How do you discipline other people’s children when their mom is not around?
Most children are on their best behaviour when visiting a friend without Mom or Dad, but not always. So when the play date is at your house and the guest is exhibiting undesirable behaviour, what are your options?
- One of the most common problem areas is sharing, and some pre-planning can be very helpful. Ask your child if they would like to put away one or two new or special toys that you suspect they are going to have a hard time sharing before their friend comes over. Explain ahead of time that everything else is fair game.
- If the guest has visited before and there have been behavioural issues, have a discussion with your child on how he sees the situation playing out and what he intends to do. Giving some options ahead of time helps your child anticipate what might be coming and how to deal with it.
- Once the play date is in progress and the guest is misbehaving, try separating the deed from the doer, as in “Please no throwing Cheerios on the floor, Johnny, it makes way too much mess!”
- Do expect the guest to follow the house rules, such as boots off, coat on the hook, no food in the living room, etc. Say “We keep food in the kitchen in our house, Johnny, so please bring your snack back in here”.
- Guests can also be expected to follow the routine and help clean up. “Our routine is to put the toys away before snack, Susie; would you like clean up the books or the puzzles?”
- If the guest does something inappropriate you can say “Oh my goodness, Susie, we don’t treat the cat that way in our house!” in a kind but firm voice and maintain close supervision.
- Put them in the same boat. Say “No jumping on the couch please—both of you!” or “I think you two could use a snack or a walk outside or some quiet time, etc”.
- Give a limited choice. “If you guys are going to make so much noise, you need to go outside or downstairs, please.”
- If the guest is throwing crayons at your child, for example, and your child comes to you, see if he can handle the situation. Say “Can you ask Johnny to stop doing that?” This approach shows that you believe in your child and have confidence in him. If it doesn’t work, only then should you take over.
Dealing with a guest’s missteps shouldn’t be too different from how you treat your own child. It is best to remain calm, polite, respectful and non-judgemental. This way you will ensure that guests are always on their best behaviour when they come to your house!
Bedtime and sleeping are such normal, yet loaded activities. It’s tricky because you can’t actually make your child sleep. It’s a skill they need to learn and often, the more we try to teach, the more push-back we get. Some routines and tips can make a big difference.
- Don’t use TV before bed as a relaxing tool. While many an adult can easily fall asleep in front of a screen, it can actually hinder the sleep response in children. The type of light interferes with the production of melatonin, which is needed for sleep. Computer and game screens have the same effect. Try to schedule screen time earlier in the evening. PS, Mom and Dad—this applies to you as well!
- Don’t fall asleep with your child as this sends an unhelpful message—you can’t do this without me!
- Don’t be inconsistent. If the routine is “No story until PJ’s are on” and they disregard this, sometimes a missed story is an appropriate, logical result. Alternatively, if the routine is “Story time starts at 8pm”, you can start the story even if they aren’t ready (no warnings and nagging). My children used to go into a total panic at missing the book and be ready for bed in minutes.
- Create a routine with your child that you can both live with. Bring all aspects to the discussion: playtime after dinner, bath time (how many days a week?), preparations for the next day, (backpack and clothes ready?), story time, teeth brushing, in-bed chats, lights out. Maybe it’s the same every night, maybe not. Start sooner. Rushing is almost always counterproductive. Let a timer be their reminder.
- Acknowledge that transitions are hard. Say “I know you want to keep playing, but it’s time for bed.” Empathize with your child. Say, “I’m sorry you don’t have time to finish doing that, but it’s time for bed.” Then, be firm and follow through with the plan.
- Be realistic about the activity level in the household in the evening. Children often get their second wind after dinner and ramp up their level of activity. Spouses arriving home at this exact hour can disrupt the best-laid schedules, as can late sports practices and extracurricular activities. Build in some cool-down time.
- Ease a child into sleep with a little chat with the lights out. Keep it short and sweet. Alternatively, as your child grows, this can be a time when they’ll share the most information and you may have some of your best chats.