Parenting Etiquette: When Your Children And Their Playmates Go From One Home to Another, Who Sets the Rules?
Parenting has never been more challenging. Parents today are more hands-on, health-conscious, aware, active, and more involved in raising their children. Where dentists and
My U.K.-based nephew’s best buddy has a life-threatening nut allergy. Because of this, even the school gift shop keeps nuts out of its inventory. Classmates’ snacks and lunches are likewise nut-free. When the boy comes for a visit, my sister makes sure the nuts in her pantry—or any food with nuts—are in airtight containers and kept securely out of reach. She wipes counters down for added safety. She is in constant touch with the child’s mother before and during his visit. Nothing is taken for granted. This is but an example of what the modern parent faces today.
Basic courtesy dictates that parents discuss visits together. At the very least, this practice teaches our children that we do not barge, uninvited, into other people’s homes.
I find that I have to create my own boundaries as well, making my own rules as situations present themselves. There was
I considered letting it all hang loose, despite the hives beginning to surface at the thought. Why not let everyone enjoy, my conscience whispered, what’s the big deal anyway? But my children were still looking at me expectantly, waiting for approval—or some sort of parental gesture that would tell them which way to go next.
Decades ago, my little brother unearthed leopard print undies from a parent’s closet. He then decided they were perfect to play Tarzan in. As if on cue, neighborhood children barged in.
That look of uncertainty behind the excitement of their newly experienced “freedom” told me they needed to be affirmed in what they already knew: Something about the entire situation was not in sync with the rules. Let it hang loose? I could picture them years down the road, behind (hopefully germ-free) bars, with me sobbing at the memory of this very moment when I consciously let them cross a subtle boundary.
This did not sit well with me, of course. I maintain a rhythm at home that my children are used to. When people appear unannounced, the entire day is thrown off. If the regular flow of their day has suddenly changed, certain things tend to happen to children: rushed, unpleasant mealtimes, whining and, worst of all, inexplicable tantrums. To maintain relative peace at home, it is always good practice to tell them if and how their day will change. They are then better able to meet the changes with equanimity. Alas, you can only do that if you are in the loop and not on the receiving end of social surprises.
Basic courtesy dictates that parents discuss visits together. At the very least, this practice teaches our children that we do not barge, uninvited, into other people’s homes. We show respect and consideration. But that’s not all. Other subtle but more relevant issues are at play as well.
I did write a note to the mother of one child who was innocently but constantly showing up at my doorstep and staying longer than was comfortable for us. I simply suggested we plan the visits so that I could make sure I was home to watch over everyone.
When other children are in my home, I want to be there because I trust only myself to carry the responsibility. I can only do that if I know, in advance, that guests are expected. I also want to make sure that the children are playing well and no one is left out or bullied. Then, of course, I want to make sure that everyone is fed properly and dietary restrictions, if any, are
I think it vital that one parent is always there to supervise everyone and make sure the day flows smoothly and pleasantly for all. Parents today are firm about specific things and I want to make sure that their children are not doing something in my home that their parents would not otherwise allow. I do not encourage my children to show up uninvited at other people’s homes because I also do not want to impose on the parents of other children, who may have had other plans, or simply want some peace and quiet.
Decades ago, my little brother unearthed leopard print undies from a parent’s closet. He then decided they were perfect to play Tarzan in. As if on cue,
Effective parenting means setting boundaries and being consistent about them, especially when dealing with the outer world.
My children know that my permission must be sought after they have been invited for a visit, even if just to the
I did write a note to the mother of one child who was innocently but constantly showing up at my doorstep and staying longer than was comfortable for us. I simply suggested we plan the visits so that I could make sure I was home to watch over everyone. My note was ignored but the boy never came by again. Well, there are some constellations that aren’t meant to be, but I don’t suffer the loss.
Effective parenting means setting boundaries and being consistent about them, especially when dealing with the outer world. How else do we teach our children respect and consideration for others? It does begin with the seemingly little things.
As they get older, the rules will change according to their needs and we must be open again to adjusting our boundaries, but always with a full view not just of the pleasure of our children, but also the safety, privacy, comfort, and wishes of others.
SOME HELPFUL HINTS
* Be the first to set the rules. Be the one to issue the first invitation for a planned and
* Be firm and consistent about rules with your children. This is your insurance that social
* Laugh. Things will go wrong here and there no matter how well you plan. If your brood overstepped boundaries, simply