This article is part of an editorial series, “Discipline Discussion” brought to you by Fort Worth Moms. Join our subscriber list so you don’t miss a moment of “Discipline Discussions” and all Fort Worth Moms has to offer throughout the year.
Your child has a friend over to play and that friend will not listen to you. The little rebel is causing you stress, and your child is mirroring his or her behavior.
You’re thinking: There is no way this kid is coming back to my house again!
However, that’s immediately met with the familiar, nagging pain of mom guilt because you know your child adores this tiny terror.
Children misbehave for a thousand different reasons, including testing boundaries in a new environment, not feeling good, tiredness, fear, or craving adult attention and don’t know how to get it the right way.
Eventually, we will all find ourselves in a situation where we have to deal with someone else’s child who is making poor choices. How are we supposed to handle situations where we need to discipline someone else’s child?
Communication Is Key
Most of our everyday problems are caused by some kind of communication breakdown. This could not be more true than with our littlest friends. We need to set clear expectations with them so time in our home is successful.
Likewise, we need to have open communication with other parents. The parents of my boys’ friends know they can talk to me about behavior issues with my children. When we have encountered issues on playdates, I’ve found out the same behavior isn’t acceptable in their own home and the child’s parents handle it from there.
Make sure to communicate the good with each other, so we can praise our kids when they get home. Nothing makes a mama’s heart happier than to hear her child was especially polite or kind.
Expect Your Child to Model Good Behavior
Children often give in to peer pressure faster than they will to discipline from some strange adult. My kids know when friends are over I expect them not only to follow house rules, but also to let their friends know when they’re breaking one.
When a friend is too wild and could accidentally hurt one of the pets, the boys know to tell their friend to calm down or go outside and play. If we serve a meal, my boys take their plates to the sink and nicely encourage their friends to do the same. If they’ve been playing blocks and want to move onto something else, they are expected to have their friend help clean the blocks mess before anything else is pulled out.
If your child approaches modeling good behavior with a great attitude, his or her friend will likely follow along!
Don’t Ignore Bad Behavior
One of the worst things we can do is allow a child to come over to play five times without ever correcting bad behavior, and then all of a sudden lay down the law. The young friend will have absolutely no idea why your house is suddenly so strict and may go home to report that you were mean to them.
Nip bad choices in the bud early, so the child can start to understand what will and won’t be accepted in your home.
The first few times a basic rule is broken, simply verbally correct the behavior. Explain how you “don’t do this in our home because . . .” so they can understand house rules. If the behavior persists, it may be time to take a time out or break from the game.
After that, explain how it may be time to call his or her parent. If that doesn’t solve the issue, it’s time for the playdate to end.
There is nothing wrong with ending a playdate early because “we’re having a hard day.”
More serious behavior warrants a call to the parent.
Understand Your Feedback May Not Be Well Received
Nobody likes to hear bad things about their children, and people may quickly become offended if their kids are mentioned. Approach conversations about discipline with other parents with empathy and kindness, but understand they still may not receive your message well. (I don’t remember being told exactly how thick my skin was going to need to be in parenting classes, do you?)
If a conversation doesn’t go well, that’s okay. Regardless of the reaction you get, stand your ground and uphold house rules. If another parent can’t respect that, then their child will probably not behave any better on the next visit. Look at this as an opportunity to encourage new friendships.
With practice, eventually, you’ll get the hang of how to handle missteps with friends in a way that makes everyone feel comfortable. You’ll find that friendships with other parents are stronger for it.