatherings are pretty rare, maybe once or twice a year.  

My question is should we attend and if we do, how do we deal with my sister?  Is it okay to just make it clear from the start that she is to have no interaction with us or the kids or would that cause too much tension for the rest of the family?  What should we do?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: This situation arises in far too many families today. I always advise taking the high road. By that I mean you must take responsibility for what is yours to take care of, and nothing that is not your business. It means having compassion for everyone, especially yourself. It means being grateful for what family you have. It also means setting a good example for your children. Doing the right thing in emotionally charged situations may seem impossible. We are torn in different directions. I suggest you go to Thanksgiving dinner, keeping in mind that the focus of the meal is on being grateful for what we have. 

This does not mean that your children need to interact with your sister, other than to say hello upon arrival. Depending on the age of your children, explain to them that your sister is not well and to stay away from her. This may even be the perfect time to turn this visit into a teachable moment. Explaining boundaries on all levels and teaching your children how to respect and protect theirs and respect those of others. Keep an eye on them and bring some activities along to keep them occupied, preferably in a different room from your sister. I imagine other family members will have strained relations with her as well. Avoid dwelling on negative feelings and keep focused on being grateful for the many blessings in our lives. Never allow toxicity to overpower joy. By not arguing with anyone, except in private, you will naturally be taking the high road. Celebrate this Thanksgiving with gratitude, and with your family like never before. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Stop the interruptions

How do I get my sons to understand when they should listen instead of interrupt all the time? 

Dear Jay,

My wife and I have two teenaged boys are we are equally guilty of interrupting each other during a conversation. As soon as the thought is formed in the brain it comes out in the form of interrupted conversation.  Wonder if you could offer any tips and/or reading that could help us how to proceed.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: This is a great question! In my experience and in my research on the topic of listening, briefly listening comes in two basic forms. The first is listening to understand. The second is listening to respond. Both are important. But what is even more important is to be able to discern between the two and know the difference of when to employ one or the other. The boys are obviously listening to respond. This is what boys do. However, how they behave at home and how they behave socially outside of the home is an entirely different matter. Another basic dynamic at play here is the boys disrespecting you. I imagine you have asked them not to interrupt each other, yet they continue. Perhaps if you explain to them the value of listening to understand, and secondarily to listen to respond, perhaps they’ll be learning an important life skill. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Divorced sister worries

Why am I bothered by my recently divorced sister's request for a sleepover and a late night car test drive with my husband? 

Dear Jay,

I am 4 years older than my only sister and am happily married with two young children (ages 4 and 2).

My sister has recently gone through a divorce and has no children.  Due to this dynamic dramatic process, I have indeed gone out of my way and weekly routines to show that I do support her and am there for her.  However, last night, she asked me if I would spend the night with her next weekend on a "night I'm free."

If I were in high school, this would be easy.  But the thing is, now that I have my own family, I feel like I am neglecting them to a degree if I am gone all night.  Am I thinking into this too far?  Should I just not worry about it and spend the night with my sister?  Would this become a habitual thing she will expect in the future?  Is it ok for me to feel like I am neglecting my kids if I leave them and for them to know that I really was out for the night (this would apply more so to my 4 year old, he is very keen.)?

As a secondary question, just for gathering opinion's sake:  Was it ok for me to let my husband go test drive her new car with her, just the two of them, at 10 pm?  Granted it was for 15-20 mins, and I have high trust in my husband - it's just that now that my sister is single, I didn't realize until after the fact they had driven away that I felt my heart kinda cringe and am currently very upset about the whole thing.  My husband knows the extent of my frustration after I explained it to him, my sister beamingly asked what's wrong shortly after the ride and I just replied that I'm upset about something between my husband and I.  Am I being too obsessed about this?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Although this question falls outside of the subject of etiquette per se, your questions are important. To begin with, your feelings are totally valid. Learning to set boundaries and priorities is important and can take us a life time. You must make choices, including this one. I don’t think your sister would ask you to spend the night if she were not calling out for a connection. She is struggling. Your children are in a safe loving environment. A night away from you should not really make any difference. If your son is ‘keen’, then sit him down and explain to him why you need to go and be with your sister. This whole dynamic reminds me of advice given to me once by a very wise person. “If you have to choose between going to a wedding and going to a funeral, choose the funeral." Your friends really need us from time to time. We need to drop everything sometimes. This is a part of life and an important one for your children to understand, too.

As to your second concern, in my opinion you’re turning a mole hill into a mountain. My advice - drop it. If you trust your husband, then trust him. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Babysitting uninvited guest

Should I be angry that my sister wants to share her babysitting experience of my daughter with my mom? 

Dear Jay,

I am married, we have one small child 2.5 years old, and I have a half-sister (we have the same father but different mothers).  I have a good relationship with my mother who sees our child at least twice a week.  I also have a good relationship with my sister who sees our child about once every two months.  My sister and mother have a friendly relationship and occasionally my mother will invite my sister over to her house for social gatherings.

My wife and I made arrangements with my sister for her to come over to our house and babysit our child so we could have a date night.  A few days before our date night, my sister sent me a text message saying she’s really looking forward to coming over and she also invited my mother to join her, hope that’s ok.  I replied I would’ve preferred that it just be her (and her husband) to spend quality time with our child, but since she already asked my Mom, no biggie.  She then said she didn’t think it would be an issue and could un-invite my mom if I wanted.  I replied that it wouldn’t be right to un-invite my mom now, but next time I’d really appreciate being asked first before inviting others.  I was surprised that my sister invited my Mother over without asking me first.  I was also hurt that my sister wanted to share her 2.5 hours of watching our child with my mother and turn it into a social visit with my Mom.  My sister only sees our child once about every 2 months.

I thought proper social etiquette is when someone is coming over to another person’s home and they want to invite an additional person, they ask the homeowner first to see if it’s ok.  My question is, was it proper etiquette of my sister to ask my mother over to my house without asking me first?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Technically, you are correct. However, my impression from your question is that you are making this into something far greater than it deserves. I’m sure your child is adorable, as children are. She is 2 1/2 though and your implication that quality time will be lost by adding your mother to the mix seems to me to be a bit shortsighted. I think it is completely appropriate for her to turn this babysitting gig into a chance for her and your mother to have a visit. Perhaps the interaction with two women is better than one, especially family! If this is still causing you stress, I recommend you be clearer when you make the request initially, outlining whatever house rules you wish. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Acquiring possessions from a deceased relative

How do I ask my cousin's husband if I can have some of my deceased aunt's family keepsakes? 

Dear Jay,

Recently, my only aunt passed away and more than likely left everything to her only daughter. Her only child, her daughter who was 69, died 17 days after her mother, my aunt. I realize that I have no right to anything that was my cousin’s, as all her property would go to her husband. But now that my cousin is gone, my aunt’s estate more than likely is in my cousins husbands hands. I don't think that my cousin even had time to execute her mother's will before she died herself. Again I know that what was my cousin’s is now her husband’s, but my aunt had many of my grandmother’s things that I would like to keep in my family and not be sold off at some auction. Even though I don't have any proof, my aunt had told me that she wanted me to have some of her Christmas collections and family photos that she had of my family when we visited her home.

I guess what I would like to know is if there is a polite way to ask my cousin’s husband about these things that I would like to acquire and not look like a "gold digger”? I would so much like to have these items and photos stay in my family. This aunt was my mother’s sister. Can you help?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I can certainly understand your reticence, but I think because you are more attached to these possessions than he likely is, you’re overthinking the situation. My advice is to write a letter or an email and provide a list of what you would like. You could soften it a bit by adding, “if no one else wants them”. You could even mention conversations between you and your relatives concerning the items. I would encourage you to remember that you are all grieving, so try very, very hard to keep your emotions in check, and just deal with the facts. In the end, it is his choice. Kindness begets kindness. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Thanksgiving Guests and Invites

Do I accept an invitation from my son's in-laws for Thanksgiving even if we already invited a houseguest and question whether or not our daughter will attend? 

Dear Jay,

For the past few years we have had a close family friend join us for Thanksgiving.  I have already invited him to join us this year  In the meantime, my son's in-laws have invited our family and the close family friend to spend this Thanksgiving with them.  They are having family from Richmond join them.  Question, is it rude to ask our family friend to join us at my son's in-laws? We hosted Thanksgiving last year and the in-laws graciously attended--without hesitation.

Also, my adult daughter loves tradition and I'm afraid that she will not join us at the in-laws for dinner.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: It is not rude to ask to bring a houseguest - in this situation. Thanksgiving is an inclusive celebration. What I find slightly awkward is the fact that you accepted their kind invitation without asking them about the houseguest first. You have an obligation to the houseguest that takes precedence over a later invitation. I’m sure it will all work out. The facts around previous Thanksgivings are irrelevant. If your daughter is inflexible about her traditions, that is her choice. Traditions need flexibility, too. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Rude Adult Visiting Children

How do I tell my adult children that their manners were terrible especially in relation to their dog during our last visit? 

Dear Jay,

What are the houseguest rules for weekend visiting adult children and their spouses?
Recently our children stopped over for a weekend during a weeklong vacation (we were midway to their destination) They were provided with a private bedroom and bath. They also brought their very active dog. We have two small dogs that their dog does not get along with. We do not allow our dogs on our beds or around our meal table, they do however get to make themselves comfy on our sofa or chairs.  I prepared meals, cleaned up, with minimal help. We also treated to two meals out. It was a very tense weekend for me as I felt I didn't enjoy their company and it was more of an imposition trying to keep things tidy and listen to the dogs being vocal. They also expect us to pay for everything when on an outing.  The biggest thing was stopping them from allowing their dog to drink from cups and lick dinner plates. Big Yuck from my point of view.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: These are your children. Surely they were taught your house rules growing up. Perhaps a refresher is in order. Communicating with family members is fraught with worry. We don’t want to upset anyone, even though we’re upset by their actions ourselves. I advise being honest, but in a kindly way. Simply explain that in order for you to run your household in a manner whereby you can maintain your sanity, these are the rules. Please adhere to them. If they don’t, they’re off the guest list. This demonstrates respect for yourself and for your house. Lead by example. Your children will thank you. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Disrespectful Children and Parents Who Don't Care

What do I do about my son's fiancé's children who make messes and don't clean them up when they visit? 

Dear Jay,

My son’s fiance has two daughters, 10 and 11 yrs. old . When they came to our home for the first time they played on the beds that were made, left them in a big mess and the worst for me was that my son’s fiance did not seem to see anything wrong. They left the mess for me to clean up. What should I do next time? How do I handle the situation?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I recommend having a private chat with your son and remind him that there are house rules. If there haven’t been any rules to date, this is a good time to implement a few. By not showing that you respect your own house, you are setting a very poor example. Respect for others is very aligned with self respect. Your son, his fiancée, and her children will benefit from your example. Your home is your castle. Treat it with the respect it deserves. Others will follow your lead. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Eating in front of guests

Was it wrong for me to invite my husband's guest to eat with us? 

Dear Jay,

One Friday evening, my husband asked if his friend could come over for a visit. I was and always am open for visitors, however, his friend came over much earlier than expected. I hadn't even prepared dinner by the time he had knocked on the door. I tried to quickly prepare a meal that could accommodate the extra guest, all while attending to our 18-month-old son. I asked my husband, who was sitting on the couch playing with his phone, to help me watch our son. At that point my son had thrown yogurt on the floor, which made him upset. My husband's guest did mention that he wasn't hungry,but when I served dinner he devoured the meal and even went in for seconds. 

My husband said that I should not have been cooking for our guest instead of watching our son if our guest had said that he wasn't hungry. I feel that it would have been rude if we all ate in front of our guest even if he wasn't hungry. Is this rude or am I in the wrong?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Since you “are always open for visitors”, you are going to find yourself in these situations from time to time. The simple solution to avoiding this awkwardness in the future is to be clear with your husband about the nature of his friends' visits. If they are going to interfere with your dinner plans, either suggest the friend stay for dinner, or change the time of the visit. As to your husband suggesting how you allot your time and how you manage your young son is a matter for further discussion. 

However, to your point, you are not wrong for feeling awkward about eating in front of a guest without offering them something to eat. Your husband needs to learn this fundamental etiquette guideline. Some of us grow up without the benefit of such an understanding. Be sure your son doesn’t fall into the same disrespectful rut. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Etiquette's Purpose

Do we really need etiquette in our modern world? 

Dear Jay,

I am very curious to know, as you answer so many of these questions, do you believe that social etiquette is necessary? I personally do not. I believe it is a part of a stupid never ending game in which people lie, cheat, and loot. As an example I have seen that many people do not appreciate directness, preferring what, I don't know. I believe that if you wish to communicate it should be directly, without paying attention to how the person may feel.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I do believe that social etiquette is necessary. What I hear in your question is a great deal of anger. I do believe in being direct, but not rude. Learning to communicate in a respectful way has helped me to form deeper and more meaningful relationships with my friends, family, and business associates. Developing such skills can require professional help. I hope you can find a way to release your anger. Perhaps then you may begin to shift your perspective.

 My best,

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Visits Only When Invited

Is it archaic to think that I shouldn't visit someone unless I am invited there? 

Dear Jay,

Somewhere along the line, I was taught that I had to be invited to someone's house to go there, even extending to family and close friends.  I still go by that rule now even with my own parents and especially my in-laws.  My husband has told me that thinking is rather archaic and completely false.  However, I do it our of respect.  Although, there is an additional problem - my in-laws seem incapable of asking us to come by or visit so we are now the eternal hosts of family get-togethers.  I guess there could be worse things but it does get tiresome.  What do you suggest?  Am I being ridiculous?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I was raised in exactly the same way. It is not archaic. It is respectful. If you need to connect with your inlays, who follow a different agenda, my advice is to call them and ask them if you can come over. That’s what I do even today with my family. Just showing up is actually disrespectful because it assumes the other person has nothing better to do than accommodate you. I know the word bullying may sound strong, but that’s what it is. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Mother-in-law in Disney Nightmares

How much say should I have in my mother-in-law's request to not only come with us to Disney World, but for us to pay for everything? 

Dear Jay,

My mother-in-law has expressed that she wants to go to Disney World with the our kids when we go.  The problem is she wants us to pay for everything (flight, hotel, food, park pass).  She is in decent health and capable of working a 40 hour a week job, but chooses not to work and has little money. She is also obese and out of shape and will have significant difficulty walking around the parks.
  
My husband sees it as his duty as a son to fulfill his mom's request.  I do not know how much is acceptable for me to push back on paying for everything. I also want to know how much I can put limits on changing our plans to accommodate her fatigue.  Is it acceptable to ask that she use a motorized scooter so she can keep up with us?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: This is a classic illustration of The Drama Triangle - read attached carefully. (http://www.angriesout.com/grown20.htm). In the meantime, you and your husband need to have a discussion about how this makes you feel. Your feelings are just as valid as his, but don’t play the victim role. Be as accommodating as possible. His relationship with his mother is not something you have much, if any influence over. Yes, be sure to get a scooter, and be sure to lay down ground rules before the trip that all parties are aware of and agree to. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Paying for Out of Town Guests

Is it my responsibility to pay for out of town guest accommodations? 

Dear Jay,

I am having a 90th birthday party for my Mother. There will be relatives coming from other states. Who pays for accommodations, me or them? What is proper etiquette?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Under usual circumstances, the guests would be responsible for their own travel expenses. There are certainly plenty of possible reasons why you might help out, but the choice is yours, not the obligation. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Other Plans During A Visit

Do I accept a graduation party invite even though my in-laws will be making their annual visit at the same time? 

Dear Jay,

My in-laws only visit us once a year (they live about 3000 miles from me). They have informed us that they will be visiting us for 2 weeks this June.  I have since then received an invite from a friend for her daughter's graduation party.  Is it wrong of me to tell my friend that we won't be able to attend the party because we have houseguests?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Not at all. Accept the invitation and go to the party. Your in-laws can fend for themselves. What’s wrong with this picture (from my perspective) is the fact that you were ‘informed' and not ‘asked'! I don’t care if they live on the moon! They still need to ask you if it’s convenient for them to stay for 2 weeks. Your home is your castle, and your social schedule should not be disturbed - within reason, of course. Perhaps your husband can have a chat with his folks if necessary. But you are definitely not in the wrong for accepting this invitation. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

A need for privacy

Should my husband consider my disapproval for having his father and his father's new wife move in with us? 

Dear Jay,

My father-in-law remarried a year after his wife died.  He currently lives in another country and would like to bring his wife to the United States.  He is currently retired and does not have his own home.  He did not ask his children directly, but we assumed he wants to move back and forth between his children.  I am not comfortable with this situation.  I don't want to live with him and his new wife who none of his children or grandchildren have met. I don't want it even if it is a part time basis.  I want my space and privacy.  My husband is a very accommodating and does not want to hurt his father.  What to do I say to my husband and his father so I will not hurt their feelings?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: You and your husband need to have a heart-to-heart discussion. Your feelings are every bit as important as his, but you must come to some sort of agreement and stick to it. Assuming what your father-in-law and his new wife want is inappropriate. I would bet that they certainly don’t want to be  intruders. Everyone needs to take responsibility for themselves, including your husband. You are all adults and the only feelings any of you are responsible for are your own. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Not a Storage Facility

How do I handle the stuff my in-laws are storing in my basement and have no plans of retrieving? 

Dear Jay,

My sister-in-law (and family) are currently storing items at our house that were from my mother-in-law's recent downsizing. (Items ranging from boxes to a refrigerator.) They live a few hours away and don't always have excess funds to drive up to see the family, let alone funds to pay for renting a trailer or truck. Neither do we.
I see no end to the storage as there are no plans for them to take the items. (Unfortunately, this isn't a new thing for them...) I want the stuff out of our space!
Any suggestions??


