How Do You Deal With Your Children’s Friends?

by | Jan 22, 2014

Friends 2

My son had a school friend back to play for the first time recently.  Within the first half hour this boy had hit my son in the face and made him cry.  Then for the next half hour, he tormented my son by taking his train and refusing to share, which resulted in them playing separately and defeated the object of having someone over in the first place.  At dinner, he then spat his food at my eldest daughter and was unable to sit at the table for more than a couple of minutes at a time, constantly getting up to go and play with the toys.  I have never been so glad for a play date to end.

It’s not as if I’m not used to other people’s children.  My two elder daughters have had their fair share of play dates before and there have been plenty of arguments to referee, fussy eaters to deal with and so on.  When the children are around preschool age, it is often your own child who ends up being the source of the trouble.  They become somewhat territorial when another child enters their house and wants to play with their toys, whilst the other child takes it upon themselves to act like an angel.  What usually happens is that the roles are reversed when your child goes to play at this other child’s house.  And that is completely normal.

Once the children are school age, things tend to settle down and although the odd spat may occur, they can usually be relied upon to ‘get on with it’, without you having to intervene.  I found play dates harder with my first child, though.  I assume it was because she was an only child at the time and not used to sharing.  When I had my second child I thought it would be nice for my older daughter to have somebody round to play with, as I had the baby to deal with.  But sometimes it just made life more difficult.  I only put up with it because it meant that the favour would be returned.

I have never been quite sure what to do in certain situations.  For example, at dinner I don’t allow my children to leave the table until the others have finished eating.  And the rules are that you eat what you are given or else there will be no pudding.  But other children are not my responsibility, right? So if they get down from the table, without having finished their dinner, refuse to eat what I have given them and then demand a pudding, what do I do?

The majority of times I have let the visiting child get away with murder, but I don’t feel like that is appropriate any more.  For one thing, my children realise that there seems to be one set of rules for them and another set for everyone else and that’s ‘not fair’.  And they are quite right.  The other thing is that I am tougher than I used to be.  I think I used to be a little bit afraid of upsetting another person’s child; after all they are not mine to discipline.  But I now feel that if anyone comes to our house then they should abide by our rules.  It is as simple as that and it is what I would expect of my own children if they went elsewhere.  Having said that, when my son had this disastrous play date I didn’t do anything to discipline the child because his mother came with him and I didn’t feel as though it was my place to do so.  The problem was that she didn’t discipline him either, so what can you do?

We don’t have many play dates any more, as we are always too busy.  But if we do, there is rarely a problem.  My older daughter and her friends usually disappear off to her bedroom and you don’t hear a peep from them until dinner time.  My middle daughter and my son have always played really nicely whenever they have had visitors.  I think being younger siblings they have been used to sharing and having other children around from a very early age.  Plus (and I don’t know why), they have tended to gravitate towards children who are also younger siblings and so of a similar nature.  I won’t lie and say I that in the past I haven’t encouraged my children to play with some children over others.  But I don’t have to worry too much anymore because the girls in particular have found lovely friends who, when they visit, end up feeling like part of the family.

My son, on the other hand is still finding his feet.  He is in a different class at school to his best friend and so making new friends has been difficult for him.  I’m trying very hard not to interfere too much, but it’s not easy.  All I can do is keep reinforcing what is acceptable behaviour to expect from a friend and what isn’t.  Repeatedly lashing out when you are unable to vocalise your thoughts and opinions is certainly not acceptable.  Neither is being made to feel guilty for not playing with someone or being pushed and shoved around.

These are all things that my son has been experiencing since he started school.  There is a very fine line between teaching him how to stand up for himself and getting him in to trouble for hitting back, which is completely frowned upon these days.  Instead the children are shown role plays about how they should treat each other, in the hope that the message will get through.  And the rest of the behaviour is put down to immaturity and age.

I am still undecided how I feel about this but for now I will just accept it and leave them to get on with it.  Over time, I know my son will make good friends of his own accord and I will breathe a sigh of relief when he does.

I would love to hear your thoughts if you have been through a similar experience.


  1. zeudytigre

    For me, the most difficult issues arose when I was friends with a visiting child’s mom and, time and again, she wouldn’t accept that misbehaviour was down to her child. I had to choose not to put my child in a situation where he would be expected to shoulder blame. The mom felt hurt and our friendship suffered.

    • Nicola Young

      It’s hard to be honest, as no one wants to be told how to bring up their children – such a sensitive topic! I hope you managed to stay friends.

  2. Ana Lynn Amelio

    I usually have a talk with the parents’ children and explain that some rules have to be followed while they are in my house (for example eat what you are given, or no pudding; or as my husband would say: “this isn’ t Burger King you can’t have it your way”.) I make sure to tell them that I will not discipline their child (as it is NOT my place) but I will tell them if their child misbehaved.
    I expect the same when my son/daughter go to their place for a play date. If we can agree on that, all is fine, if they can’t accept that my house is a place where I would like some basic rules to be followed then maybe they are not the right fit for a play date. It’s not being mean, it’s showing respect in my opinion.

  3. Perfection Pending

    There is nothing more frustrating than when a parent doesn’t discipline their child. I HATE that!! But, when they are in my home, and I see the parent not doing anything, I gently tell the child, “There is no hitting in our house” or whatever it is they’re doing, and usually the parent will get a clue and start taking care of it from there. It’s uncomfortable to deal with that situation, but sometimes, it’s how we become more grateful for our own children’s good behavior, right??
    Thanks so much for linking up!!

    • Nicola Young

      Yes definitely! I’m thinking of sticking up some ‘house rules’ as everybody could do to be reminded of their behaviour from time to time.

  4. OutmannedMommy

    We have a friend who never disciplines her son when she comes over. She is such a wonderful person, but her kid is kind of a jerk. I used to put up with the constant toy thieving and whining, but one day he hit my son in the face with a plastic bat. We haven’t had many play dates since…

    • Nicola Young

      It’s a shame and I feel sorry for the child really. It’s not their fault if they don’t know how to behave. But like you, I don’t see why we should put up with that sort of behaviour in our own home.


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