We've all had it done to us. You offer to host a playdate, but the other mom lets her child wreak havoc upon your house. What do you do? How do you deal with other people's kids in your home?
That awkward moment when...
I remember the first time I had someone else's child run wild around my house. I was shocked into silence. My chin was on the floor because I couldn't believe the other mom sat there without stepping in to wrangle her kid. I looked back and forth between her and her daughter while having an internal monolog.
"Is she going to stop her? Surely she's about to say something.... You've got to be kidding me she's seriously sitting there acting like nothing is going on! Do I say something?"
About that time, "Oh honey, calm down."
Of course 'honey' didn't calm down and I was miserable until they left because I was unsure of how to handle someone else's child when their mom let them misbehave.
Fast forward to now. I have a few years of mommyhood under my belt. I've discovered everyone doesn't parent the same and everyone doesn't have the same rules and expectations. Since we are all different, it is up to you to educate your visitors on what you find acceptable in your home. If little Timmy throws balls in your living room, give his mom a chance to stop him. If she doesn't, you tell him to knock it off. Don't be rude, but do be direct, firm and clear about your expectations.
Let Timmy know his behavior is unacceptable and tell him your house rules.
"No, Timmy. We don't throw balls inside." "Timmy, please stop throwing the ball. We don't throw toys inside."
At this point, the other mom usually picks up on the fact that her child is out of line. Most often the other mom jumps in and reinforces what you said and makes sure her child does what you ask. There are times when the other mother won't. If she doesn't, ask for her to speak with her child or continue to directly address the other kid as needed.
When I find myself having to manage indoor behavior too often, I take that as my cue to get the kids outside. Outside they are generally free to run, climb, and be as rambunctious as they like. If Susie starts to run up and down the hallway, I say something like the following: "Susie, we don't run inside. Let's go outside and you can run there." Then get up and go outside. Again, notice the specific behavior was called out, the expectation was stated, and in this instance, an alternative was given.
Sometimes the other mom doesn't want to go outside, or she may not want her child to get dirty. If that's the case, she will usually take her leave. If it has reached the point where I feel like we have to go outside instead of being able to manage the situation indoors, I tell them goodbye instead of redirecting the kids to an acceptable indoor activity.
Sometimes you just have to cut your losses
If everything proceeds normally and the mom ensures her children follow your house rules, you can continue to have them over for playdates. If she doesn't, I recommend you not invite them over anymore and meet at neutral locations instead. Here is a list of ideas for just in case.
What if things go pear shaped, though? Some moms don't like for others to address their child's behavior. Some children will flat out disregard what you say. At this point, you have to clearly state your boundaries and directly ask the mother to manage her child. If she doesn't, you cut the visit short and know that future playdates should be avoided.
I know. You don't want confrontation and animosity. If you don't speak up, you set the acceptable standard of behavior in your home and have an unrealistic expectation of what others should do. You begrudgingly agree to playdates and eventually, everything the mother and child do gets on your nerves. Your children won't think it is fair for guests to do things they can't. Worse, your kids may start to join in and do things they know you don't allow because they have been receiving mixed messages. When friends are over, the rules don't apply.
At the end of the day, your home is your sanctuary. You and your family should not be made to feel uncomfortable in your space. Dealing with other people's children in your home doesn't have to be hard, but it does require you to take charge and communicate.
Do you handle this differently? Share your method in the comments!