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I would recommend suggesting to them that they either come down or authorize you to hold a yard sale of their items - and maybe a few of your own. Since you both seem strapped for cash, this might be a good solution to your problem. Otherwise, let them know you’ll be calling the Salvation Army or other such service organization to take the stuff away and redistribute it to folks who are in need. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Leaving Mother-in-Law behind

Is is okay to leave my live-in mother-in-law at my house when I go out with my family? 

Dear Jay,

My mother-in-law lives with us to help with the kids.  Should she be invited all the time to either my sister or parents for dinner.  When I am invited she pouts and becomes mean.  I don't see my family and love to have my own time with them.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: It sounds like there is a total lack of communication in your family. You are not alone! You need to sit down with your MIL and your sister and come up with a set of guidelines that works for everyone. You should not be obligated to provide meals ‘all the time’ unless that’s part of the deal. Otherwise, you need to take your share of the responsibility for this predicament and take some action. The ball is really in your court. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Relationship Deal Breaker?

How do I explain to my daughters-in-law that my wife and I want to spend our anniversary alone? 

Dear Jay,

We are going to another town to look at some real estate with an agent[planned]. My daughters-in-law live there. I had called them[first time] to ask them about the area. That day is also our anniversary and my wife is very protective of it being just us that day. The in laws want to go look at the real estate with us and go to dinner that day. Keep in mind we barely know them. My wife does not want to do it, and I am afraid of destroying our relationship before it really ever gets started. What do I do?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your wife is right. You simply need to explain to these folks that it’s your anniversary and you’ve been looking forward to sharing it alone for a romantic dinner, just like you have been doing for many, many years. I’m sure they’ll understand. If you worry about destroying a relationship, this hardly carries that much power. Further onto an ongoing relationship, you will be demonstrating the respect you have for yourselves. This easily translates into the respect others will expect you will show them as well. Think of this as a relationship builder, not a deal breaker. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Pushy and Toxic Sister

How do I tell my sister that I don't want her at my house every other weekend while she undertakes her Master's degree? 

Dear Jay,

I received a call yesterday from my sister announcing she would need to use our spare bedroom every other weekend because she decided to get her Masters degree at her former college rather than do the online program as she had told us earlier.

I love my sister but I do not want her at my home every other weekend.  The college is a 45 minute drive to her home.  My husband and I enjoy our privacy and our group of friends whom we enjoy for dinner parties.  We have grandchildren we like to have over for special events and to be able to spend time alone with them and they need the guest room. I spend a lot of time at work each week, as does hubby so weekend time is precious.

My sister is very vociferous about how people should feel, act and think and so I limit my time with her to every other month sister dates and twice a year sleepover events where we go out of town together.  

Sis also gets very negative about my relationships with other women friends and even though she does not know them, she ranks on them when I mention an interaction with a friend, so I just stopped doing so.

I am also bothered that she did not ask.  She just said she will be needing to use the room every other weekend beginning in October.   I need to approach the subject with her and let her know that does not work for us and me.  We were estranged for 10 years at one point due to her ongoing relationship with an abusive addict husband who abused us as well. Sis likes her wine as well but can forego it.  When she drinks she brings up our childhoods and lots of negative events.  I feel like a bad person for not wanting her over, but I also spent years in counseling over family dynamics and don't want to re-engage.  What to do?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Although this questions falls outside the line of etiquette per se, my advice would be to continue to practice the skills you learned in counseling. In your own words, “Don’t re-engage.” You and your husband need to be united on this. You need to explain that her proposed arrangement comes at an impossibly inconvenient time  (no explanation required from you). Don’t turn this decision into a “forever” kind of statement; that’s not necessary nor appropriate. She sounds toxic and best kept on your current schedule. By standing up for yourselves, you are demonstrating to her that you have respect for yourselves. She will follow in step. Your role as doormat is retired. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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In need of separate time and space

Is it okay for my boyfriend and me to want our own time even though his parents are generously letting us live with them for two months? 

Dear Jay,

My boyfriend and I are staying with his parents for about two months while our house is being renovated. We both spend most of the day at work,  generally arriving home around 8. Nearly every night,  we sit down with his mother and father to eat dinner she had prepared,  and often after sit with them in the living room to watch TV they have on.  While dinner is appreciated,  to be honest,  I would occasionally prefer to make and eat our own meals some nights, and retire to our room without spending the time with them watching TV.  Spending all day at work alongside lots of people is tiring,  and it would be nice to be able to just relax. My boyfriend thinks it's rude to not eat dinner or watch TV with them.  I think we can balance the two, sometimes eating and watching with them, sometimes on our own. Is this rude behavior under the circumstances?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I completely understand your feelings and agree with you. Your boyfriend’s relationship with his parents is complicated - all relationships are. What may help is for you to explain that your feelings about this matter are serious and that you and he need to agree on a way to explain to his folks that you would like to contribute to making a meal from time to time as well as dine alone occasionally. They will quite likely be delighted! The point is for you two to be united. This is a relatively easy problem to deal with compared to what could lie ahead in your lives together. Getting this one right will set up a dynamic for you to both be able to tackle bigger problems successfully together as they arise. I hope this helps.

My best,

Jay

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Guests and Bathroom Use at Parties

Is it okay for guests to use whichever bathroom they choose to use or should they stick to the powder room in the main area? 

Dear Jay,

When hosting your family Christmas party at your house, is it appropriate for your family guests just to assume they can use your personal master bath or daughter's jack and jill bath instead of the lovely powder room provided in the main entertaining area? Also, if you find your niece in one of those rooms without asking is it OK to ask her to use powder room next time?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: In general, guests should not just help themselves without permission. That said, as host, you need to be welcoming and gracious and let your guests know what bathroom or powder room to use (or not use). Depending on the size of the family, providing more than one lavatory is helpful. If there are rooms in your house that are off limits, post a small sign or close and/or lock the door. Your rules are in play in your house; but you'll need to let your guests know what the rules are. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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No Gift, No Gratitude

Should my step-daughter show her gratitude more by at least purchasing a small gift? 

Dear Jay,

Should my daughter who is 23 and we support once in while buy a small gift or token of appreciation for her father?

I have a 23 year old step daughter that my husband and I are putting through college, paying for her apartment, clothing, and some spending money. She brings her boyfriend home for the holidays and we treat him like family. My husband has fixed his car, driven him back and forth to the airport when needed. We enjoy having him and he is very respectful. My stepdaughter, has not purchased a small Christmas gift for her dad for a number of years. I have often reminded her. This Christmas I had it. She bought a 99 cent card and not even a Starbucks $5 gift card. She did have enough money to spend $700 on her boyfriend. We are also taking them out on New Year's Eve and purchased a new dress for my daughter and rented a tux for her boyfriend.

I pulled my step daughter aside and reminded her of all the nice things that her dad has done over the years and he gladly does it, but it would be nice if you could give him a small token of appreciation. He did feel bad at Christmas with not a small gift. She got upset with me for telling her what adults do when someone does something nice and goes out of their way.

Was I wrong to do this? I have always instilled manners in both step daughters. My oldest is great, this one I don't know what to do with.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: This is a complicated question as several dynamics are at play simultaneously. First of all, you are basically correct and your pathway of thought is aligned with mine. However, communications within a blended family can be tricky. Comparing the value of what one party brings to the table, whether it be day-to-day life or a Christmas gift exchange, is inappropriate and can be more of an irritant than anything. Nor is any form of scorekeeping helpful. How people choose to spend their money is a very personal matter. Everyone in the picture is now an adult. Although I don't think you were necessarily wrong to have your chat with your stepdaughter, it is her dad who really needs to speak with her. After all, it is his feelings that are at the centre of all of this. Men however often balk at sharing their feelings, especially with their daughters. My advice is to simply have as much compassion for your stepdaughter as possible. She will very likely change over time. We are all following our own path, and encouragement along the way often trumps criticism. I hope this helps..

 My best,

Jay

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Extra Invites

Is it okay for my husband to invite other couples to events that we are not hosting? 

Dear Jay,

Whenever my husband and I are invited to an event (family or otherwise), he finds it necessary to ask another couple to attend.  I think that this is an imposition on our hosts and that this should not be done as it can be uncomfortable for the hosts to say no.  We can invite who we choose to our own functions and should give that courtesy to our family and friends also. Am I being unreasonable?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I agree with you. The host has sole control of the guest list. Your husband’s behavior is disturbing in that it is a habit, and not a one-off. Have you asked him why he insists on doing this? Is it always the same “other couple”? I can only say that I find it bizarre. Perhaps I am missing something, but at the moment, your line of reasoning is 100% spot on. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Dad Mad About Special Food

Is it okay for my brother to bring organic food and drink for his children when he visits my parents? 

Dear Jay,

My Father, Mother and I were having dinner and this came up. My father feels that when my brother comes for a holiday that he should not bring his foods and put them on the table for his children. His children drink organic products. My brother knows that my Mom and Dad do not have this and do not purchase it before he comes with his children. My father gets extremely mad. I told my father that the correct thing for him to do would be to have this at his home for them beforehand. Can you please advise.
Thank you!


Jay's ANSWER...

A: In brief, you are correct. In an ideal world, your father and mother should have on hand whatever organic drinks/foods are required by your brother and his budding family. However, your brother does need to let them know about these. If this is a problem, then your brother is well within his rights to bring whatever foods are necessary. It’s akin to someone who has food allergies. If the host knows ahead of time that there is an issue, he or she can make provisions, or advise the guest to bring their own special foods. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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My Daughters Don't Socialize

How do I make my adult daughters understand they are being rude by their lack of response and interest in social gatherings? 

Dear Jay,

My adult daughters will not attend or socialize with any of their extended family (cousins, grandparents, etc.) or attend social functions like anniversary celebrations, wedding or baby showers, etc..  This is extremely embarrassing when I'm asked why they won't attend the event or why they won't acknowledge a graduation or special event.

Their behavior and actions appear that they feel they are too good to have anything to do with their cousins, aunts, or other relatives.  I realize there are many relatives that are annoying, but what about the social responsibility to at least respond to an invitation or send a card!!

I was raised and taught that out of respect, even if you didn't like that relative, you at least acknowledged the social invitation as a form of common courtesy.

Please advise.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: With all due respect, children learn from their parents, for the most part. Somewhere along the line as they were growing up, they missed the lesson on decorum. Now that they are adults, they can do as they please. If someone asks you why they do or do not do this or that, your best line of defense is to refer the questioner directly to the culprit! I agree that their behavior is inappropriate and embarrassing, but as they say, “the train has left the station”. Trying to parent them now may work, but it will very likely require a good bit of diplomacy. Perhaps if you take some of the responsibility when and if you decide to discuss this matter with them, it might be easier. “I forgot to teach you that you must send an RSVP, a thank you note, etc., but I think you should know that this is the polite thing to do. I’ve had some disturbing feedback from both friends and relatives. Even if you wish to regret all invitations, you really might want to consider letting the host know. They will have gone to a lot of effort and really do want to know who is and who is not attending the event.”
Who knows, this may work. As well, it may plant the seed of how they might want to raise their own children.
I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Switched Sleeping Arrangements

Do I need to explain why our guests will be using the fold out couch vs. the room they usually stay in when they come from out of town? 

Dear Jay,

My husband's sister and her husband and children are coming to town for the holidays. In the past we have given up our bedroom for them and slept on the fold-out in the basement living area. This year I am not keen to give up my room, and would rather stay in my room and offer them the fold-out. Since we have given them the bedroom In the past will it seem rude not to do the same this time?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: It's not rude, but it may raise an eyebrow. Although you technically owe them no explanation, you will want to be sure their accommodations are as comfortable as possible. If they ask, just explain that the guest room is now in the basement. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Meddling Mother-in-Law

How do I tell my mother-in-law that her parenting "advice" and judgements bother me? 

Dear Jay,

My in-laws and I had a wonderful relationship until a few years ago, when my mother-in-law nestled herself in my husband's and my communication regarding having children.  It has been tense ever since and then once we had our son, it's been increasingly difficult for me to have a genuine/natural-feeling relationship with her.

Based on many of her comments, it is my perception that she believes I am an inadequate parent.  She passive-agressively questions or outright disagrees with nearly everything I do with our son, so I'm finding it difficult to remain confident in my parenting and I am constantly anticipating my next interaction with her.  I have been trying to be very mindful of my own reactions to her comments, since I am steaming inside, but avoiding addressing it is not an effective long-term strategy or solution.  I think the tension is sometimes palpable for us both.

I'm not sure if there is a new mind-set or behavior for me to embrace, or if I should have a conversation with her directly. Do you have any tips on this?  My husband has been very kind to me and we even joke at home that we should probably just 'call social services'. (Luckily he has a good sense of humor!) :)  I hesitate to talk with him as often about it as it strikes me, because I don't want to put him in an awkward position in any of these relationships.

Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide!


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Although this is not really an etiquette question, it does very definitely revolve around civility. I'm glad your husband is on your side, because you need to have a conversation with your mother-in-law, and he needs to know about it. Set a date and time and let her know you need to have a heart to heart discussion with her. Invite her to your house. You will need to explain how her behavior is making you feel. Let her know you appreciate her concern, but you need to set some ground rules, especially in your own house. I doubt and certainly hope she is unaware of the impact she has on you. Hopefully learning this will give her some food for thought. Remember that the house rules in your house are not negotiable. Be sure your husband is 100% on your side. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Broken Barstool

Should I ask my brother to pay for a barstool his son broke? 

Dear Jay,

I hosted my large family of 15 guests for Thanksgiving including 3 nights accommodations in my new home.  My nephew was kidding around and accidentally fell and crashed one of my new barstools onto the floor in our kitchen.  Right after everyone departed my home and I was cleaning up, I noticed that the seat he was sitting on was severely damaged.  Do I bring this issue to my brother's attention and assume he pay for a replacement or do I keep quiet and deal with it at our own expense?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: In an ideal world, the guest would offer to pay for the damage. Since this did not occur (perhaps this young man is a minor and doesn't know any better yet?), a word with his father would not hurt. If he is not forthcoming with an offer to replace the stool, just drop it. It's not worth starting an argument about. However, a discussion where you might say how you would behave were the shoe on the other foot, could be productive. You will have to decide the course of action based on your relationship with your brother. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Family fireworks and missed invitations

How do I mend the fireworks in my family over not accepting my invitation and also not being invited to their functions? 

Dear Jay,

I have two brothers and two sisters and few years ago I invited my family at least a couple of weeks in advance to come to my home for the 4th of July. A week or so later when I called my mother she informed me my sister planned to have a 4th of July event. I had no idea she had planned the event, and when I talked to her she wanted to invite me to her home for the holiday. Honestly, I was a little irritated, but I didn't want to be rude, and I accepted her invitation. Toward the end of the night after the fireworks were done and before most of my family left for the night, I indicated that I would enjoy have the family at my home for  the 4th next year.

 As July 4th approached I began inviting and confirming. My wife and I purchased patriotic dishes, glasses, paper plates, etc, ingredients to do the hot dog bar, and of course hundreds of dollars worth of good quality fireworks. At the last minute people began to cancel because my brother had just moved into a new house and wanted to have the 4th there. Nobody in my family kept their commitment to us. My wife was extremely upset, and so was I and I rejected his invitation to his home for the  4th and have rejected invitations to any other events of his. I've been to other family events since then, but none at my home except for having my parents for Thanksgiving Day last year.

This year my wife and I also invited my parents for Thanksgiving dinner, but my wife was scheduled to work Thanksgiving Day since she works in retail. I immediately called my parents and told them she had to work and to possibly make other plans. Now I'm stuck on Thanksgiving Day with only my daughter and me. I have two brothers and two sisters that know that  my daughter and I have no one but the two of us to spend Thanksgiving with nor do I have any money to perform a mini Thanksgiving for my daughter and myself.  No one has invited us to their homes.

What I need to know is was it rude for me to indicate that I wanted to invite everyone for the 4th after the fireworks at my sister's July 4th event, and would it be rude to reiterate to my brother and my other sister my daughter and I have no dinner plans for Thanksgiving

Or are they being rude by not inviting us?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: You sound all but defeated, my man. You must only deal with the truth here. It was definitely not rude of you to have invited people to your July 4th celebration. As far as wanting to spend time with family over the holiday, why not invite them to your place. They will probably suggest you come to their house - with any luck. Not having any money is an issue. I'd return the fireworks for some cash. You also need to mend family fences. Have a nice big family pot luck sometime soon. The more time you can spend together as a family without holding grudges, the happier everyone will be. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Home Ground Rules

How do I deal with my disapproval of the sleeping arrangements in my home? 

Dear Jay,

Am I wrong for not letting my granddaughter and her boyfriend sleep together in my home? I lost my husband of 23 years 3 months ago, and my son was already living here with us when my husband passed. Then my son's daughter moved in as well. She has a job, so I've been taking her back and forth to work. Tonight I picked her up! She got sideways with me and threw a fit because I won't allow her and her boyfriend to sleep together in my home. My son also has a girlfriend and she tries to spend the night all the time. She doesn't speak to me, and I don't speak to her.  I wanted your advice to figure out what to do.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: You have a couple of choices. The first is to lay down some ground rules in your house. If anyone has a problem with the rules, they move out. Another choice would be to allow them to sleep together. These are connecting adults; you want to welcome guests into your home with any rules clearly understood (next time hopefully before they move in!). Frankly, I don't think you need the stress. What you do need is the contact with these people. You can remove the stress by bending the rules as necessary. They are after all your rules to bend. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Out of control controlling aunt

How do I get my aunt to respect my guest list decisions and stop inviting people to my home for functions? 

