Torah puts great emphasis on the importance of welcoming people into your home, making sure they feel comfortable, and giving them your full attention–it’s a mitzvah called hachnasat orchim (hospitality to guests). According to the teachings of the Talmud, we are required to:
• Greet guests at the door and escort them inside.
• Make an effort to remain cheerful during the visit.
• Offer food and drink.
• Ask our guests questions about their interests and activities.
• Escort them to the door when they leave.
If children are to follow these rules, it means that when the play date arrives your four-year-old does not have the luxury of staying in her room playing with Duplo but must come to the door to greet her friend. If your child is very absorbed when the friend is due to arrive, give advance warning.
Young children ages two to five often end a play date with a fight. It seems to make it easier to say good-bye if you’re convinced that your friend is really an enemy. Give warning here, too, by telling both children, “It’s time to start cleaning up. Sammy’s mom will be here soon and you will need to see him to the door.”
Some parents worry that the formal play date agenda that fits well with our tight schedules doesn’t match the ebb and flow of young children’s moods. That is true, but most children can learn to adjust to our schedules and be polite about it. This is another example of why Jewish teachings are so useful for parents: you know what you’re working toward. The rules of hachnasat orchim can be taught to children of any age, even those who aren’t yet able to master each rule each time.
Excerpted with permission from The Blessing of a Skinned Knee (Scribner).