Scolding Your Child's Friend - How Bad?

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Do you scold other people's kids? Photo courtesy of

The email said: "How about this for How Bad: Scolding other people's kids? My child has a friend who is naughty at my house. Her mom is usually here when they play, and I wait for her to dole out the discipline. Often, she doesn't, and I am forced to ask the little girl to please follow our rules."

I emailed back right away. "What kind of rules does this child break? Like is she setting fires or talking back or what?"

"This child climbs on my furniture, jumps on it, strips naked, takes toys from the baby ... Ugh! And the mom just lets her do it. She doesn't say anything, which makes me feel awkward and crazy-mad. Then I have to preface everything with: "At our house..."

"I feel like a witch by the time they leave, but really it's basic rules I'm trying to enforce: Be kind, be considerate, keep your clothes on, don't act like a crazed zoo animal..."

Is scolding someone else's kids okay? I called Rosanne Tobey, L.P.C., director of Calm and Sense Therapy, for her take. She said...

"The short answer is...Your house your rules." I love this cutting to the chase! Yes! Go on...

"You have a right and responsibility to yourself, your child, and the play-mate, to enforce your rules. Good rules help children learn boundaries." Tobey also points out that when you enforce your house rules, you're modeling boundary setting for your child, and showing her how you expect her to behave when she's on a play date. All good.

But what if you feel like the wickedest Mother on the Planet? I mean, the other mother is not helping! Maybe your rules are too strict? Should you keep stepping in -- or give up? Here's Tobey's 3-step plan for Eliminating Scold-filled Play dates:

Enlist the other mom's help. "Without help from the other mother this job can become exhausting," Tobey says. "If you want to continue these play-dates, you may want discuss your concerns with the mother. During one of her daughter's episodes, you could mention sort of humbly that you feel like you are often addressing her child's behavior, and you are not sure how she must feel about it." (Side-note: This sounds scary, but I could see how it's the mature thing to do, and might actually lead to an honest conversation that makes your relationship with the other mom stronger.)

Spark a little positive peer-pressure. After visits with this friend, reinforce your rules to your child, by saying something like, "Honey I know your friend's mom lets her take her clothes off on play dates but you need to remember that we never take our clothes off on play dates." You may spark a little positive peer pressure for the next visit "Don't take your clothes off! That's not allowed!"

Take your play dates on the road. "If you do talk to her, hopefully the mom will take the hint and will assist you in enforcing rules. However, if she does not, one option is to have the play dates in a park or on some other neutral territory. That way when her daughter acts out or disrobes it is solely the other mom's problem that her daughter is naked in public."

Finally, Tobey reminds, "You always have the option of declining play dates with this child, if neither the child nor the mother is interested in following any rules." Isn't it funny how it's easy to get stuck in a relationship rut and forget the most obvious solution of all?

Did you have a parenting mishap and now you're wondering, "How Bad"? Send your question to and it could be answered here.

Sabrina Weill is editor-in-chief of

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.