If you have children it’s likely they’ve made friends with other kids who live nearby in and around your neighborhood. It can be tricky to have new children in your home as your house rules may be quite different than what they’re used to in their own homes.
I’ve put together a few tips that will help make play dates in your home enjoyable while ensuring neighborhood friends understand your household rules, too.
— BE THE PARENT: It’s time to worry less about being considered the “mean parent” and worry more about doing what you think is right and will work best for you and your household. First and foremost you should be the parent, not always the friend. When they refer to you as mean or the mean parent, you’re likely not actually even being mean; you should just be setting a standard and asking your child’s friends to follow the rules of your house. They might consider you mean because they aren’t able to get away with things they’re used to getting away with at their own home or elsewhere. Remember to not be overly harsh — they’re just kids, after all. Also, it’s OK to have fun and play along when appropriate; however, when a boundary is crossed make sure everyone knows what the rules are and what to expect in the future.
— SET THE BOUNDARIES: When a new child comes to your home for the first time sit down with them and discuss your house rules such as: always ring the doorbell and wait to be let inside, dinner time is family time and unless they’re having a sleepover they’ll need to go to their own homes for dinner, homework must be complete before playtime starts, they’re only allowed to watch 30 minutes of television before switching to a different activity, etc. Whatever your rules may be, explain them to the new child before setting them loose as a new neighborhood friend.
— BE CONSISTENT: When a new neighborhood friend breaks your rules and comes busting through the front door unannounced during dinner time it’ll be up to you to calmly handle the situation. I suggest, standing up, letting the child know it’s dinner time and your child won’t be able to play at the moment before proceeding to walk the child home reminding them on the way home that after a certain time at night it’s no longer play time as you have rules and routines in your home, and if they want to play they’ll have to try again tomorrow — before dinner time. Always handle these situations gently and with extra caution, as once again, they’re just children, and they’re not your children. For all you know they live a completely different lifestyle and are having a hard time understanding or adapting to yours.