Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back to School and the Play Date

While it’s wonderful when your child goes back to school and makes new friends, sometimes there is a negative side in it for you.

What if your child’s new BFF (best friend forever) is not your favorite child to be around?  How do you set boundaries for your child, and their playmate, when there are obvious differences in the parenting style each child is accustomed?

In handling issues that involve kids and families, the most important thing you can do is be true to yourself, and the parenting style that works best for your family.  But realize that your role as decision maker is also limited to your family.  Below are some important reminders as you navigate these parenting challenges.

1.     Watch your tone – When you need to redirect a child that is not yours, or ask them to follow your rules, do so with a level of tenderness in your voice.  This child is not misbehaving to spite you; he or she may simply have different rules (or no rules) and needs to learn what you expect. 
2.     Respect the other parents – Do not speak negatively about the caregivers of this child in front of him/her, or in front of your own child.  Even if you are stating factual information, like their frequent absence from their son or daughter’s life, it is hurtful.  Imposing any judgment about the other parents is damaging to the friend, and sets a poor example to your child on the importance of accepting differences in others.
3.     Demonstrate Understanding – Begin the conversation by acknowledging that your rules may be uncomfortable for the other child.  Perhaps by comparison, you are strict or seem unfair.  By showing you accept this child’s reality you will gain ground in getting him/her to accept yours.
4.     Set Boundaries – Be clear and concise with the rules this child must follow.  Include your own child in the discussion so that it does not feel punitive, but collaborative.  For example, “In our house, we don’t eat sweets or snacks before dinner.  We have a rule that dessert is earned if you eat most of your dinner.”
5.     Instill Consequences – If there are certain behaviors that are unacceptable to you, let the other child (and yours) know what the consequence will be if they engage in this behavior.  Perhaps the other child must go straight home, or you will cancel their planned sleep-over.  You can prevent many problem behaviors by making the consequences clear beforehand.
6.     Be Consistent – Make sure that the rules you set are consistent with the rules for your child (wherever possible), and are likewise consistent for all their playmates. 

These guidelines will help to keep playtime a positive experience for everyone, even you.

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