Dear Jay,

I have a close aunt who is somewhat controlling.  For the last three years she extended an invitation (without asking me first )to my cousin's (her son) girlfriend's family (mom, dad and brother, who I've met once )to Thanksgiving dinner that I host (Although thankfully, they have never taken her up on the offer).  

I explained to her last year that due to limited room at my house and the expense of all the food and the fact that they aren't really my family, that it bothered me that she did that.  I thought it was settled and that she understood that I didn't want her to invite people to my holiday functions. 

This year I invited our pastor and his family to our Thanksgiving get together. When she found out that I invited someone other than family she called me to let me know in a round about way that she thought it was unfair of me to invite a non family member and not invite the girlfriend's family. I was so angry that she brought it up again that I didn't really respond at all.  

How do I stop her from trying to control my guest list for holiday get togethers? She has an answer for everything. She even said that these people would be my family once my cousin marries her. But really they will be her in-laws not mine. I don't want to hurt her feelings but I'm very angry.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: You identified the problem perfectly in your question. The guest list is the sole property of the host - period! If your aunt would like to host a party, she may invite whomever she wishes. When it's your party, you pick the guests. Plain and simple and no exceptions. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Out of control controlling aunt

How do I get my aunt to respect my guest list decisions and stop inviting people to my home for functions? 

Dear Jay,

I have a close aunt who is somewhat controlling.  For the last three years she extended an invitation (without asking me first )to my cousin's (her son) girlfriend's family (mom, dad and brother, who I've met once )to Thanksgiving dinner that I host (Although thankfully, they have never taken her up on the offer).  

I explained to her last year that due to limited room at my house and the expense of all the food and the fact that they aren't really my family, that it bothered me that she did that.  I thought it was settled and that she understood that I didn't want her to invite people to my holiday functions. 

This year I invited our pastor and his family to our Thanksgiving get together. When she found out that I invited someone other than family she called me to let me know in a round about way that she thought it was unfair of me to invite a non family member and not invite the girlfriend's family. I was so angry that she brought it up again that I didn't really respond at all.  

How do I stop her from trying to control my guest list for holiday get togethers? She has an answer for everything. She even said that these people would be my family once my cousin marries her. But really they will be her in-laws not mine. I don't want to hurt her feelings but I'm very angry.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: You identified the problem perfectly in your question. The guest list is the sole property of the host - period! If your aunt would like to host a party, she may invite whomever she wishes. When it's your party, you pick the guests. Plain and simple and no exceptions. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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He doesn't own the place

Why is my niece's boyfriend so rude in my home? 

Dear Jay,

My niece and her  45 year old boyfriend came to my house for Thanksgiving, and he walked into my room and sat on MY bed to watch the football game without being invited or having any respect for the privacy of my room! The second time I saw him, he opened the fridge to get beers without asking. He moved around my place like he owned it. Needless to say, this was his first and last time at my home!!!!


Jay's ANSWER...

A:You are well within your rights to establish house rules - your house rules. Step two is to let your guests know what these rules are! It sounds like this man has no respect for other people's property. Let's hope he is more respectful of your niece. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Sister-In-Law Trouble

How do I keep my distance from my sister-in-law who only makes me feel awful about myself? 

Dear Jay,

I have a sister-in-law that moved to another state about 13 years ago. Her brother and I have a wonderful marriage until she comes into the picture.  I admit she makes me feel awful about myself and insecure.  This is more my problem than anything she has continued to do.

We have not seen her in 10 years or so, because she was an alcoholic and had some mental issues.  She is now divorced and has money to come visit this Christmas.  I can suffer through the visit at their mom's house, but I know she is going to want to come spend a day at our house with me and our girls (who hardly even know her).  My husband will be at work and honestly I feel like a terrible person, but I don't want to know her again or have her be a part of our lives.  My husband doesn't care about hurting her feeling, but I do.  I don't want her to know my true feelings, I just want to avoid her.  Is this terribly wrong?  If it is please tell me.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your situation falls well outside of simple etiquette; however, here is my advice to you. Be honest and upfront with your husband and with your sister-in-law. Simply explain that you are going through a time in your life when your privacy is a priority and that being around other people is too stressful at the moment. Most people understand this and will respect your wish.

Having said that, you would do well to seek the help of a trained mental health care worker - you don't need a psychiatrist, a social worker should be just fine. Working through life's problems cannot always be done alone. Why you allow another person the power to govern when you will and will not be happy is a mystery you need to solve. It won't go away.

 My best,

Jay

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Shut the Door

How do I keep my family out of my messy spare bedroom? 

Dear Jay,

I'm having a Thanksgiving Day dinner party very soon and I have most of my family coming over. I live in a two bedroom apartment; I use one room as storage and the other as my room. I plan on keeping the doors to the bedrooms shut since I don't want anyone in there, but my family members have a tendency to still open the door and look in. How can I politely tell them (or even put up a sign on the doors) to stay out of the rooms? I don't want to upset anybody, but it is my apartment and the storage room is a bit messy. It would be embarrassing for someone to go in there. Help, please?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I always advise people who live in small apartments and enjoy entertaining to keep the apartment in 'show shape' all the time. Since that seems to be a different pattern than yours, a sign saying "Keep Out" or "Danger Zone" might work. Your better option might be to simply let guests know that if the door is closed, please do not open it. Guests need to be respectful of your private space. Another option might be to just lock the doors. Remember that the state of one's abode reflects the state of one's inner self. Please consider tidying things up - you'll feel much, much better. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Rude Brothers-In-Law

How do I make my rude brothers-in-law respect my house rules? 

Dear Jay,

I want to know if I'm wrong or not!! I have two brothers-in-law and whenever they come to visit they think that they can do whatever they want like going in our fridge and cabinets and eating or drinking anything without even asking if it's ok or not. They say that since they are family that they don't have to ask. They don't even clean up after themselves. I have told them that it's not right that they do that and that they need to ask first before anything. Am I wrong? If I ever went over to a family member's house I would never do any of that. I would first ask if it was ok, and I sure enough would clean up after myself! I have told them over and over that it's not right what they are doing, but they say that since they are family they can get away with doing whatever they want!! Please help me!


Jay's ANSWER...

A: From my perspective, your mother-in-law gets the blame for her ill-mannered sons - including your own husband. Where is he in all of this? One's house is one's castle. You are well within your rights to have house rules. If your brothers-in-law disrespect them, then they should be banished - at least from the kitchen. You and your husband must discuss this matter as it is upsetting to you. You must be united in your stance. If this is a non-starter, then consider filling half the fridge with the munchies they like and just throw in the towel. This second alternative is not recommended however, as next thing you know, they'll be moving in and you'll be doing their laundry! Stand your ground!

 My best,

Jay

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Slapped in the Face

How do I handle not being invited to my step-granddaughter's Thanksgiving celebration?  

Dear Jay,

My step-granddaughter is starting her own tradition for Thanksgiving which is great, but she has left my husband, me, and our other two sons out of the tradition for some reason. I have had her and her boyfriend, mom, brothers, and my son who is her step-father for Thanksgiving and Christmas for years now, and now that she's having Thanksgiving we are not included. I know she can have whoever she wants, but isn't that disrespectful? Her mother and my son accepted my invitation, but now my son's wife told my son they are going to his step-daughter's, and I found out by chance this was happening. My son is not really happy about it, but what choice does he have? Should I be upset about the whole situation? I feel like I've been slapped in the face.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I wouldn't be too upset about this situation. You might consider taking the high road and allow this young family to establish their own traditions. Score cards are not of benefit to anyone when it comes to real hospitality. Perhaps she has great memories of the Thanksgiving dinners you hosted and wouldn't expect you to stop having family Thanksgivings just because she was starting her own. Perhaps she didn't want to extend an invitation where she was anticipating a regret. Maybe she doesn't have room. Whatever her reason, allow her to have it without justification. Maybe you'll be on next year's list!

 My best,

Jay

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Low on Hosting Funds

How do I tell a guest that our family is going through a financial crisis and we can't afford to host them like we usually do?  

Dear Jay,

My family is going through a financial crisis at the moment. Unfortunately, not knowing this, my relative came to my place with her family to spend the one month school holiday as they used to do every year. I couldn't say no to them. How do I handle the situation as a host?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: You must be honest with your guest. She must contribute to household expenses because you cannot do so. Humility comes in many forms. Being honest is the only way to handle this, but keep your emotions under control. You are responsible for this dilemma. Take responsibility for any inconvenience, and explain how this makes you feel. But you have to come clean. Your honesty and humility will pay off. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Confirming Plans

Who should confirm the plans - the host or the person invited? 

Dear Jay,

When planning an informal dinner party with close friends or family, who confirms the plans? Let's say the invitation is made by the hosts two weeks out, and then you don't hear from them? I really don't want to call and ask if we're still invited, and definitely won't just show up…


Jay's ANSWER...

A: It is the job of the host to confirm plans. Not everyone knows that, however. Therefore, I would suggest you phone and ask to confirm the time of the dinner party. "I'm just calling to make sure I wrote down the right time for dinner. I have 6:30 written down. Is that right?" I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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New Traditions

Do I base my Thanksgiving guest list on old or new traditions?

Dear Jay,

Is it proper for someone starting a family tradition for Thanksgiving dinner of their own to only invite some of their family who they have had a Thanksgiving tradition dinner with until they married and want their own, or should they invite everyone in their family they shared dinner with for years?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: When you are starting a tradition by celebrating a holiday such as Thanksgiving at your own home, you have 100% control of the guest list. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. If they do, edit them from the list! Respecting other people is important. Bullying tactics cannot be allowed. I am guessing there is someone who has caused you to take the time to ask this question. I hope my answer helps you.

 My best,

Jay

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Candy Miscommunication

Should I be mad at my neighbor for making candy promises he can't deliver?

Dear Jay,

We recently became foster parents of 3 year old twin boys and we currently have 2 boys of our own.  This past Halloween, our neighbor and friend, who usually does not do the candy thing, invited the boys over on several occasions for trick or treating, and promised them lots of candy.  Halloween came, and we never heard from him, so we went on our way, but the kids kept asking, when are we going to "J's" house.  That night I sent him a text stating that he really shouldn't promise this to the kids if he can't deliver as they were very disappointed (they have become close with him and his brother).  

He fired back saying I was attacking him, he was up early, had to work late, so on and so on, and that he beeped when he drove past our house so we knew he was heading home.  I feel that if he knew he was working late, he should have given us a heads up so we could try to explain to very intuitive little boys that we would see "J" another time to get their candy.  

Was I wrong in letting him know that he dropped the ball?  As it was he who kept inviting them, I feel it was his responsibility to let us know that he was going to be late.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Disappointments are a part of life. One is never too young to learn about this. Your friend obviously had no intention of totally snubbing your children or causing them any disappointment. In fact, his action indicates quite the opposite. Life hands all of us unexpected circumstances, some of which may even be more important than doling out Halloween candy. In my opinion, you were overly harsh in your reaction. 

First of all, if you ever want to deliver a message of derision, texting is inappropriate. Face-to-face is the best, perhaps the telephone, but texting is very dismissive. I can understand why he shot back defensively. He didn't drop the ball at all. Frankly, I think you owe him an apology. Also, and far more important, is to explain calmly how circumstances change in people's lives and intention is extremely important to consider before lashing out or criticizing. I hope this helps. Thank you for taking the time to contact StageofLife and me.

 My best,

Jay

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A Little Extra Cash

Is it okay to ask parents to give their kids more spending money at my daughter's birthday?

Dear Jay,

I am doing a birthday party for my daughters 14 year birthday. There will be 8 guests. We will be riding a giant ferris wheel in Seattle at $13/per girl,then going for ice cream and visiting a candy store with $5 spending money for each girl.  Would it be appropriate for me to ask each girl to bring money to catch a bite for dinner after?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: That is a discussion you would need to have the each girl's parent(s). It is perfectly reasonable given that you are shelling out $18 per girl yourself. If you get pushback, abandon the dinner idea. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Catering to the Whole Family

What should I do about my friend inviting her whole family to my events?

Dear Jay,

My husband and I recently renovated our house, we never entertained much before, but now we want friends and family to come over and celebrate the season. Being a big event we decided to have it catered. Our problem is that one of the friends we love very much usually tends to ask if we can invite all her kids (all adult),too. We are only planning on inviting one of her kids, whom we are close to. The rest of the kids have spouses and partners too, and the invitations would end up being extended to them. We do know the rest of her kids, but we aren't so close to them; it's not like we were invited to their weddings.

We've known them for so many years, and we don't know how to deal with this. It's a catered party and would end up being more expensive. What's the right thing to do? We love our friend a lot, but don't know how to handle this. It's not the first time we've ended up inviting all the kids because she's asked.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your friend is completely out of line. Without going into a long discussion with her, I advise simply stating the facts. You say, "No, I am sorry but that is not possible. The guest list is limited due to the catering requirements." You might also speak with her about how this imposition makes you feel. Being pressured into something is a bad bullying tactic and shows no respect for you or your family. Frankly, I'd edit her from my guest list if she doesn't back down! She may be totally unaware of her actions. Becoming aware of them may well change her tune!
I hope this helps

 My best,

Jay

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I Hate When My Mother-in-law Visits

How do I deal with the demands of my unwelcome Mother-in-law during Thanksgiving? 

Dear Jay,

My mother-in-law is coming to visit during Thanksgiving.  As much as I wish she would stay at a hotel or rent her own vehicle, she won't.  I have asked my husband to advise her to rent a car, but he feels that since she is family flying in from Costa Rica, that she should use one of our cars.  I work from home and my kids are very busy. However, during Thanksgiving, I don't have any obligations.  My son has a truck, but doesn't have his driver's license yet.  So we have decided to solve this by allowing my mother-in-law to use my husband's vehicle, while my husband uses my son's truck. However, in the near future, there will likely only be one car sitting in the driveway during the day and that is my car. I don't like to loan out my car!  Am I wrong for not wanting to share??

I also don't know what to do about her visit. She's coming for 6 days. I don't feel like I should have to wait on her hand and foot; however, my husband will be working. How do I encourage her to leave my house and get out and explore? (Her husband will be with her)  

I just feel like every time she visits, she expects so much from me. She is nice for awhile, then she turns on me when my husband isn't around and makes rude comments or observations.  I understand that my nice things I do for a guest are not appreciated. She made that clear when we visited that she didn't really want us there. She had no food, we had to make our own beds, had absolutely nothing planned, and we had to cook for ourselves the entire time. 

My husband will not stand up to her and say anything about her rude comments, because he thinks I'm being sensitive. But yet, I have to entertain and cater to someone who is disrespectful? How many days should I plan excursions without her and how many with her? I also hate spending all the time and money on meals for her. HELP!



Jay's ANSWER...

A: The answer to your first question is no. You are not wrong for not wanting to share your car. Blame it on insurance and uninsured drivers if you need an excuse. The second part of the question is a bit more complicated. Basically you and your husband must be a united front. If you need to discuss this until you can reach that point, then so be it. It sounds to me like you really don't like these folks. If that's the case, your husband needs to take time off work and deal with them, or perhaps even your son. Family dynamics can be complicated and difficult. You are well within your rights to want your home respected and your house rules followed. If you must take the lead because your husband is unwilling or unable to confront his parents, then lay the rules out clearly and without emotion. Rules are rules. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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My Mom Stays Too Long

How do I tell my mother that we want to spend Christmas without her? 

Dear Jay,

My mother lives out of state, and every Christmas she invites herself over for a week at Christmas time (Going on 8 years in a row now). My sister and I are both married and have our own families, and we would like one Christmas without her here. She is just 2 states away and visits multiple times a year. She basically doesn't wait for an invitation and just books a flight. We had to tell her multiple times that a week visit is too long. She never rents a car or gets a hotel, so she stays at our houses and we drive her around. Her visits are now down to 5 days. She admitted to me on a few occasions that this hurts her feelings that she can only stay 5 days. It frustrates me that she doesn't respect our own lives and boundaries and that we need to keep having these awkward conversations, after which I feel really guilty about. Help!!


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Christmas is a time for families to connect and celebrate many blessings. It is a time when people must put the feelings of others ahead of their own. If your mother's feelings are hurt by not being included, my advice is to include her. If she has specific annoying habits that somehow are worthy of excluding her from this holiday time of year, you need to let your own feelings be known. If she knew perhaps what made the visits seem too long, she might understand your position more clearly. I suggest that you and your sister make crystal clear what the ground rules are for your respective houses. These conversations need not be awkward. They should be compassionate. All parties must first listen to the others with an ear to understanding. Release the need to take a defensive stance. Once everyone is reading from the same page, you may even want to restore her visits to a full week! I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Meddling, Freeloading In-Laws

How do I set limits with my freeloading in-laws? 

Dear Jay,

My in-laws plan to leave the states to another country next year for 2 or 3 years.They are going with my sister-in-law and her family for her husband's work. Before they go they must get their citizenship. My in-laws, earlier this year, left us their house to live in with our 3 kids.
They could no longer afford it after my father-in-law retired. They moved to my sister-in-law's house in Virginia.

The problem is they keep coming back to our home for months at a time. My 15 year old son is forced to sleep on the couch for months at a time to accommodate them. They leave for a couple weeks and come back and stay for a couple months or half a year or so. They do not contribute to the bills and won't even buy a gallon of milk for their grandkids without making us seem like bad parents for running out. They go through my stuff, and after I cook dinner after working all day they help themselves first (not the kids) .They do nothing all day and say they are so tired. So, I get stuck doing all the cleaning, cooking, food buying and paying all bills.

They think because the house is under their name (even though they don't pay a red cent) they can come back and stay whenever they want. I have no say. My mother-in-law gets mad and tells all the family that we kick them out. GUILT TRIP after GUILT TRIP!

