Play Date Etiquette

When you are hosting a play date at your house, without the other parent present, do your rules apply to your child’s friend? If so, and the other child is misbehaving or doing something you don’t agree with, is it appropriate to give a time out? If not, how to you explain to your child that he doesn’t have the same set of rules as his friend? What is appropriate play date etiquette?

It can be really confusing for a toddler who has been expected to abide by your rules and then sees his friend get away with bad behavior in his own house, without consequences. There is a fine line when dealing with someone else’s child, since his mother’s rules may be different than yours. When another person’s child is in my care, I am expected to keep him safe, make sure he is content, feed him if hungry, hydrate him if thirsty, comfort him if sad or hurt, and ensure a fun time with lots of games and toys. Am I also expected to discipline this child and let him know when he has done something I don’t approve of? Would I want another mother doing the same with my child?

I don’t think there is one answer to all of the questions above, or one way to define what the correct play date etiquette is. There are many factors that need to be considered, such as how well you know the mother and child, as well as how comfortable you are dealing with certain situations that might arise. It’s always a good idea to set expectations with your child before dropping him off for a get together, where another mother will be supervising. Some examples might include being polite, saying please and thank you, being a good listener and letting him know the other mother is in charge.

When faced with a child who is behaving in a way you don’t agree with, there are a few simple ways to handle the situation. You can take him aside, kneel down to his level, and explain in a gentle tone that in your house, everyone listens, likes to share and plays nicely. You can also tell him that you know that the rules may be different with his mommy and daddy since he might not realize he has done something wrong, according to his household rules. If you discover the child is behaving in a way that deserves more discipline, it may be time to end the play date and place a call to the mother to come pick him up.

When kids are bored, they tend to misbehave. Plan fun play dates filled with creative games, toys, art projects, outside play, enjoyable snacks, and check in often if they are old enough to play by themselves. Nothing is better when you hear your little visitor tell his mom that he had the best time and wants to come back and play again tomorrow.

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