How to Handle Other People’s Children

An oft-heard subject of controversy is disciplining other peoples’ kids.

What do you do when your children have playmates at your home who are misbehaving?

I don’t think there is an easy answer to this difficulty.

I have heard some parents advising that, “Whatever happens in my house is under my jurisdiction, and all of my kids’ guests must follow the rules of our home.”

On the other hand, some parents say, “Disciplining someone else’s kid is out of my domain. Unless he is doing damage, I leave well enough alone. However, I am sure to explain to my child that just because his friend acts in a certain manner does not mean it is permissible to him.”

How do you feel about reacting to the inappropriate behavior of kids visiting your home?

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  1. Disciplining others’ children is a sticky situation, but important for your children to see — they will learn that you are fair and reliable. Bending the rules for guests will cause confusion and even resentment! Of course, even your children can understand that guests need to be informed of wrongdoing before punishment. For instance, if a guest curses, he can be warned first, “We don’t allow swearing. Use kind words if you would like to keep playing [or other consequence].” And follow-through is important — do exactly as you promised; If they disobey again they need to leave or have a time-out, or whatever is your chosen consequence. Passing along a verbal report to the parent is important, but ‘Just The Facts’ — without complaining or passing judgement. If they seem troubled by the news of your discipline, give them a simple explaination of how consistency is key to your parenting at home. In conclusion, both your children and their guests will benefit from knowing what to expect from you! You will have happier playdates when children know how they are expected to behave.

  2. Heather says:

    You are absolutely right about that! The best way to teach a child who will be a frequent visitor in your home is to establish boundaries in the very beginning (actually, that’s important for our own children, too). If you let them “get away” with something your child isn’t allowed to do in your home, not only are you showing “favor” over your child to the visitor, you are teaching that child that THEY are the boss when they’re at your house. It’s important that they understand that the parent is in charge, and not the children when it comes to rules. Enforcing rules is the best way to have a peaceful home. Withour rules, there is chaos. With chaos come a lot of other things we don’t want in our homes; messes (not normal messes – possible extra messes made out of anger), noises (again, not the normal ones, but perhaps whining from the child who ISN’T allowed to do what the visitor is doing), and negative emotions (i.e.; “I hope I don’t have to have that kid over here too often”, “Boy, Mommy/Daddy lets so-and-so do whatever s/he wants, doesn’t s/he love me?”). I’ve seen all of those things happen – and from a child’s point of view (what can I say, I grew up a little prematurely). Trust me – keep the rules the same no matter WHO is over. As I’m sure you have all heard and read many times, CONSISTENCY IS THE KEY TO PARENTING.

  3. Tracey Bell says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Has anyone got any advice for me on how to cope with my boyfriend’s son who is 9. We do not live together but we have him to stay at our house one weekend a fortnight. The problem is that I have 2 girls and boys are a bit like aliens to me! He is an only child who, in my opinion, is rather spoilt and too used to getting his own way. It does make life difficult for the girls and I sometimes. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  4. Tyra and Heather, you expressed the value of consistenly quite eloquently.

    Tracey, it can’t be easy to be in that situation, the child being your boyfriend’s and all… I would set up some ground rules that he must follow in your home, weather he has similar rules in his home or not!

  5. Hayes Johnson says:

    This is tough for every parent. When we have friends over and their parents are here, I let the child’s parent handle the situation. However, we have rules at our house. I have had to tell, even very young children, that if they cannot follow our rules, I will have to ask them and their parent to leave. An example, the three year old who kept trying to choke my rather large four year old. I wouldn’t spank, or even send another parent’s child to time out, but I would ask them to leave. It is my home and my duty to keep my children safe and healthy.

  6. I agree – I tell friends who are acting up in our house that “In our house, the rules are like this, and if you choose not to follow them, you’ll need to go home.” Interestingly enough, I’ve only had to send a kid home once – and the next time he came, he was a total doll. He and my son are now best friends. Everyone needs limits.

  7. Natalie Valles says:

    As a teacher and somewhat outspoken type, I have no problem telling kids the rules–whether they at school where I teach ( I know I have lots of experience from this field but I was always like this) and as well, in the grocery store, park, etc. Wherever kids are and there are societal rules. Now yes, there are parents who don’t appreciate it, but overall, I think that its a lack of community in maintiaing a society that lets crime and so forth in. When everyone minds their own business, people seem to behave with less shame and embarassment–look around, I know you know what I mean. Yesterday, I had taken my kids to a very nice park. We had to drive across town to go to it becuase it has walking trails for me and playtime after for my kids. But a small boy, maybe 6 or 7 was going down the slide and saying “sh**”!After the second time I told him to not cuss at the park.. He gave me a look and later said it again. FInally we saw his mother, she didn’t speak ENglish but my friend spoke spanish and went to tell her. SHe had no idea but took care of it; and then at the park to watch her kids. I will tell kids to “settle down” in the dtore at the grocery store–I don’t care if the parent gives me a look–they are obligated as I am to watch their kids and not to create a distrubance –as adults, this could actually a crime or grounds to be asked to leave.

    In response to Tracey Bell–you might not appreciate me saying, but I think caution should be taken when you are mixing overnights and families. THe kids are raised differently and you have to take all of this into account if you plan to marry–it will take a toll on all involved–mostly the kids! But, I would take some time to talk about this to your boyfriend and ask if he could take time to explain visiting in anyone’s house, even yours…it’s his responsibility and if he doesn’t take that responsisbilitiy, maybe you could “stay over his house while your girls are at grandmas. It might help push your point and how important it is to you. Also, it lends the respect you and your girls and home deserve and sets the tone for how things might be in the future–if you are plan ning for one. If you don’t you stand up for yourself now, with your boyfriend and the little one, you are likely asking for grief of your own doing in the future. Let him lay down the rules and you back it up when he’s there–as you would with any ontehr kid visiting your home. (If one of your daughter’s friends was misbehaving, you’d say something or not have them back right? DOesn’t someone with whom you are in a relationship with give you at least that?)

  8. “In my house we have these rules. A, B, & C. If these rules are not followed, play has to STOP and you’ll have to leave my house (or stay with me until your mom comes back).”

    Simple end of discussion.

    If they persist in breaking the rules, they have to stop playing and they go.

    I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. I sometimes no longer wait for more other parents to handle it b/c they might not understand what my rules are (or why). I might address the parent first (“Sandy, my rules are A, B & C; please let Johnny know now, so he understands what my rules are.”) If the parents aren’t there, the consequence is the kid has to sit on the couch with me until mommy comes back. If the parent doesn’t follow through, immediately, the first time, I tell them I simply cannot have that rule broken, and I’ll have to ask them to leave if it happens again.

  9. My problem is keeping my mouth shut when our 4 year old nephew is around(with his parents)
    He behaves bery well for me when left but the minute one of his parents is around he starts whining and picking fights with his sister. My parenting style is so different from theirs and I think it is wrong to impose yourself on others but he is family and he is at our house all the time. What to do?

  10. My niece came to stay w/ me and has a problem child.He is smart in school work and knows what to do,but half way does everything and could cre less about how he does anything.I have tried to show love and teach him thingg Etc.for instance: this morning when I got him up for school,I saw that he had spilled black shoe polish all over mr carpet!!!I was in tears!I have told him a thousand times not to leave ink pens and stuff in his pockewhen I wash hhis clothes.He is 12 years old.I was in tears .I have punished him and took away his privliges etc.I’m at my wits end.I am 62 yrs old..PLEAS help !!!