What can I do to get her out and only visit twice a year for a week or two like normal people?



Jay's ANSWER...

A: You haven't mentioned your husband. Some ground rules need to be established and they need to be successfully communicated to your in-laws by him and you as a united team. Change the name on the title to the house. Don't run out of milk. Start setting a better example for your son. You need to honour your boundaries and that of your immediate family. If you don't, I'm afraid there is little likely to change. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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No Loving Welcome

Should my spouse greet me when I return from out of town?    

Dear Jay-
How should you address your spouse?
I travel occasionally for work. These trips often consist of a two night stay away from home. Should my spouse quit what they are doing (if possible) or get off the couch to come and welcome me home? Or should I seek my spouse out?  It is obvious that I have returned because my little girls often scream and run to greet me.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I side with you on this one. I was always taught to get up and greet anyone (no one is excluded from the 'everyone' category) with a smile and either a handshake or a kiss - certainly a welcome greeting of some sort. Sloths that cannot get off their tushes to get up are lazy and disrespectful. The sad part is this is likely how they feel about themselves, so compassion is needed. Sit with them and explain how coming home to an 'absent' spouse makes you feel. Perhaps lonely or unappreciated? The worst part of this scenario is it sends a terrible message to the children. Time to straighten this one out. But you will get further if you take some of the responsibility. I hope this helps.

My best,
Jay


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Our Need for Privacy

Is it rude to want our out of town guests to stay in a hotel even when we have the room? 

Dear Jay,

Our youngest daughter lives out of state with her fiancé and is coming home with him for the Christmas holidays. He wants to see his parents as well who live in another city within driving distance so we thought it was easier for everyone involved to invite his family (soon to be our daughter's in-laws) to make a trek here for the following weekend.

They accepted our encouragement to visit and I mentioned it will be a good time to go over wedding venue and visit the spot for the rehearsal dinner while they are here.

We have NO intention of asking them to stay at our home and they know we have a full house at this point anyway. Their subtle reply was a positive YES, we would love to come, but "we are assuming we need to get a hotel room so any suggestions ?"

Ok, so they got it, but even when our house is not full in the future is it rude for us not to extend our home for houseguests? We are fairly private and although technically they will be "relatives" once our children marry, they are relatively strangers and have very different life styles. I want to be kind, but set an expectation that is not hurtful to them.

What's your take on it please?



Jay's ANSWER...

A: Under no circumstances are you obliged to offer accommodations to people, family or otherwise, who visit from out of town. I think you may be more sensitive to this than guests might be. Relax and enjoy their company on your terms in your home. Your privacy needs to be respected in much the same way as you would respect the privacy of others. The Golden Rule works very nicely here! I hope this helps.

My best,

Jay

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Whose room is it?

Should I make my daughter give up her bedroom? 

Dear Jay,

Q: I moved out of state a little over a year ago. I now live with my boyfriend who has four adult children and two minors.  I have a 19 year old and a 15 year old who both live with us. There are 4 bedrooms in this home (actually 3 bedrooms and an office that I gave up to ensure my oldest had her own bedroom in my home). So now there is one bedroom for each of my kids and one bedroom for his daughter who lives here part time. Right now my daughter is about 5 hours away at college and comes home on average once a month and all holiday breaks. One of my boyfriend's children (I believe she is 22) is coming from another country for what has now turned into a 5 month stay. My boyfriend insists she does not bunk with her biological sister, rather she move into my daughter's bedroom.

This is a hard pill to swallow for both me and my daughter since we both feel her bedroom is not a guest room, but reluctantly we both agreed. I decided there was no reason for his daughter to bunk with the 6 year old when my daughter isn't home. As long as my daughter is not "home" his daughter can bunk in her room. 
Now, my boyfriend is insisting that it is wrong to have his visiting daughter move out of my daughter's bedroom when my daughter comes home from college on the weekends or holiday breaks. I am floored, and not sure what to think about this and what he would expect me to say to my child. 

Am I supposed to tell her she can come home but must sleep on the sofa because we gave away her bedroom especially since all of her personal items will remain in her bedroom? I am very confused.



Jay's ANSWER...

A: This is a hugely complex family dynamics series of issues, none of which I am really qualified to address. However from an etiquette perspective, the boyfriend calls the shots. It's his house. Guidelines and policies are understood, hopefully prior to moving in. From a common sense point of view, this is a 5 month period of time. I would see how a bit more flexibility might help things out. If everyone is involved in this silly game of musical bedrooms, perhaps you might consider taking a room with your daughter. Boyfriends have known to acquiesce under certain conditions. I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay

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Freeloading Brother Mess

What should I do about the nightmare freeloading situation in my home? 

Q: My question is about my adult sibling and his girlfriend. They asked if they could move in my basement, and told me that they would pay $500 per month. I recently had some renters that moved out and have the space, but we also told our children they can use it as a playroom.  Not wanting my brother and his girlfriend to be homeless (she's 25 and he's 29), I said yes. I'm having trouble setting the boundaries with them in the house and with my children. 

My youngest child and his friend went in their room and messed it all up. It was totally on accident, but I was coming back in from running an errand and my brother totally blasted me when I was with my friend /client (I do hair and I was getting ready to color my client's hair because I work out of my house) and it was embarrassing! I don't like confrontations. 

My brother also gave me no time to make a decision. He called me on the 28th of September and said that he had to be out of his apartment by the 30th, so I had no time to really think and set up house rules before they moved in. They said they were going to move in on the weekend and then they didn't and then they said Monday and they didn't actually move in until Wednesday, October 3.

I don't know how to handle telling them I really don't want them drinking beer and alcohol around my children. They also smoke and smoke other things like that help you relax. I have a patio outside and they like to go out there and smoke, but they won't even bother to buy themselves an ashtray and they just put their cigarette butts in my fire pit. I know it's a fire pit, but I don't want it littered with cigarette butts! 

How do I handle these situations and be polite, but still help my brother and still have my dignity? I mean my immediate family should be most important, right? I have three children (a boy 16, a daughter 14, and a younger son 8) And my husband who I want to keep my husband...


Jay's ANSWER...

A: What a nightmare! I'm sorry to tell you that much of the responsibility lies with you. You and your husband must agree on a set of house rules and stand ready to enforce them. Sit down with everyone and go over them carefully and answer any questions and make any minor adjustments you wish. These rules would apply to guests as well as family members. Be very mindful when making these rules, because anyone who has a problem with your rules may choose to live elsewhere. But it is your house and your rules are to be respected. I hope this helps.

My best,
Jay


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Declining a Friend's Dirty Apartment

How do I tell my good friends I'd rather stay in a hotel than their dirty apartment?

Q: Dear Jay,
I'm going to visit friends who have a 2-year old child.  My long-time  university friend has never been the most prolific of cleaners and her flat is often untidy and chaotic, which I don't mind enormously.  When we were younger, we would stay in each others flats all the time (I've lived in a few tourist towns) and we'd crash out on sofa beds and air beds but now that I'm getting older I just don't want the hassle of the untidiness, the quite strange husband and of course, a noisy baby.

The guest room in their relatively new flat has always been full of boxes or detritus and so is not set up for visitors (and besides, the cat was using the carpet as a new kitty litter box opportunity), which means staying in the dining room/kitchen on a futon which is probably as old as I am!

Last time I stayed it was miserable: no heating. I'm clearly cold blooded in comparison, lumpy futon and terrible bathroom.  I know that they're going to be a bit hurt if I say that I'm going to stay in a hotel but I don't think I can manage 2 or 3 days with them.  I still live in a tourist town and I'm always amazed that friends want to stay in my living room on my, admittedly comfortable, sofa bed...but I do appreciate when friends tell me that they'll be staying in a hotel nearby, which is what I plan to do. Advice, please!


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Honesty is the best policy, but you need not offer any lengthy explanation. Simply state that you have come to appreciate the privacy of hotels and prefer to stay in one and leave it at that! I have found that it is often dangerous to second guess what others may think or how they may feel. They may be relieved in a way, but you will enjoy your stay better. If they question you, stand your ground and insist. Offer to take them out to dinner. They need to come to the realization that guests don't always like staying with friends, but often prefer a hotel. I rarely stay with friends, and prefer a hotel because I have a morning routine which involved meditation and yoga and a busy household isn't a good fit. I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Utterly Frustrated

How do I gracefully get my in-laws out of my house and into their own?

Dear Jay,

I have a question for Jay. My husband purchased a house in late 2011 with the foresight that his parents were in financial straits and would probably have to move in with us. In late April my MIL and grand-MIL, who is in the probable end stages of Alzheimers,  moved in and then after our "spiritual" ceremony for our wedding my FIL moved in also. There was no time limit set on their stay however it was understood that this would not be a permanent home for them. 

My husband and I are newlyweds with a 10 month old daughter now and I want my house back to just my family. My MIL stays home and takes care of her mother and our daughter. Since I work full time she does a lot of the house work also, which I did not ask her to do. My FIL does the yard work to help around the house. In the year and a half that they have lived here my MIL has not found work in her field, and I have given her suggestions on broadening her search. 

I have made suggestions on how they could save, even suggesting they pay a modest rent per person per month with the understanding that we would save the money for them of $50 per person. They currently live off my FIL's retirement money from the Navy which is not enough to live on well. Instead I see her not making progress towards finding employment and not making strides to save up to get a place of their own.  I hear excuses all the time from her. Her mother has in home care, paid for by Medicaid that I had to badger her into applying for so that my MIL could get some help with grandma for a few hours a day. She hovers over the nursing aids all the time instead of using the time constructively to find a job. And she refuses although quite passively to find a facility for grandma that would be able to take care of all her needs since she is regressing more and more. My FIL is disabled due to an accident so he refuses to look for work, I have suggested jobs that I thought might interest him, but he's in the bottom of a beer can most days. 

My mind would be put to some ease if I saw her or him get even a low-mid range wage part time job so that they could save up. I am at my wits end. I do not know what to do. I have been toying with the idea of giving them an ultimatum, which I know in a way is uncouth. I have made arrangements for my daughter to start day care by the end of the month so that it will free up more time for my MIL and FIL to seek employ. How do I tell them that I want them out of my house and reclaim my home so that when I come home I can relax instead of being a on-edge-b**** that I feel I am turning into??

~Alecia


Jay's ANSWER...

My advice to you is to take first things first. Your in-laws have their own paths to follow and so have you. You need to discus this situation with your husband and form a united front. He needs to explain your concern as a couple to his parents and explain that you can no longer accommodate them on a full time basis. I would suggest giving them a couple of weeks  or a month to find a rental unit or make other arrangements. You are not responsible for them, but they are family. Enabling them into not taking responsibility for their lives is not appropriate. Suggesting how they might solve their problem is kind, but not if you don't detach. Just stick to the facts and keep your emotions out of it.

Your house is your castle. You are well within your rights to lay down the house rules. If they are not welcome, you must explain how this current arrangement makes you feel and that it is no longer going to work. Be sure you and your husband agree on this before you present this to them. There may be some fallout, primarily because you allowed this to go on too long. I know this may sound severe, but this problem is not going to simply solve itself. Lack of communication is often the root of the problem. I would hope that your in-laws do not want to be a burden to you. 

I hope this helps,

Kind regards,
Jay
 

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Family Issues

How to get my parents to treat my husband with respect?

Dear Jay,

I'm in an unpleasant situation. My parents have appeared to like my husband to whom I've been married to for five years; just recently, though, we ran into a problem when I asked my spouse to go pick up our son from my parents house. I was in the hospital in observation due to a risk pregnancy and my parents who were supposed to bring our son didn't, so my husband went to get him. They do not call to see how we are but expect me to always call them. They do not drive to our house to see their grandchildren but instead call asking if we are on the way to their house. My mom is now ignoring my husband completely. She doesn't say "hi" to him and won't even come near our kids when they are beside him. This upsets me very much. We have been avoiding them because it's becoming uncomfortable to be stuck in the middle. What should we do about this? I believe they are being ugly about the entire thing.

Thank you Jay.



Jay's ANSWER...

The first thing you must do is to stop thinking you are stuck in the middle. You and your husband are a united team! But this does not have to be adversarial with your parents. You must sit down with your mother and explain how her behaviour makes you feel. She may be of the old school where children do take the initiative to place the phone call, call for a visit, etc. Allow her that. Just explain to her in a non-confrontational way that if she cannot be polite in front of her own grandchildren and recognize their father as an integral part of the family, your visits will be greatly reduced. You do not want to raise children who will mimic rude behaviour - so don't. I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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The Guest List

Is a stepmother still family?

Dear Jay,

My first grandson is getting married. Very excited! But yesterday my daughter, mother of the Groom, informed me that her stepmother was going to be in town visiting her friends. My daughter informed me just yesterday that she had invited her to the wedding. My daughter said, "after all, she is family." Well, my heart just sank. I will suck it up and be civil for all of the family. My question is this: is she a member of the family?  I divorced my daughter's Dad when in our late 40s. Our children were grown. Subsequently, he married the woman he had been having an affair with. Now is the stepmother still a family member since the children's Dad has passed away?

--Mrs. Hertenstein



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Mrs. Hertenstein,

This situation is awkward and I understand your shock. Being the lady that you are, you are quite right in taking the high road by 'sucking it up', as you so eloquently put it! The focus is on the marriage of your grandson and his fiancee, and has nothing to do with the guest list. If a mother/child relationship has developed between your daughter and your husband's second wife, she may as well be considered "family". You need not engage with her at all, and you are well within your rights not to! Civility is the order of the day. I'm sure she may be just as happy not to engage with you as you are. Keep your eye on the ball and as they say, "This too shall pass."

I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay

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Vacation Costs

Should the host mention costs to the guest?

Dear Jay,

Our family goes on vacation every year and my parents have always paid for the house we rent.  In recent years, I have had the financial ability to be able to pay for a portion of the rental, but my parents have always told me no.  During the vacation, however, we are always reminded about the price they have paid for the rental.  Should the hosts be able to mention this to the guests or should this subject not be mentioned?  How should guests handle these awkward situations when brought up?

--Chris


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Chris,

Money is always a tricky topic and should not be discussed unless absolutely necessary. Your father is just being a bully and should not be encouraged. Since he is your father and since this irritates you I would say something like this - if it feels comfortable. "Dad, that is so generous. We always appreciate this kindness. If you would like me to contribute I am more than happy to; otherwise it makes me feel uncomfortable when you mention it." Generally people don't intend to make others feel awkward, so maybe this will register - maybe not right away, but eventually! I know this may sound direct, but it is the truth and you are taking full responsibility for your feelings. If he mentions this to other guests, draw him aside, as you might in any awkward situation with anyone, and explain that talking about money (or whatever the tricky topic might be) is embarrassing and makes everyone feel uneasy and uncomfortable.

I hope this helps,


Jay

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Do You Mind?

Should I be informed of my step-daughter's guests?

Dear Jay,

My 30+ step-daughter visits are very welcome, even when she arrives with little notice. What is upsetting to me, however, is that she often brings one or two friends, or invites people from far off to stay here while she is visiting without so much as a "Do you mind?"

Usually I would be fine with the request, but in addition to be asked in the first place, sometimes I would like to be able to say, "Yes, I do mind this time."

My husband says I lack spontaneity and that what his daughter is doing is fine. I think it lacks basic manners and politeness.


--Joan


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Joan,

Fathers can often be so protective of their children - to the point of being inappropriate. It is however important for you and your husband to work as a team and not disagree about how your household will run. A discussion involving your feelings is what is needed - men shy away from such discussion, but too bad. House rules need to be clear, and there is no clarity at the moment. Amazingly, his daughter will likely appreciate knowing how you want her visits to be structured. In fact, this sort of boundary setting may be a very teachable moment. This has nothing to do with spontaneity. It has much more to do with common sense and common courtesy. If the shoe were on the other foot, your husband might see things differently, as might his daughter. No cause for a big uproar. Just state how these impromptu visits by "intruders" makes you feel. Give this some thought before you leap ahead, but know that you are well within your rights to have your fair say. Hopefully your husband has the necessary respect to understand your feelings. You are in the right.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Late Night Guests

Is it wrong if I don't offer my guests to stay the night?

Dear Jay,

Is it wrong if I don't offer my guests to stay the night?

I have a two bedroom townhouse and when I invite my friends over for dinner or appetizers and cocktails etc. they always stay really late and want to then stay the night. I should mention my friends only live 25 minutes away. Is it wrong that, after being a hostess the entire night, I just want to retire to my bedroom and rest.  I'm very catering to my guests and they sit back and enjoy being catered to.

I would like to also add that it's very rare that they invite me to their homes. Oh, also is it wrong if I'm inviting friends over that they don't bring something with them, even if I've said not to bring anything? Just curious. I was always taught to take a gift if I'm invited for dinner, etc..

Look forward to your response.


--Kathy


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Kathy,

Your home is your castle. You have every right to call all the shots. The answer to your question about guests spending the night is absolutely not! You are not obliged to offer lodging unless you fear there is some danger in them getting home safely. In that case, call a cab for them. As host, you control alcohol consumption too! As to bringing unwanted food, they shouldn't do that. If they do, don't serve it - they'll soon learn. A hostess gift is almost always appropriate, but that is not meant to be supplemental to the meal. Guests must learn to trust that hosts are properly prepared for their guests. Bringing a side dish, etc, is rude because it assumes the host is not properly prepared.

I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Last Minute Cancellations

Who is to blame on a last minute cancellation?

Dear Jay,

Two months ago we decided to take a week long vacation and spend time with my brother for his birthday.  I realized this would take us right by my best friend's house, exactly half way.  I asked my friend if we could spend the night on two nights, one on the way up and one on the way back.  We both were excited and she even told me of her plans to cook us dinner on the first night.

