Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Good morning. Damn, it's early.

Do you know what pairs well with a cup of freshly brewed coffee? Last night's brownies. Yum.

I've got this problem. Well, more like a dilemma. OC occasionally has friends over to play. Sometimes they are here for lunch. Here's what I want to know: how do you enforce the rules of your house to your children's friends? Does it change when they are five, versus when they are a bit older?

I'll give you an example. OC has a terrible time sitting still at the table to eat. It drives me batty, but also I want to instill good manners so I ask her to sit at the table and not get up until she's done unless she has to go to the bathroom. I'm all about instilling these things now, so that when she's older this is all normal, involuntary behavior. She had a friend over the other week who would not sit still. She kept popping up to go look at things, touching things with her sticky hands, and talkingtalkingtalkingtalkingtalking.

The talking part, not a big deal. The sticky hands and getting up? Drove me NUTS, but it's not a big deal, it can be cleaned up easily. I asked her to please sit down, which she did - for all of three seconds before she was up exploring again while OC sat in her chair. After lunch, I asked them to pick up the pieces of food that they dropped while I cleaned up their plates and the rest of the table.

The rest of the visit went like this: the friend had a million ideas for fun things to do, and asked me if they could do this thing, or no! This thing! And then can we do this? And this and this and this? And could I help? Could I do this for them? And then this and that and this? I was getting bossed around by a five year old. What the hell? I was frustrated by the barrage of questions and requests. At first I was coming up with good responses and redirections, but I quickly ran out of those and began saying "no" to the demands, and watched the clock for it to be time to send the girl home. I don't want it to be this way.

It's not that the rules are the important thing, what I'm trying to get at is that when kids come over there should be a modicum of politeness. I am glad to play with them, to set things up for them, but getting bossed around is not going to happen. It's not fair for OC sit still and then not say anything to the other child. Should I let it go for both of them when the other child is here? I don't want to be inconsistent. What message does that send OC? Should I just not worry about it for the short time the friend is here?

I am concerned about consistency, mainly, but also propriety. When you go to someone else's house to play, it's not an invitation to destroy their house or to take over. You have to figure out what is expected and then follow it, reasonably. This is what was expected of me as a child and I think it was reasonable. Everything I read and know about kids is that they thrive on consistency. Plus, at five years old, they are more likely to agreeably comply with my polite requests to sit still or whatever. I have no recourse if they don't listen, but it's for a short time out of one day.

Anyway, I was just wondering because I don't feel like being the Rule Lady all the time, I want to be fun, too. But I don't want it to be a madhouse in here or be told what to do by little kids. It's not like there are a lot of rules, just things like sit at the table until you are done, don't chase the cats, and wash your hands after you go to the bathroom. Oh, and keep your voice down in the house, please! *sigh*

I think it's a question of balance; I just need to figure out the right formula, and more responses to all the requests.

How do you handle it when your kids' friends come over to your house? I really do want to know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I usually just lay out the house rules before the playdate or sleepover or whatever starts. Last time my son's friend came over I just said, okay, you guys can play video games or go in the back and play basketball, but you can't run in the house, you have to let your sister play with you, and when its bedtime, its bedtime. You know, whatever the rules are.

I usually ask them if they have any questions, but they normally don't. If they're getting too rowdy or something I just tell them to settle down. I like to do it that way instead of letting them go unchecked for a while and then finally saying something once I'm irritated, I like to think it works a little better. That's what I hope anyway!