Disciplining Other People’s Kids


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!


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