Tonight at 10pm, I am informed by text that she cannot accommodate us.  We are leaving in two days and now need to make hotel arrangements, including for our pet.

Am I wrong in assuming she should at least offer to put us up for a night in a modest hotel room?  I'm in shock and don't know what I can do, other than revise our trip budget and book hotel rooms for both nights.  It's a shame and disappointment since this is our summer vacation and we won't be traveling again until the holidays.


--Sheridan


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Sheridan,

I am afraid the responsibility for this situation rests squarely in your lap. Your assumption is wrong. Your friend's life has obviously taken a turn that required her to change her plans and her ability to host you. That's just life. Perhaps she needs some compassion. Your travel plans are in no way your friend's responsibility. You will need to revisit your travel budget. And resist laying any guilt trips anywhere. I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Getting to Know Us

Honest is the Best Policy

Dear Jay,

My siblings (4) and I have an aunt that comes to visit from another state for six to eight weeks, two times a year. The first time is June-July and November-January. These dates have changed through the years because of vacation plans (mom, sister, aunt and me went on a couple of two week trips, etc.). She started coming to visit after my grandmother passed away (ten years ago). She is planning on moving here within the next couple of years (she says). She started visiting to "get to know us". She stays two weeks or longer in three homes.  Most of us work and she stays at the house all day watching television, playing games by herself, etc. She does entertain herself. When we come home, there she sits. We have to make dinner arrangements then go to bed and start all over again the next day! One sister lives with me, one sister is married and another recently became a widow. Another sister out of state is married, but my aunt has only visited with them one time and they said they weren't "keeping her". Three of us agree that "she has gotten to know us!" We fret over each visit, and she has made the comment that she's on "vacation" when she visits and that when grandma was alive (aunt has never been married and lived with her mom), they provided meals for visitors. A couple of times, she has taken us out to dinner and last year helped buy groceries at my house. She doesn't ask to visit (she leaves it up to us where and when she makes her visits to each home) and another sister has said that she doesn't have to be entertained. We feel like she does!  Aunt demands that we provide transportation to church, she doesn't ask! She never calls us between visits. We call her when we have a question about a game rule or concern for her during a storm, etc. We don't want to hurt her feelings and just want to know how to remedy this situation. A few days at each home would be nice!


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Mrs. Honeras,

Honesty is the best policy. Unfortunately you and your siblings have been first class enablers in this family dynamic, which has now grown out of control, as such situations are want to do. I recommend that you have a siblings-only family meeting - in personal preferably, but the phone could work too. Come up with a plan that you can all agree to. One of you meets with the aunt - again face-to-face is ideal, and simply explain how you all feel. She is not psychic and probably does not want to be the colossal inconvenience she has become. This discussion should not be confrontational or stressful. State the facts and leave the emotions alone. This situation is not going to fix itself or go away, so it is time for you to take the bull by the horns and make that plan come to light! I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Head of the Household

Who is the head of the family?

Dear Jay,

My mom just recently came to live with us, and I gave her my seat at the head of the table.  My mom and husband got into a little spat and spilled a little emotion over it.  They made up, but my husband has not forgotten it. My husband feels that my mom is taking our authority over the kids. I agree she sees us as her children and does feel she is the head of the family. My husband said he wants me to sit at the head because I am his wife. I have been giving that seat away when an older guest comes, so I've started this problem. I think my mom is feeling some power sitting in that seat, and it is causing her to feel at a higher rank because of it. Is she the head of the family because of her age and status? How can I get the seat back without hard feelings? I think no matter how I take it back she may be hurt, and I don't want to hurt her.  But my husband is clearly upset, too.  I really don't know how to handle this.

--Mrs. Honeras



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Mrs. Honeras,

Thanks for asking this question, which fortunately is solvable. Yes, you made the mistake of giving up your seat, as you are the head of household. Your mother should rightly sit to the right hand of your husband. Because she is your mother, it is your responsibility to sort out boundaries with her. You have every right to state house rules, but being fully in step with your husband is critical. Plan these sorts of decisions and arrangements with him before hand - not after you make another mistake! I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Marriage Demands

Is it okay for my wife to demand I stay home?

Dear Jay,

My wife and I had a birthday party for our four year old daughter. Following the party, the wife demanded I stay home while she, along with her girlfriend, took our daughter shopping. Is this type of demand okay?


Jay's ANSWER...

I would suggest that the word 'demand' has little or no use in a healthy marriage. And, why does the father need to stay home? Are there more children to look after? There is no reason why the women cannot go shopping as a small celebration to mark an event, although 4 year olds don't qualify as shoppers, nor is shopping an activity of choice of most young childrenit's more of an excuse for the women to get out of the house. My advice is to let her go shopping, but do not look at staying home as a demand! I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay

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Family Matters

How can I get through to my sisters?

Dear Jay,

Lately, I've been in a tricky situation with my family and my husband. My family is trying to make plans to celebrate my dad's birthday in my house without even consulting me. I live in a two bedroom apartment with my husband and our six year old son. My husband thinks that they should have talk to me about it and respect the fact that I have a family. I don't want to turn my back on my family, but I also understand my husband's point of view. I told them how I feel, and now they are mad at me and talking to me like I am still their little sister. I am a grown-up woman and want people to respect the fact that I have a family. I feel very sad to be in the center of this drama. I love my husband and he doesn't have any problem that my parents come to visit for a month but not more, and my sisters think that they are my parents and I should have them as long as they want.

--Jessica



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Jessica,

I see a rather simple solution for this dilemma. You and your husband sit down together with your sisters and let them know how you feel and how being ignored makes you feel. Explain that your house is your castle and that you will be part of any decision making going forward. Your husband must stand by you on this. You must stop this cycle of bullying your sisters are engaged in! I hope this helps,

Kindest regards,

Jay

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Just Droppin' By...Again

Can we tell our guests to get a hotel?

Dear Jay,

My husband and I live in a tourist destination, and family members and friends frequently ask to visit us (we usually have visitors at least two weekends per month). Our siblings (we have five of them) are extremely needy and are usually not the greatest house guests.  They each come multiple times throughout the year, stay in our guest room, don't rent a car (we only have one), and always want to go out to eat.  Not only do these visits require our time (entertaining and cleaning before and after their arrival), but they also affect our wallets.  Frequently, these visits extend into the work week as well.  We don't want to hurt their feelings, but we would much rather they get a hotel and their own car so our normal routines are not constantly uprooted.  What is the best way to handle the situation when we get a call saying "We're coming to visit you in July!"?

--Sauna



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Sauna,

Please forgive the tardiness of this response. You are stuck in somewhat of a habit herea rut, if you will. This will more than likely continue and even worsen until such time as you lay down the lawexplain your house rules! One's house is one's castle, and as master of one's own castle, one is well within one's right to be crystal clear about house rules so that no one embarrasses the others through no fault of their own.

It's best to handle delivering this information face-to-face and as a couple if appropriate. If spoken over the phone or written in a letter, do not be defensive or feel the need to give an explanation for the rules.

There appears to be a combined lack of gratitude and a resultant feeling of entitlement; as well there is no respect for your boundarieseither time or space! This information can and should be delivered calmly and clearly. You cannot control their feelings - if their feelings are hurt, they need to take responsibility and grow up - age having nothing to do with it.

Learning to say no in a friendly way is possible. Speak from your heart and trust your inner voice. I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay

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Just Droppin' By

Is it rude to drop by unannounced?

Dear Jay,

Is it rude for someone to just drop by unannounced if you've only met them once or twice, and they are not a close relative?

--Ms. Johnson



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Ms. Johnson,

Frankly, I think it's rude for anyone, close relative or the traveling salesman, to drop by unannounced. I wouldn't have daren't do so with my own mother!

I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Uninvited Guests

How can I exclude certain family members from an invitation?

Dear Jay,

I am having a Celebration of Life for my late husband.  This function is being held in my home.  My home isn't that large and would accommodate about 20 guests.  Some life long friends will be invited and his three remaining siblings and their spouses.  How do I deal with uninvited nieces and nephews that haven't been in our lives for 10-15 years? I don't know if this will happen, but I would like to be prepared if it does.

The invitation will will not include the family members, and the family members are all adults.


--Mavis



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Mavis,

The best advice I can give you is to welcome anyone who comes to this wonderful occasion. Perhaps there is outdoor space you could use for the overflow? One can never control uninvited guests and in general taking the high road is always the line of best defense.

Don't stress about this; just focus on the purpose of the Celebration. Hopefully people will understand that invitations apply only to those invited. If they call and ask, explain about the space limitations and that you would appreciate their cooperation.

I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Please, No Foul Language.

Can we tell our adult daughter not to use foul language?

Dear Jay,

We were visiting at our adult married daughter's home, and, while there, she was using foul and language that is offensive to us.  Is it wrong to request that she not do this in our presence at her home?

--James



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear James,

Sadly your daughter learned this behavior somewhere along the line and was allowed to get away with it. Now you are suffering the consequences. However, if it makes you feel uncomfortable, you are well within your rights to politely explain to her just how it makes you feel and that you hope she doesn't make other guests feel the same way. If she doesn't get the hint, simply leave. There is no point to getting into a heated argument - no one will win. Let's hope she doesn't raise her children that way.

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Who Gets the King Bed?

Should a married couple get the king bed on vacation?

Dear Jay,

My son and I are going to Fiji for a holiday. I am a single parent and we have a two bedroom apartment booked and paid for. The apartment has a king bed in one room and two single beds in the other. 

Today, my sister told me she and her husband are going to come with us. Do I have to give them the king bed, even though I have paid for the accommodation? My son and I can share the king bed and still be more comfortable than in a single bed each.


--Nicole



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Nicole,

Thanks for asking this excellent question! Technically, no - if you are paying the bill, the choice is yours. However, logic would dictate that a married couple would be offered the king bed. They may well prefer to have the twin accommodation or better yet, they may ask which you prefer. In any event, the hotel may be able to make a change for you, such as joining the two twin beds together for you and your son, thus creating exactly the same sleeping space as a king.

Try to always take the high road when dealing with such situations. Since your sister and her husband are your guests - presumably you had some choice in this matter - then putting them first is the correct thing for a host to do, but not to the detriment of your own needs. I hope this is more of a help than a hindrance.

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Help Yourself to the Wine?

Can house guests help themselves to the wine without asking?

Dear Jay,

I had a close friend come stay at my house with her family, and her husband opened a bottle of red wine after my husband and I went to bed and drank more than half.

My girlfriend and I had already shared one of the bottles that evening. When I mentioned it the next day, she got defensive. 

Isn't it super poor etiquette to open someone else's wine without them offering?  We have stayed at their house many times and they have been very generous, but we have never helped ourselves to any wine or anything else with out asking or having prior knowledge that is was alright.

Should we be less sensitive about this?

--Sarah



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Sarah,

You are absolutely correct.  Perhaps she thought the wine was 'fair game', but she was overstepping her bounds as a good house guest. Sadly, there is nothing you can do about it at this point. I imagine that given her defensive reaction, this scenario will unlikely be repeated. She got the message.

It's time to take the high road and move on. After all, it was just a bottle of wine. Respecting boundaries is difficult for some people, clearly. Know that you are in the right.

I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Disrespectful Visitors

What is the polite way to tell adult married children they are rude and disrespectful?

Dear Jay,

We have an adult daughter and her husband who request overnight visits with either parents or a grandfather.  Yet the there is no social visit.  These children merely want a free bed and no interaction. They make separate plans or stay locked up in a guest room all hours.

And do not thank their hosts.  Ever.


What is the polite way to tell adult married children they are rude and disrespectful to their parents and grandparents?

--Edgar


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Edgar,

Good manners are learned at home.  Somewhere along the line some of these seem to have slipped through the cracks. My advice at this stage of the game is to have a chat with your daughter and explain your feelings.  Lay down a few rules of respect, as you thought they had been already understood.

You are fully within your rights to have house rules.  Lack of gratitude is another basic principle gone missing. It's never too late to teach these important life skills either to your children or to theirs as they come along.

I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Live-In Grandma Has Question

I'm a live-in grandmother with a question...

Dear Stage of Life,

I have been living with my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter for 2 years and we just moved to a new house. I have a bedroom in the lower level of the house and the two upper levels are their bedrooms and the family area (living, dining, kitchen).

Frequently after dinner I will go downstairs to watch TV and give them family time. Recently, I have heard them visiting with the new neighbors who have come by to visit. I have refrained from going upstairs (even to get something to snack on or drink) because I'm not sure if it would be considered intruding.

Should I stay out of the out or continue my normal routine when the family has house guests?

--Karen



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Karen,

If you have been living with your family for two years, the house is considered your home too, even if you don't contribute financially, which I imagine you do in some fashion.  If you feel uneasy, simply broach the subject with your daughter. This lack of communication is not healthy, so nip it in the bud.

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Greeting Protocol

Who speaks a greeting first - the host or the guest?

Dear Stage of Life,

My husband gets annoyed when my teenage daughters' guests come into the house without saying hello.  He thinks it is their responsibility to speak first.  I think just the opposite.  If they are coming into our house they are the guests and we are responsible for speaking first. 

Which is it,  can you clear this up?

--Debra



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Debra,

You are correct.  Regardless of the age of the guest, the host should be the first to speak by actually welcoming the guest into his house.  The host should also be the first to rise and extend his hand.

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Who Gets the Guest Bed?

What is the proper etiquette for deciding which family member gets to stay in our spare room (when multiple members from both sides are visiting at the same time)?

Dear Stage of Life,

My husband and I are having a first birthday party for our son and our entire family must travel for this event.  We have decided to rotate which family members stay at our house in our one spare room.  My mother said that this decision is incorrect and rude, that she should stay here each time since she is the "mother of the bride" and "helps more".

What is the proper etiquette for which family members stay?

--Stephanie



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Rachel,

Thanks for asking this great question. My advice is to offer the room first (always) to the senior member of the invited group. If it is your mother, then she should have first dibs on the room. If there is someone else of equal or greater seniority, they should be asked on a rotating basis, as you suggest, or in the event of greater seniority, always asked first.

Your mother is right on this one; however, it is your house, you are an adult, and the final decision rests with you.  At some point it might be necessary to establish that in your house, your rules apply.

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Guest Bedroom Issues with the Grandparents

Do my husband's parents have the right to claim our bedroom bed when visiting instead of staying in the guest bed?

Dear Stage of Life,

My husband and I purchased our first home together - a townhouse. Currently we have a toddler and infant and the townhouse has three bedrooms.  The toddler currently has his own room and the infant currently sleep in our bedroom.  That leaves one of the other bedrooms free.

My husband and I would like to provide a bed in the room for visiting guests.  The room cannot fit a bed larger than a full size mattress, but it can accommodate a trundle bed (if the trundle is only pulled out for the night, we can arrange furniture). We found a very nice daybed with a trundle in our budget.  Our only concern is my husband's dad and step mom will not sleep on the trundle and requests our bedroom and bed, which is a king size.  I co-sleep with my infant and require a larger bed to do so safely. Eventually that room will be set up for my infant to move into, so we can fit a crib and a twin sized bed (daybed) in it.

We are debating what to do.  I thought there was no obligation of the host family to give up their bed to visiting family? Is our best bed to go with a trundle bed to sleep two? Or go with a full size bed? How far out of our way should we accommodate family?

--Rachel



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Rachel,

Your house is your home and castle.  It deserves the respect that honor accords including yours and your guests'.

Your in-laws are overstepping their bounds and obviously have been for some time. You allowed this and it is now a pattern.  Now, suddenly you basically have no guest rooms and you're feeling guilty. As this picture comes into focus you and your husband will need to decide how to handle this new reality. Once you agree, sit down with his parents or pick up the phone and let them know how excited you are about being able to redecorate the kids' new rooms. You can remark about how quickly they grow up. That will plant the obvious seed which will sprout the next time a visit is imminent. It will be easier than you think.

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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International Wedding Crasher

Is it rude to ask the bride if we can bring an extra family to the wedding?

Dear Stage of Life,

My cousin's wedding is this Saturday, and it is a 125 people wedding.  My husband's cousin is coming to visit us from another country this weekend too. 

What would be the "correct" thing to do...ask my cousin to let us bring my husband's cousin as an added guest to his wedding, or ask my husband's cousin to look for something to do while we are at the wedding?

Please advise.  Thanks!


--Bebe


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Bebe,

I would strongly advise against asking to bring your husband's cousin as an added guest to the wedding. It would not be the 'correct' thing to do at all. I'm sure your husband's cousin will understand.

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Wedding Invite List Etiquette

Is it okay for a bride and groom to selectively invite some family members to a wedding but not others?

Dear Stage of Life,

My nephew is getting married.  None of the first cousins on my brothers side (my nephew's father) are invited. The youngest is 14yrs old.  However, ALL of the cousins on my nephew's mothers side are invited. 

My sister and I are refusing to attend the wedding when it is blatant that our children aren't invited, but my nephew's cousins on his mother's side are ALL invited.

What are your thoughts?

Thank You.


--Colleen


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Colleen,

From the point of view of traditional wedding etiquette, the guest list is in the control of whoever is hosting the wedding. There must be limits to the number of guests invited for many obvious reasons. It is not their obligation to explain how the guest list is assembled.

However, your feelings are valid and since this is a close family concern, some open communication needs to be established here. You need to speak with your brother about your hurt feelings and see if perhaps there has been some sort of mistake. No matter what the answer or explanation, you always have the choice to accept or regret any invitation - again, with no explanation required.
 
Now, from the point of view of a social commentator (another hat I wear), here is another perspective...

Families are complicated.

Without knowing more (which I am not asking to do), I suspect there is a back story here within which lies the framework for the real answer to this dilemma. If there is some unresolved issue(s), this occasion is hardly the appropriate venue for it to be exposed. It is important for the health of extended family relations for your feelings to be voiced - without being in a state of anger.

Regretting an invitation to an important family function, such as this wedding, is a big statement on your part. You and your sister need to understand that there will likely be consequences. Fighting fire with fire is never a good idea. Remember, too, that your actions (all of them) are examples from which your children will learn to navigate the world and pass along to their children.

I would advise taking the high road here (as I always do) and accept the invitation; go to the wedding - with a gift; and redirect your anger into compassion. That of course is easier said than done, and impossible when angry. Air your feelings with your brother. Find out what exactly is going on and respond only after you have that information.

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Dog Visitors When Family Comes to Stay

Am I responsible for a guest's pets if my guests are staying overnight?

Dear Stage of Life,

My husband and I are in the process of purchasing and moving into our first house! I recently reached out to my cousin to see if he wanted to "spend some time together" since we will be living only an hour and a half away from him. He interpreted this as coming over to our new house and spending the night.

This is fine with me, except he also followed up saying that it's going to be easier for him to stay overnight if he brings his two dogs with him.

My husband and I do not have pets, and honestly I am uncomfortable with the thought of two unfamiliar dogs in our brand new home and new furniture. I'm concerned about pet hair left all over the house, the animals jumping on or tearing furniture, and any other "surprises" they may leave for us.

Am I responsible for a guest's pets if my guests are staying overnight?


--Rachel


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Rachel,

You must have had a temporary lapse of your senses. Why did you not clear this up at the time?  That said, it is not too late to pick up the phone and explain that you and your husband feel uncomfortable with him bringing his two dogs into your brand new house. This is not an unreasonable feeling to have, by the way! If he brings the dogs, perhaps they have traveling sleeping crates he can house them in; barring that perhaps they can sleep in his car; or even better - leave them at home with a dog/house sitter.

Your house is your castle. Your house rules must be respected by everyone - including you!

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Lots of Leftovers

Is it rude to cancel your anticipated visit 2-3 hours before the family dinner...repeatedly?

Dear Stage of Life,

Our family has a weekly extended family dinner where the grandparents, parents, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren attend with full family and often a friend or two. 

People have many things to do, church events, dinner with the other side of the family, etc., so there is no expectation that everyone will make it every week.  All we have ever asked is that you contact the hostess by the day before if you have some other event to attend and give a call if you are bringing a friend so the amount of food matches the number of people. 

The problem is one family of six in the grandchild generation continues to cancel 2-3 hours before we are suppose to sit down to the meal - well after meat and frozen vegetables are thawed and preparation has started for many dishes. 

On a practical level, this creates a lot of left overs that are often thrown away and sometimes even makes the meal prep harder than it needed to be that particular week.  On a personal level, I feel this is very rude, inconsiderate, and generally disrespectful behavior to have this repeatedly occur.


What are your thoughts?

--Lots of Leftovers...again


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Lots of Leftovers,

Sunday family dinners are a wonderful tradition. As families grow, these gatherings can become unmanageable, and I take my hat off to you for maintaining this healthy family custom!  The host absolutely should be informed of anyone not attending. Not providing such basic courtesy is rude and unacceptable.

I do not encourage editing the guest list of these culprits, but a senior member of the family needs to have a clear and private chat with the offender(s), explaining why this disrespect cannot continue.

Frankly, this behaviour was either learned or at the very least enabled within the family, so let the responsibility fall where it may. Perhaps it's time for the offenders to host a few of these dinners. Trial by fire sometimes works like a charm!

I hope this helps.  Kindest regards,


Jay

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To call or not call?

Should you walk into a friend's or family member's home without first announcing your visit?

Dear StageofLife.com,

I was brought up to always call family or friends if I wished to visit, to see if it would be convenient for them.  I have, in fact, taught this practice to my own children.

However, I seem to be in the minority here and my friends think I am super strange.  Many times I have been at the home of a friend or neighbor (either having coffee or watching a movie), only to have their family or friends just walk into the house unannounced.  Often I find this extremely uncomfortable and cannot wait to leave.  I find it super rude.  My friends do not.

The mother of my son-in-law walks into their house any time as well.  My daughter hates it.  Locking the door doesn't work with her either, because she has a key, and uses it.  The key was given to her to use in case of emergency.

To me, my home is my haven, where I can kick back and relax with no worries about anyone walking in.  Am I wrong??

--Jan


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Jan,

You and I were brought up identically.  You are absolutely 100% correct, no question about it.  Now...how each of us chooses to run our households is personal obviously, but I can assure you that if someone were to arrive at my doorstep unannounced, they would likely not do it a second time. It is the height of rudeness.

Stick by your guns!

Kind regards,
Jay

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Double Booked for a Birthday?

What NOT to do when you've been invited to two birthday parties on the same day...

Dear StageofLife.com,

I have been planning my teenage daughter's birthday party for weeks.  Although she is only inviting three guests, the party involves appointments for facials, going to a movie, and a dinner reservation. 

However, one of her guests called a week before the party and requested that we change the date of the party as she has received an invitation to another event.  Evidently the hosts of the other event refused to change the date of their party. 

As you might expect, I also refused to change the date of my daughter's party stating that there were reservations, other guests to consider, and my family's schedule.  I said if needed, she was welcome to attend only part of my daughter's party if this would work better for her.

Does this seem like rude behavior from the invitee? Or should I have been more accommodating since our party involves a small number of girls?

-Party-Planning Mom


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Party-Planning Mom,

Planning a party with spa appointments and other fun activities does involve being organized well in advance. The guest who called to ask you to reschedule your party is way out of line and exhibits the height of rudeness. You were very kind.  I would strike her from future guest lists in a hurry!

If one receives a "better" invitation once they have accepted a previous invitation, they must regret the second invitation, without question.

I hope this clarifies this matter for you. Where have good manners gone?

Kind regards,
Jay

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Rude younger sister or inconsiderate older brother?

Protocol for entering a room - it's your responsibility to announce your arrival...

Dear StageofLife.com,

Almost two years ago my husband and I were visiting with his younger brother and his wife at their home.  We had been visiting almost a half-hour when their younger sister comes in, walks right past my husband (oldest brother) and begins speaking with her other brother and his wife about some computer/internet problems she is having. 

We sat there another 10 minutes and she still did not acknowledge her oldest brother.  We finally said our goodbyes and left.

When we went to visit again, we now found out we have become the outcasts for not speaking to her.  This scenario has continued and we didn't even say anything to the rest of the family about her lack of consideration for her older brother.  It is not our aim to make her look bad, we just felt it was totally bad manners to treat her brother that way.

My question is were we lacking in manners or was it his sister lack of manners?

-The Outcasts


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Outcast,

Technically speaking, the younger sister is at fault for not announcing her entrance in some way, such as saying hello to everyone assembled.  She has no social graces, nor does the rest of the family for not recognizing this sister's inappropriate behavior and suggesting she apologize.  If it isn't your aim to make her look bad, I suggest you have an honest, private, non-confrontational chat.  This is hardly a skirmish worth risking family relationships over.

Kind regards, Jay.

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Daugther-in-law verses Mother-in-law

Daughter-in-law is uncomfortable with actions of Mother-in-Law

Dear StageofLife.com,

I am writing on behalf of my sister who is a grandmum.  She does not enjoy an easy relationship with her daughter-in-law but very much respects parental boundaries and very much understands the demands on parents.

She is distraught following a recent visit when she was told that soothing her grandaughter's back which was sore with eczema and sorting a little curl on her forehead was inappropriate behavior. My sister did not how to deal with this or indeed how to respond as she was so shocked by the comment and therefore did not question why this was deemed inappropriate by the parents.

She said she was physically sick following the incident at what she understood to be the suggestion. As I was not present I am trying to support her through this while offering some practical advice. Views very welcome.

Any advice??

-A Concerned Sister


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Concerned,

Clearly an avenue of communication needs to be opened between your sister and her daughter-in-law.  Using shock as an excuse for not discussing awkward situations is obviously ineffective.  The only position you should take is to encourage your sister and her daughter-in-law to have a chat about this incident.  Technically the mother of the child is responsible for her own child.  There is more than meets the eye here.  I would take a step back and let them work this out, encouraging open yet private communication.

Kind regards, Jay.

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How Do I Handle a Sticky Situation with My Father-in-Law?

Etiquette involving your guest room and in-laws

Dear StageofLife.com,

I generally have a great relationship with my husband's family, but I am caught in a bit of a sticky situation. My father-in-law is turning 50 this year and is having a big party for all the family and friends.

My husband's aunt just told my father-in-law that she is going to be here and my husband has volunteered our guest room. We recently got over guests (our friend...a single mom and her two kids) who had just trashed it, and we have not yet gotten the chance to do the repairs necessary to make it hospitable.

It's not that I have a problem with my father-in-law's sister or the fact that this will encourage us to fix up the room again... it's that my father-in-law thought he'd solved the lack of space problem with offering OUR guestroom.  Plus, when I told my husband about this - thinking maybe he'd given the go ahead - he knew nothing of it.

I am unsure of the proper thing to do. I am helping my mother-in-law with the party since it will be huge and involved, but have been apparently been scripted for chauffeur for the aunt as well. I don't want to cause trouble for anyone since it seems like my father-in-law already settled it before he called an hour ago to tell me about it.  By the way - my mother-in-law would be mad at him if she knew about how this went down but what good would that do to tattle on him?   I'm not, of course, happy that this happened.

Any advice??

Robin


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Robin,

Your husband needs to have a chat with his father privately.  This sort of disrespect needs to be nipped in the bud. Under no circumstances can he just use your house as his own in this fashion. Perhaps another accommodation can be found for his sister.

Alternatively, you may just have to pull things together as best as possible with a clear message to your father-in-law that he cannot do this ever again without asking first.  I doubt he meant to be disrespectful, but he was and may even be startled to hear this.

Like we all learned in kindergarten, if you want to borrow something, you ask first. Let's hope your husband can sort this out. I hope this helps put things into perspective for you.

Kind regards, Jay.

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Do visitors get to pick where they sleep in my home?

Etiquette involving grown children visits

Dear StageofLife.com,

When grown children with grandchildren come to visit, do I, the hostess (Mom/Grandma), get to choose which bedrooms the visitors will use?

JG



Jay's ANSWER...

In answer to your query about choosing bedrooms for guests, YES, unquestionably you choose.

It's your house for heaven's sake! 

Remember that all of your actions are being watched by your younger generation visitors. Like it or not, you are always leading by example. Make sure the example is a good one. Your home is your castle, and your rules are the final word.

I hope this helps!

--Jay

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Is texting a married man at 3am appropriate?

Etiquette involving married couples

Dear StageofLife.com,

I feel like these days, not many people are aware of the etiquette involving a married couple.  What I mean is that not many people seem to know the way they should act around married people. 

To me, it's intuitive that a single woman should not be calling a married man at 3am in the morning or texting him constantly throughout the day.  She shouldn't be in contact with him constantly or at odd hours.  The same goes for a single man and a married woman. 

Some, however, seem to think that this is perfectly okay.  Am I seriously overreacting, or have the rules changed in this respect?

A marriage is a sacred thing that it should be respected by everybody.  I seem to be alone in believing this.  Can you explain to us any guidelines that people should follow around married individuals?

Anonymous



Jay's ANSWER...

The question posed about appropriate communications between single and married people is one which many people are afraid to ask, but is quite a common problem.

Essentially, if one is going to express unusual sentiments or emotions to another person, they need to be sure this is okay with the other person prior to acting.  Phone calls at 3am are inappropriate unless an emergency arises.  Respecting the privacy of married couples is important and has not changed.

This is a two-way street, however and the responsibility falls on both parties' shoulders. Common sense comes in handy when considering these kinds of situations. Under usual circumstances, erring on the side of caution is always advisable. Put yourself in the other person's shoes and the answer may be clearer.

I hope this helps! Jay


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--StageofLife.com

Parents Rules Rule

Children Return Home and Take Over

Dear Jay,

Is it proper for adult children when they come to visit us in our home, to turn the radio on and listen to music of there choosing with out asking if it were okay ? I don't think it is but my wife has no problem with it and we get into argument's over whether it is okay or not.

Please advise,

Lon


Dear Lon,

I agree with you in this case. People who are guests in your house, and I consider visiting adult children to be in that category, should respect your space and ask to turn on your radio, TV, etc. Old habits are tough to break, but somewhere along the line no one taught your children otherwise. They must learn to be discerning as well as respectful.

I hope this helps. Jay
Compassion in Three Great Men

Compassion

Our Etiquette Man, Jay, had the chance to hear three wonderful men speak about "Crash, Learn, and Conquer". Former Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador Danny Williams; former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; and the one and only Donald Trump each spoke at a conference two weeks ago. Here he shares some observations with you...

I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Spark NB event last week where Donald Trump headlined an all star line up of speakers including former New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani and the former Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Danny Williams. The theme of the day was Crash, Learn and Conquer and was delivered to an audience of seasoned business people, young entrepreneurs and students. I attended because I wanted to hear how these men incorporate civility and compassion into their working lives. Strangely enough I was not surprised that those two words were not uttered a single time throughout the presentation. I found this fascinating, however, because to me without civility and compassion, business cannot truly succeed.

Mr. Williams was the first to speak and he explained how he pulled his province up by the bootstraps and with his tenacity and scrappiness persuaded the federal government to treat his constituency fairly. He has been a hugely successful businessman and attorney as well. Despite the reputation he garnered over his years at bat for the province, he showed a side of compassion and understanding of the really basic needs of his fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans and a genuine caring for people.

Mr. Giuliani spoke of his time as mayor of New York City during the events surrounding the tragic day of September 11, 2001. In addition to his words of wisdom for entrepreneurs of having a goal, being optimistic, being a problem solver, having courage tempered with fear, the importance of practice, anticipation, and teamwork, his most important pearl, in my opinion, was to love people. He emphasized how friends are our best safety net and that we need to help people whenever we can. Without his enormous compassion and sense of civility towards all people, he would not have had what it took to manage one of worst moments in human history, as we know it.

Mr. Trump spoke of his colossal ups and downs both in business and in his personal life. I lived in New York for many years, so “The Donald’s” track record was old news to me. I remember when he was struggling with what seemed like an insurmountable amount of debt, when his real estate empire was collapsing around him, and when almost any other person would have given up. And I remember watching him climb back building strength upon strength to regain his prominence as a great entrepreneur. He deservedly has the reputation of being a bully in the boardroom and he espoused the position of getting even, having ironclad agreements, and never giving up. His philosophy of loving what you do, staying focused, and making your own luck is one which has been enormously helpful to his career. Although he has great bravado and an arrogance that a scant few would dare to get away with, I came away feeling that here is a man who flourished because of the team of people he maintains around him. My guess is that behind closed doors was a man who demanded respect and who equally showed respect to everyone in his life. He would not have been able to form a good team without compassion for himself and for others and certainly not without sincere civility.

One only need look at his children to see what a great father he has been and continues to be. That is where the evidence really lies. Despite never mentioning the importance of compassion and civility in his life, it is tucked away inside, hiding sometimes behind a tough protective exterior.

I hope the audience appreciated the kindness and common sense values that these men have. We all love to hear the incredible stories of crashing and recovering. Many of us can clearly relate as we have such stories in our own lives. We love to hear about the renegade side of people who go against the tide and handle pressures we hope to never be faced with. Some of us can handle life on a roller coaster and can face serious challenges with great strength and a sense of purpose. Others of us need a more secure, even sedate, life where intense pressures are avoided.

In the end, whichever path we choose or find ourselves on unexpectedly, we can be happier and move more gracefully through the day if we practice compassion and show civility to everyone whom we meet. It is the lubrication that oils the wheels of life and which gives is the strength to put the feelings of other people ahead of our own. In business and in our private lives, we may at times be scrappy, be focused on emergencies, or even be in a position of being arrogant. If tempered with compassion and respect for those around us, those who truly love us will surround us.

--Jay
Civility Begins at Home

Bullying

Life for many of us is not always a bed of roses. In this column, "Civility Begins at Home", Jay takes a glimpse at this unpleasant subject and what we might do to change things...

We are, after all, human beings. It is our very nature, especially in western society, to get ahead either at school, in our jobs, or in our efforts to get reelected as government officials.

None of us are immune to overstepping our bounds from time to time in this desire to achieve our goals. Unfortunately, in striving for our goals, too often these efforts turn into acts of bullying. Sometimes we purposefully act in ways which can be very hurtful and cruel to those around us. Other times we behave this way quite unaware and are clueless as to how our actions affect those people with whom we interact.

What better time than the present is there to stop and assess our actions, our motives, and our goals? I have observed, as have many others, that civility at school, in the work place, in social and activity clubs and in the legislature has fallen to a very low point. If we want to build any kind of a sustainable and healthy future for our children and grandchildren, now is the time to begin anew to lead by example so that those who hold us in high regard have good reason to do so.

Where we need to begin this sort of renovation is at home. Bullying begins at home. This is learned because one or both parents, caregivers, and siblings teach this behavior initially.  There is no point to laying blame elsewhere. If there are constant tears at home from a child; if there is a constant or even occasional outburst which instills fear in a household; if there is confusion and lethargy surrounding a household, it is time to take a look at what is going on. We need to become more aware of and take responsibility for our actions. We must make a bigger effort to think about how we affect other people's feelings and self-esteem.

Bullying  comes in many forms – physical, emotional, verbal, and mental. Unfortunately, the effects of this abuse can last a lifetime. We all deserve respect. Whether the newborn freshly home from the hospital, the elder statesman who is the patriarch of the family, or the grandmother whose firm guidance has solved many a family argument, we all deserve to be treated with kindness, compassion and respect. This is best accomplished if practiced everyday. I think it is so important that I suggest scheduling some family time if necessary, where all family members can get together to discuss what is going on in their lives. How else will we find out if someone is being bullied and is afraid. None of us are skilled enough psychics to guess how our loved ones are feeling, what their troubles may be, and how we may help them to feel better about themselves.

Bullying is akin to negative reinforcement. The only thing worse is abandonment. Coming home to an empty house, for example, is a very unhealthy way for any of us to end our day of work or schooling. Even something as simple as a short note indicating that there is food in the fridge or what time dinner will be gives some assurance that a much needed connection will be made soon. We cannot thrive or even exist in isolation. We mustn't do this to our loved ones.

Bullying is the behavior of weak individuals. This weakness needs to be addressed. It is the responsibility of parents to see to it that their children are raised to know the difference between behavior which is acceptable and that which is not. This is a simple process really because everything that our parents do, we as children assume is alright. It does not take a lot of experience to recognize actions which are wrong. Abuse of any kind is uncalled for. Physical abuse is in fact against the law, a fact of which many people are unaware. Physical abuse must be reported to authorities at once and can be done anonymously if needs be.

When we return to our schools and offices this autumn, let's try to make it our own personal policy to behave civilly with one another. This kind of natural behavior cannot be successfully legislated, nor should it be. A healthy society should be able to nurture this behavior very comfortably. Discussing this at home brings it to the forefront of our minds and helps make it easier to happen. If the home is a secure place to live physically, mentally and emotionally, our schools and places of work will be too.

--Jay
Coming Back to the Nest

Guidelines to Visiting Parents

Dear Jay,

What is a polite way to limit the number of days an adult child visits home?

Respectfully yours, Karen



Jay's ANSWER:

Dear Karen,

Adult children returning to the nest is one thing. Those simply coming for a visit is another. You must remember that your home is your castle and you alone set the guidelines and make the rules. If there is an issue about this in your mind, you must state clearly exactly what the guidelines are. Being honest with your message does not require being disrespectful or rude. Keeping facts and feelings separate is a challenge we all face from time to time. Speak in a kindly tone and take full responsibility for your position. It is, after all, your position. Don't lay blame on your child. He or she learned their behavior from you most likely. So, if you've enabled this turn of events, it's now time to explain that now things must change and these are the new rules. I advise not letting this become a big issue. Nipping it in the bud before he or she arrives will help.

Kind regards,  Jay

Lack of Awareness

Look Around You and Be Polite

This may sound like an exercise akin to patting your head and rubbing your tummy, but I am quite serious about this seemingly simple concept. A reader recently sent me this note illustrating the lack of awareness and kindness towards others. Perhaps we can all learn from this reader’s questions.

“I really enjoy your column. Thanks for the great suggestions for the New Year, which I intend to use. One thing that maybe you could consider writing about is the following: It really bothers me that many people today seem to just live in their own world and have little consideration for others who are around them. Often I have walked into a building right after someone who does not appear to know that I am there and drops the door on me.

“Another beef that I have is people shopping in grocery store aisles, often with a number of family members, who run into someone that they know and proceed to block the aisle as they carry on a conversation.

“I think the one that bothers me the most is when you get behind someone at the local drugstore or convenience store who insists on making their purchase, get their air mile points, pay all their utilities, and both check all their lotto tickets and buy new ones while others are waiting behind them! There just seems to be a general inconsideration for others demonstrated here. I used to buy my gas at a convenience store in the Fredericton area where the owner had a policy that customers could not do prolonged lotto ticket transactions if others were waiting. More than once I have just put my purchases down and walked out!

“I know that I sound like the complainer here but it really does bother me! Happy New Year and looking forward to reading you in 2012.”

The scenarios outlined above are ones to which we can all relate. No one likes having a door surprisingly slammed in his or her face. But it does happen frequently! People just do not look behind them to see if someone is coming and politely hold the door open for that next person. What we need to practice is  being polite by taking just seconds to be aware of those around us. I find that when I experience these annoying situations, a bit of self-reflection often reveals a need to slow down and be more aware of what I am doing.

In grocery stores or any store with narrow aisles and shopping carts, it is helpful to look around and try not to inconvenience others. I am not suggesting that a good ‘gossip’ isn’t appropriate quietly in the store, but most customers are not there for social purposes. They need to get in and get out. The lesson here is to consider putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. The Golden Rule comes in handy frequently. This is another call to slow down and be aware of those around you, even putting them and their feelings before yours upon occasion.
 
The multi-tasker at the super market or at the bank or even at the ticket counter can really be annoying. We have become accustomed to one-stop shopping and find accomplishing a number of chores at one place very satisfying. However, if there is a line of people behind you watching you wind through your list of lottery tickets or other time-consuming tasks, I recommend coming back at a time when the lines may be shorter. This is akin to going through a busy grocery line with a full cart of purchases without helping to bag them. We all know how annoying it is when it happens to us. This is a two-way street. It is inconsiderate and disrespectful.

Let the New Year allow you to start off with a clean slate in one important way. Slow down and pay more attention to exactly what is going on around us. As we interact with other people, whether they are fellow shoppers, clerks, or friends and family, becoming more aware of how our actions affect other people will make for a more civil society. And don’t forget to smile often. We never know how our smile can brighten someone else’s day. It happens often!

--Jay
Driving Miss Teen Daisy

Driving Etiquette 101 for Teenagers

As temperatures rise and people’s pockets are lightened more rapidly than ever due to the current economic disaster, so unfortunately people’s own tempers can flare on the road.  As a refresher, following the basic rules of driving that we all learned at a younger age will go a long way to ensure safety for all.

Let People In:  You've heard the term "one good turn deserves another." That's also true when driving. Proper driving etiquette can be contagious. If you let someone in to the traffic flow, they'll probably do the same for someone else down the road. Most people often let people in, if they're signaling, but they expect at least a thank-you wave, and are frustrated when they don't get one. A polite acknowledgement is often forgotten when a driver is in a hurry. For a real twist on this, practice random acts of kindness sometimes too. For example, when on a toll highway, pull up to the attendant and pay your toll and tell them you’d like to pay the toll for the next car as well. You will always get a smile and often times that chain of kindness continues.

Don't Be Aggressive:  Allowing more time to reach your destination will make you a safer and more courteous driver. Aggressive driving is dangerous and it puts others in danger as well. People get nervous when a car cuts too close in front of them, especially without signaling and especially when there’s an infant in the car. When you can see both headlights of the car you passed in the centre rear-view mirror, it’s safe to pull back into the right lane and remember to use your turn signal. I find that even when there’s no one else on the road, if I am going to turn onto another road, I use my turn signal automatically. It’s a very good habit to have deeply ingrained in your driving patterns. Trying to cut corners to get through traffic faster doesn't save you any time - it just gets you to the next red light a little sooner, all the while endangering those around you.

Slow Down:  Driving within the speed limit seems like a thing of the past. Teenagers can be a group guiltiest of this, simply due to their inexperience of the consquences.  Some (not all) zoom down their town streets with little regard that a toddler or stray animal might bolt into the path of their car.  I remember watching this one day as a girl ran over a cat. The cat was badly wounded and would eventually die. The girl was devastated. She was truly upset and remorseful and in need of some serious consolation. What a terrible way to have to learn why speed limits are there for a reason.

Be Sober:  Driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol is another serious danger of which we all aware. This is not isolated to a single demographic group. Sadly it covers everyone who has a license, even those below the legal drinking age. More times than not, one loses one’s sense of speed when driving under the influence, which is one reason they’re so easy to nab. Parents really need to teach their children that the dangers of this practice can have serious consequences, such as a criminal record, loss of driver’s license and loss of respect from others and from oneself, not to mention serious injury. There was a party here recently following the senior prom. People from many local high schools came to a central private location where several sets of parents had agreed to be responsible chaperones. All of the keys were collected so there would be no chance of driving under the influence. Those students who thought they’d beat the system by parking on the road to make a fast getaway were greeted with deflated tires (that were inflated the next morning). There were about 200 youth there and there were no troublesome incidents. Those youth are now empowered to teach their own children, when they have them, how to act responsibly.

Drive Defensively:  Driving defensively is always the best policy. In order to do that, your full attention must be on the road. Be totally aware of all the cars near you as well as the road conditions. You can’t do this while adjusting the radio, chatting on cell phones (which is illegal in many areas for just that reason) or rummaging for a CD. I know this first hand. I was driving on a ski trip one day with two passengers. I was fumbling for a CD and hit a patch of black ice which was concealed from vision under the snow. The car (a Land Cruiser) went into a spin and crashed off the road into a rock formation and flipped. Through a miracle there were no injuries despite the fact that the vehicle was totaled. Imagine what that outcome could have been.

Civility and good manners will never do us any harm, on or off the road. Driving is a privilege and one which we take for granted far too often. Be ever mindful of those around you. It may just save a life.

It's a Respect Thing

Rising to welcome others 

Jay,

The other day my mother was hospitalized overnight.  I went to visit her and sat by her bed.  The room was small as hospital rooms usually are.  During the course of my visit the doctor and a priest stopped in on separate occasions.  The doctor was a women between 35-40 years old and the priest was elderly.

 When each entered the room, my mother introduced me to them.  I shook both of their hands without rising from my chair.My mother thinks I should have stood up but I don't agree with her.  I'm 35 years old.

Any thoughts?

-Anonymous


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for asking this good question. I would have to side with your mother on this one. Standing is a sign of respect, something both of these people deserve, as frankly does anyone else. Age and gender really have nothing to do with rising when someone enters your "space". It makes people feel welcome and respected.

I hope this helps, Jay

Planet Etiquette

Recycling, Trash, and General Caring For Our Planet Etiquette

How is our etiquette concerning the planet on which we live?

I try to be mindful of taking care of our delicate planet on a daily basis. I am serious about recycling as is my partner.  All of the wine and beer bottles, cans, newspapers, cardboard, plastic bags and vegetable scrapings are all recycled.  We use to recycle over 2000 pounds of vegetable scrapings every year when operating the Windsor House. Our garden has good soil as a result, although a ton doesn’t really make as much difference as it sounds. However, every ton of waste not put into the landfill is to the good of the planet.

It amazes me how reckless people are today about the garbage they produce. Coffee cups are strewn along the highway. There are some people who I see regularly picking up discarded pop cans from the roadside as supplemental income, there are so many. The highways in the US and Canada capture so much litter that there are now laws in place to combat offenders. We should know better.

And to those of us who smoke, it is hard to believe how cavalier we have become of making the streets our own personal ashtray. Nothing could be more disrespectful to our visitors and fellow citizens. The town of St. Andrews actually employs someone to pick up cigarette butts as a summer job. How pathetic is that?  This reflects so badly on our beautiful town and on the self esteem of our residents who feel it is their right to use the streets as a trash bin. And the sad fact is that no one can point a finger at any one group. I have witnessed this behavior from young and old and all socio-economic classes. It is arrogance at its very worst.

Before I come across as too self righteous, I admit to contributing to this total disregard for the fragility of our planet. I waste water like there is no tomorrow. I don’t turn off lights as I might when not in use. I don’t follow through on certain excellent suggestions from the Department of Energy on ways to use less electricity and conserve natural resources. I drive too much, although I must admit to ‘using’ other gas guzzlers to pick up and drop off my mail.

So, what do we do?  What do I do?

Here we are living in one of the most ‘happening’ places on the planet as far as energy goes and we treat it with little respect. We take it for granted. We don’t want to see our streets littered with cigarette butts, yet we constantly flick them away. We’re not doing that consciously because we know someone needs employment to pick them up. We do it unconsciously. It’s like spitting or swearing or wearing clothes that don’t fit, or bullying or beating our children or spouses. It has become a way of life and it must stop. It soils our surroundings in such a negative way.

I can remember a time when there were no leash laws and there were no ‘pooper scooper’ laws. Walking down the streets of Paris or New York was a bit of a mine field. Suddenly people decided to end this horrible and lazy disrespectful behavior. Today, even in our small seaside tourist town, there are leash laws and special dispensers of plastic bags. For the most part, everyone with a dog is careful to follow these regulations. That is considered real progress. And fortunately no one is inconvenienced.

It’s time to take the next step.

We have made a major step forward by banning herbicides and pesticides in our small town. And a local company is testing organic fertilizer. The province provides home energy analyses for practically nothing, with incentives to improve energy efficiency. There are recycle centers which are constantly improving. There are many chances for us to all make a smaller footprint on the planet. What is keeping us from taking advantage of them?

In my opinion, these values must be taught at home and reinforced in the school system. Given the high cost of ‘deposit’ fees, this should be pretty easy when it comes to bottles and cans. Newspapers are trickier because you actually have to stack them up and take them to the recycle bin, and you get no cash in return. What a pity! Do it anyway. I find that every trip I take to the recycle bins gives me a sense of doing the right thing and it feels good. But maybe that’s just me. So many people feel the same way.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all did?

Reader Question: Holiday Etiquette

Travel Etiquette for the Holidays

Jay,

This will be my first holiday season in my own apartment with my boyfriend of 2 1/2 years. As excited as I am to decorate, bake and enjoy the holidays as an adult, I am a little concerned about how to handle some of the holiday activites.

We are going to see our entire family (his & mine) on Thanksgiving. Is it wrong of us to want to spend Christmas Day in our own home this year instead of hiking from house 1, house 2, etc.? My family has a bit of an old mentality, and expects us to be there since we are 1) not married yet and 2) are not hosting the holidays ourselves.

Should we suck it up and travel all day during Christmas, or enjoy a couple's Christmas in the place we worked so hard to obtain?

Thanks,

Laurel


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Laurel,

Thanks for asking this really good question. I have found myself in this position both as a single person with a significant other and as a married person.

My experience tells me that parents usually do want their children to make the trek, sometimes even if they are burdened with kids, but I can totally identify with your position of wanting to spend Christmas in your home with your beloved.

My advice is to be as compassionate to yourselves and to your families as possible. This means being accommodating when possible, yet protecting your private time as well and without feelings of guilt. I think family traditions become traditions because most of the time they work well. If you step and back and look at the big picture, you in fact may be the most flexible; in which case you would be appropriately expected to bend more. 

This in no way diminishes your desire to spend a quiet private Christmas in your own home. The symbolism which surrounds that is very strong and important. It is also resilient. My advice is to follow your instincts and "suck it up".  Be grateful that you have two families to visit on such an important holiday.

I hope this helps, Jay

Reader Question - Napkin Etiquette

Teaching Etiquette Early

Dear Jay,

I get very annoyed if my dinner guests (who are often in-laws) do not use their napkins.  Is this just a lack of good manners on their part and poor upbringing?  I have another question brought on by a situation where a waitress picked up my napkin and placed it on my lap before taking my order.  Was this the "proper" thing for her to do?  Actually, it was a rather high class eating place and I assumed this must be done at such a place, as I could not imagine it happening at our local Pizza Hut.  Perhaps you can set me right as to the do's and don’ts of napkin etiquette. I hope you don’t find my questions too trivial.

With thanks, Elizabeth


Jay's ANSWER:

Dear Elizabeth,

Thanks for asking these good questions. There are no trivial questions when it comes to proper etiquette. Your in-laws are exhibiting poor manners most likely as a result of an upbringing where manners were not important enough to be instilled in them at an early age.  As you noticed by your frustration, not teaching children how to behave properly early on does them a huge disservice as they reach adulthood.

As far as the placing of the napkin on your lap by the waitress goes, in some high end restaurants this is the custom. My advice to you is of course always to follow the lead of your host or hostess. What should happen as soon as everyone is seated is that the host or hostess should unfold and place their napkin on their lap. The guests should in turn follow. If there is no host to follow, once everyone (even if it's only two) is seated, the napkin should be unfolded and put on your lap. If this is not done, an attentive waiter will likely do it for you. This is not to be construed as being rude or condescending, but rather as a silent service gesture to indicate that the rituals of the meal are underway. It is a way of communicating to the guest that the staff is now ready to serve you. I hope this answers your question.

Regards, Jay

Expanded Comments on Teaching Etiquette Early...

I really liked answering these questions because they point to the importance of teaching proper etiquette and good social manners at an early age. There is nothing complicated or sophisticated about napkin etiquette. Nor are any of the myriad of other topics which revolve around good manners terribly complex or tricky. However, they must be learned behaviors. No one is born with good manners or bad manners. What we are born with is the ability to adjust to our social environment by following the lead of our parents, and in many cases our school teachers, especially in the case of boarding schools.

But what if our parents don’t know?

Sadly, often times we are left to learn through the school of hard knocks. Why didn’t we get the job; why didn’t we get the promotion we were so expecting? Important interviews are often conducted during a luncheon or dinner. This is not because the interviewer is worried that you may be hungry. As stated in a previous column, it is because they are checking you out. If you don’t know such a simple skill as eating a meal properly, they are wondering what other simple skills you are lacking. Poor manners are what are known as ‘the silent killer’. No one will actually tell you why you didn’t get the job or the promotion. This happens all the time. What’s even more evident is the fact that you feel very uncomfortable in situations involving meals, corporate social gatherings to meet clients, mingle and discuss business. A person without the confidence of good etiquette will inevitably be at a disadvantage.

Take the time in your life to learn good manners and realize what a difference this makes in all social gatherings.

It is never too late to learn all the basic social graces and corporate etiquette you need to know in order to feel comfortable and confident in any situation. There are consultants, such as myself, who teach short seminars. There are many books in the library which deal with this subject. We have, today, as a society hit the bottom as far as good manners go, either in social or business circles. If we hope to succeed in the global society, we must make a concerted effort to improve on these skills. And it is at home that this must begin.

Take the time to have family meals where the table is properly set. Learn to have civil discussions around the dinner table. As was pointed out recently during the debates, it is okay to disagree, but is not okay to be disagreeable. Make good manners a priority at home. The schools around here are doing brilliantly at teaching many important core values. Parents must lead the charge in teaching and instilling the soft skills which will make the youth of today the leaders of tomorrow.

So during this upcoming holiday season, take the time to make sure that these family get-togethers are not only joyous, but that they are imbued with civility. You will find that the joy becomes even greater.

There are so many details to look after in the planning of a wedding, that the protocol and etiquette surrounding these grand affairs can be complex. A wedding is one of the most important events in one’s life. It can also be and usually is one of the most stressful events in one’s life even if it is well organized.

Reader Question: Neighborly Neighbors

Etiqutte for Dealing With Unannounced Visits by Neighbors

I have recently been approached by two different families concerning a real problem with neighbors.  In searching my library of etiquette books, I found no reference to this and so am addressing it here.  The matter at hand is unannounced visits by neighbors. 

In the ‘old days’ one did not call on anyone without phoning first to see if it would be convenient. Today, this consideration has seemingly flown out the window.

We visited close friends a couple of weeks ago. This was a planned visit and we were to stay for several days. Our hostess was not at home when we arrived and we went to let ourselves in only to find a padlock on the gate. I said, “I bet it’s because of the neighbors. I bet they were finally forced to take this step. As the old saying goes, ‘drastic times call for drastic measures’.”

We knew there was a history with the neighbors' children just showing up unannounced and uninvited to play or to be entertained; and not only the children, but the parents as well. It turns out that my hunch was correct. The behavior finally drove our friends to having to actually lock their back gate. The neighbor’s six-year-old son was also too clingy with our friends’ two-year-old son. It made our friends increasingly uncomfortable, yet they were at a loss of what to do to remedy the situation.

As awkward and uncomfortable as it may be, there really is no alternative than to confront the neighbors head on. This does not have to be combative or unfriendly, but I do feel that the facts need to be clearly laid out as well as the feelings that are generated as a direct result. Inappropriate physical contact needs to be delicately yet swiftly handled as well, as this may require some professional help. Sadly, these behaviors can go unnoticed by seemingly caring intelligent parents.

On this same topic, I received a question from a reader with a very similar problem...


Dear Jay,

I have some very nice neighbors, with some fairly 'pushy' children.  We have a privacy fence; however, on one side of us, our neighbor's 9 year old son will peek over or through the fence to ask my boys (who are only aged 2 & 4) to ask me to invite him over.  Recently, after I said no, he told them to ask me again.  His mother is very sweet and often offers to watch them for me and will talk in the front yard with my children if we happen to see each other in passing.  I want to keep a nice relationship, but I feel odd allowing her son to come over when he is so much older than my kids.  Several other children in the neighborhood (who are also much older and whom we barely know) have peeked in through our gate/fence to ask to come over and play as well.  (We have a swing set structure).  I keep saying no, but they keep asking, and I am starting to dread going in my own backyard when I know the neighborhood kids are out.  Am I wrong to keep saying no?  If not, how do I handle this so they don't keep asking?

Sorry for the long explanation and question!  

Thanks for your help,

Tricia


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Tricia,

Thanks for asking this sensitive question. This is an all too common problem.

As I see it, you have two choices.

1)  You need to speak with their mothers and let them know that this behavior is bothering you and is in fact worrisome. The kids are acting inappropriately and should be corrected. If you're in a mood to want them over for a play session, let them know you'll invite them. Aside from not having control of your own back yard right now, you also have some liability issues should anyone get hurt.

2) Another alternative is to speak with the kids themselves and let them know that when you have time to watch them you'll invite them over. So, no, you are not wrong for saying no, but following the 'no' with a short explanation may make it sink in better.

I hope this helps,

Jay

 


 

Expanded Thoughts on Unwanted Neighbors...

Looking back on that answer, I would like to add that there is a privacy issue here too. People need to respect one another’s privacy. When I grew up this was instilled in me as a very young boy. Although we enjoyed visiting friends and family, we would never do so without phoning first. It is inconsiderate. It shows utter disregard for another person’s time. When we ran the Inn, my time was not my own. I treasured my private time. I learned how important it is to me. I still feel that way and I think deep down inside, we all do.

Teens Testing Boundaries

Teaching Thanks

Jay,

I am a mom of three teenagers who seem to have no respect for handwritten thank you notes after receiving a gift. " I already told them thank you when I opened it." "I don't want to seem redundant." "They know I am thankful."

I find these answers rude and inconsiderate of the amount of thought, love and caring that went into thinking of them (on a birthday, Christmas or graduation) and I don't understand how they can think that this is acceptable. I used to not allow them to play with any of their toys until thank you notes were written. Now with the eye rolling and "I wouldn't want someone to keep thanking me over ad over." I am beside myself.

Please help. Is a verbal "thanks" enough?

-Laura


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Laura,

Thanks for asking this good question. Kids, especially teenagers, are always testing boundaries and questioning authority. Parents must be clear and firm with their directions, and often times setting a good example is the way children learn. They have obviously not received a thank you note themselves in order to experience the joy a thank you note can generate. By not writing a thank you note, they are demonstrating a lack of gratitude and a lack of respect. These are not good qualities to be exhibiting and there need to be consequences.

I would think a non-threatening chat might help. If kids understand why these rules or guidelines are in place, explained in a non-dictatorial way, they tend to "get it". Of greater concern to me is the disrespect they are showing you with their flippant answers. Somewhere along the line they were allowed to get away with this. Basically you have enabled them to become this way. You and your husband need to be united in your approach in dealing with this issue. If they don't learn the principle of cause and effect now, they will have to learn it later in life. 

I hope this helps, Jay

Don't Ignore an RSVP Request

RSVP Etiquette

I have noticed that the RSVP on invitations in certain instances is ignored. Most invitations ask that the recipient RSVP. This is a simple but very important request. The translation of RSVP, the French expression ‘Respondez s'il vous plais’, is simply ‘please respond’ or ‘please reply’.  The RSVP is the means for the host to gather essential information to complete the party or function arrangements. The RSVP clearly indicates how many people will or will not attend the event. It lets the host/hostess proceed with ordering food and beverages, creating a seating plan, hiring the correct number of wait staff and other obvious considerations in planning a successful occasion.

I have noticed that most people do in fact reply to private party invitations. Once you decide to accept an invitation, it really is important to show up, especially if a sit down meal is being prepared and served. Last minutes cancellations with a very legitimate excuse are acceptable. But ‘no-shows’ are inappropriate and extremely rude. Likewise, last minute replies are thoroughly disrespectful. If you are so late in replying that the host/hostess phones you to see if you are planning to attend a function, you ought to realize your gaff immediately, and apologize for your faux pas and any inconvenience which may have resulted. Apply the adage of walking in someone else's shoes and imagine yourself in the position of hosting a party without a clue to the number of people who will be attending.

For public or institutional affairs it is equally important to reply to invitations. These events require a lot of planning and a head count is crucial. Many times, people think RSVP means ‘regrets only’. It does not. If I am invited to an opening at a museum and there is an RSVP, I call immediately to let them know one way or the other. And, I might add, that no one is exempt from replying. Many times public figures are invited to special events as a sign of respect and courtesy. They must reply to such invitations for exactly the same reasons everyone else must.

At these large public gatherings, if you have not replied to the invitation, do not just show up thinking your host will be thrilled to see you. I have been to many such events where there is a list of who has replied. If you’re not on that list, you may well not be admitted. You are less likely to be turned away at the door for a non-profit group. Because these organizations cannot afford to offend anyone, protocol is broken or stretched. But keep in mind that you are still a guest and ought to return the courtesy of the invitation and hospitality that has been extended to you. Be prepared for a solicitation for a donation or request for volunteer help with various projects. These are some of the ways non-profits remain in existence doing good for the community.

There are various schedules one follows when mailing invitations depending on the kind of event or party. However, one should reply within 48 hours of receiving any invitation if possible. Unless otherwise stated on the invitation, replies should be in writing. In today’s fast paced society, most invitations have telephone numbers or emails for quick reply. Some contain a reply card to indicate the number of people attending and perhaps a card for choosing an entrée. Whatever the method of reply, do it promptly. Always put yourself in the position of the host or hostess.

Invitations are very clearly addressed. If the invitation is addressed to Mr. John Doe and Guest, then he is invited to bring along a guest – any guest of his choice. I heard recently of a wedding invitation where a gentleman was invited to bring a guest. The bride found out who the guest was and announced that the guest in question wouldn't be welcome. The bride did not want to be upstaged by the extraordinary beauty of the lady who was to accompany the invited guest.  Once you have sent an invitation there is no taking it back-that just does not happen in polite society. Once a person RSVPs, the host/hostess accepts whatever decision the guest has made without further stipulation or regulation.  How ludicrous! What a peculiar and cruel way for a bride to behave. That was a first for me.

If the invitation is addressed to Mr. and Mrs. John Doe and Family, that refers to immediate family, i.e. children. If the invitation does not state “and family”, do not ask if you may bring the children or others. Your asking this of a host/hostess puts him/her in an awkward position and makes you look foolish. However, in the case of an informal party, such as a pool party, as it’s a family kind of affair, it is acceptable to call and explain that you have house guests and ask if they might be included. More often than not extra guests are welcome.

RSVPs are one of the most essential parts of an invitation. Please respect them and respond as quickly as possible. This is one way that you as the guest can contribute to the success of the party and help ensure less stress for the host or hostess. This small gesture is always a winner.

Say Thank-You, Often

Thank-You Card Etiquette for all Stages of Life

The very first thank-you notes I wrote were for Christmas presents. My mother, sister and I would sit down the day after Christmas with our boxes of note cards and lists of gifts and who had given them to us. Everyone who had given us a gift received a hand written thank-you note.

This at first seemed like a daunting task for an eight year old, but as the years rolled by it became a routine which we looked forward to. Learning to compose a note that had some personality was the challenge. Penmanship was also important. Cards with mistakes had to be discarded and begun anew. In this day and age where actual hand writing has unfortunately taken a back seat to the computer, penmanship is atrocious. Teachers take note! Even students in high school can barely write their names in a legible way. Nonetheless, I have received numerous heartfelt notes from students which meant a great deal to me. And because they were so personal, I know the gratitude that the students felt was sincere.

There are many times when writing a note of thanks is important. There also is a certain feeling of warmth that one gets from writing them. You should send a thank-you note when you are given a gift, sent flowers, asked to lunch or dinner, invited for a weekend, asked to a concert or performance of some kind or when someone does something nice or helpful in a business or social situation such as an introduction or letter of reference. I write far too few thank-you notes. However, I do make a point of phoning whenever I am invited to dinner. People appreciate knowing that the effort that went into cooking dinner and the camaraderie of the time spent together with friends was genuinely enjoyed.

There is an excellent book which was recently published by a colleague of mine entitled 101 Ways to Say Thank You. In it Kelly Browne gives excellent examples of what to actually say in such notes. It has great tips on buying stationary, superlative words to use in a note and many helpful suggestions.

Imagine the delight in receiving a thank-you note. I find that it strengthens friendships and relationships, especially in business situations which are just budding. Whenever someone extends themselves to celebrate a happy occasion, lend a helping hand, make an introduction for you or acknowledge a difficult time you may be experiencing, take the time to write a note. It takes only a few minutes. In some cases notes with “Thank-you” can be purchased at a stationary store or at local gift shops. Some of the highest quality stationary is sold by Crane & Company in the US. They have an excellent website and have a wide variety of cards and stationary which can be personally engraved if required. You can buy note cards at the Dollar Store as well, so there’s not a lot of expense required to accomplish this mission.

In business situations, thank-you notes can be sent via email. It is a matter of discretion however and a hand written or typed note may serve your purposes better. Whatever you decide, be sure that the note is sincere and includes a reference to the purpose of your meeting. If you are sending a note to an interviewer from whom you want a job, be sure not to send a gift. In most companies as well as in government, there are policies against accepting gifts.

In the case of weddings and the tremendous joy and love and support you receive from friends and family, thank-you notes are essential and absolutely must be hand written. And there is no reason why the bride needs to be the sole writer. The groom should share in that responsibility. Be sure that as you open your presents at showers that someone records the gift and the sender. For wedding presents which arrive in the post, one trick which comes in handy is to cut off the return address from the package and attach it to the gift or gift card. Again be sure you have a list and as each thank-you note is written, check it off the list.

The most important thing to remember is to say thank-you often. There are so many more occasions to verbally express your gratitude to another person than there will be reasons for a hand written note. Use the phone if you want to. Speak directly to the person to whom you are grateful. I know of no one who says thank-you too often. Say it with a smile on your face and make direct eye contact. This will go a long way to show the respect you have for others and for yourself.

Reader Question - Phone Etiquette

How to Answer the Phone

Dear Jay,

I have two questions. Firstly: how should one answer the telephone at one's home, and how should employees be instructed to answer a business phone? Secondly, shouldn't one announce who is making the phone call? I find it disconcerting when I have no idea to whom I'm speaking.

Yours truly,
V.R.


Jay's ANSWER

Dear V.R.,

Answering the telephone at home and at work does have different protocols and manners associated with them.

At home, one should answer the telephone with an enthusiastic ‘hello’. The tone of one’s voice says a lot about your frame of mind. Even if you’re not in a good mood, and you decide to answer the phone, inject warmth into your voice. It makes others feel good. If you can’t manage to do this, which some people just can’t, then let the answering machine take the call.

If the call is for someone else, refrain from shouting out the person’s name if they are in another room or on another floor. It’s rude and upsetting to others who can hear you. For that matter, if you need to speak with someone who is visually out of sight and likely out of earshot of a normal voice, get up and go to that person. If someone does that to me, I don’t answer. Call me old fashioned, but it was not tolerated in my household when I was growing up.

Teach children how to have good telephone manners as well. You must understand these good manners yourself. It’s kind of like men wearing hats (or baseball caps or toques) indoors. How are children supposed to learn that that’s just wrong if you don’t teach them by example?  Answering telephones can be a serious matter. Wearing a hat inside the house is just disrespectful and bad manners. Strangers can call and unsuspecting children can give out way too much information. I remember calling a friend’s house once, looking for either him or his wife. The house sitter answered the phone and told me that they would be away for a week. I had not identified myself, and had I been a thief, with the information she gave me, I would have been able to stage a robbery. Moreover, if small children are at home, a kidnapping could have taken place. I know this may sound alarmist to some folks, but this stuff happens and it is extremely important to teach your children at an early age exactly what to say.

Apologize if you dial a wrong number; don’t eat or drink while speaking on the phone as those unattractive sounds are magnified; and turn down the radio or TV when answering a call for the same reason. Keep a note pad and pencil by each phone and write down messages which will be clear and have all of the pertinent information. Make every effort to return any calls within 24 hours. And if you do not want to answer the telephone, for whatever reason, don't!

At the office, the protocol is somewhat different. Still, a cheery voice gives a good impression of your company. You never know when the call coming in is from a first time caller. It helps to actually smile when you answer the phone. Unless you have your own home business, an enthusiastic ‘hello’ is not sufficient. It is much better to answer with “Windsor House, Jay speaking”, or “Good afternoon, the Windsor House”. Recorded greetings which direct you somewhere else are totally annoying. We all really want to get a live person on the wire. Telephone companies, banks and credit card companies are notorious for this.

If you are an executive assistant, be sure to always use an honorific (Mr., Dr. or Ms.) before the person’s name. For example, say, “Dr. Smith’s office, Ms. Jones speaking.” This gives the proper dignity due the person being phoned. When calling, and you get the secretary of the person you are looking for, feel free to leave a complicated massage if the secretary is capable. Some corporations have highly skilled executive secretaries that can make heaven and earth move. Establishing working relationships with these individuals on the phone can be incredibly helpful in conducting future business.

In answer to your second question, yes it is necessary to identify yourself when you place a call. It is frustrating to be carrying on a conversation with someone only to later realize you have the wrong person on the other end of the phone. Being mindful of another’s time is also a courtesy to extend. Ask if this is a good time to speak with the other person.

In any event, be sure to be civil on the phone. Never raise your voice or lose your temper. This is a sure fire way to lose a client or a contact. I find a pleasant phone call can make my day. One that goes on and on can have the opposite effect. Showing respect for one another is the name of the game.

Meet Stage of Life's Etiquette Coach

Meet Jay Remer - etiquette expert on StageofLife.comOur Etiquette Expert

Why Jay?  It's simple...Jay knows etiquette. 

For years Jay has planned and managed royal, corporate, political and social events and parties, some of them for up to 500 people.  As a graduate of the Protocol School of Washington, he offers workshops on business, social and dining etiquette, as well as international protocol for a variety of audiences.  From teenage students to corporate clients, Jay teaches everything from the basics of a handshake to the subtleties of developing a business relationship during a networking dinner.  His course on self-esteem in youth, in particular, has been encouraged by Dr. Piet Forni, founder of the Civility institute at Johns Hopkins University.  Originally from Delaware, Jay now lives in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada  where he has written a weekly etiquette column in the National Post and is a current columnist in New Brunswick’s Telegraph Journal.  He is a Social Etiquette and Good Manners expert on allexperts.com and has answered over 1,000 questions from people around the world...and he's now ready to answer your questions here on Stage of Life. 

Just let us know your question, your stage of life, and we'll post your question and Jay's official etiquette response on this page.

Ask Jay a Question

You can read more about Jay on his website, EtiquetteGuy.com

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