Playdate Etiquette for Parents
How Do I Tell a Parent No When She Repeatedly Asks for a Playdate? My Kid Is Not Into It.
It depends on why your child is resistant. If he simply thinks that the other kid is “boring,” you might want to encourage him to give it a try anyway. (Part of growing up is learning to get along with people who aren’t exactly like us.) If he has a more concrete problem—for instance, the other kid doesn’t like to share—then consider compassionate honesty, says syndicated advice columnist Amy Alkon, the author of I See Rude People ($17, amazon.com). “Gently tell the other parent that you would like the kids to play together but her child has a tendency to get a little wrapped up and forgets to share, as kids sometimes do,” says Alkon. Having this conversation may be easier, and kinder, than making excuses until your child goes to college.
Do I Have to Bring Anything to a Playdate? Sometimes Moms Show Up with Cookies
The goody-baggification of American child-hood may be to blame. (Remember when birthdays were only for the birthday kid? Now parents’ weekends—and backseats—are littered with gummy dinosaurs and cake pops.) Then again, sometimes a person just gets in the mood to bake and doesn’t want the results calling her name from the counter. In any case, you don’t have to show up to a playdate with anything besides your child.
Must I Invite the Other Parent in for Coffee? I Haven’t Even Put on a Bra Yet
Assuming the child is older than a toddler—and past that ankle-clinging phase—you don’t need to invite the mom in unless it’s the first visit. “Staying for coffee helps provide a level of comfort for everyone there if the kid is feeling shy,” says Anna Post, a coauthor of Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th edition ($40, amazon.com). Otherwise, if the other parent seems dangerously close to settling in, tell her that “you would love to sit and talk but you’ve got stuff you have to get done around the house while the kids are playing,” says Alkon. You can follow that by saying, “We should find a day when we can catch up.”
At His Friend’s House, My Son Eats Sugar and Plays Video Games, Which I Don’t Allow. Should I Talk to the Parents?
In a word, no. In fact, imagine a slow-motion action sequence in which someone is hurling herself through the air to grab the phone from your hand, screaming, “Nooooooo!”
“Micromanaging other parents is never a good idea,” says Boston Globe etiquette columnist Robin Abrahams, the author of Miss Conduct’s Mind Over Manners ($15, amazon.com). “Besides, you can’t shield your kids from temptation forever. Eventually they’re going to meet a Pop-Tart in the wild.” As long as the forbidden thing is benign—that is, he’s playing Angry Birds and not War Zombies II: Blood-o-Rama—let it go. “It’s OK for your kid to feel that he’s getting away with something small,” says Post.
My Son’s Friend Sometimes Misbehaves After He’s Been Dropped Off. Once He Talked Back to Me. Do I Tattle?
Boys will be boys. But do moms have to be rats? It depends. “Don’t be a snitch about little things, like if he says a bad word,” says Alkon. “But if it’s a bigger issue—for example, he hit someone—let the parent know.” In general, say something if the behavior was so severe that your day-care provider would have informed you, says Lesley Carlin, a coauthor of Etiquette Grrls: Things You Need to Be Told ($14, amazon.com). Tell what happened in a straightforward way without providing color commentary. “Don’t lecture the other parent,” adds Carlin. “Let her decide how to deal with her kid.” As for the sassing, you can consider deploying the nuclear option: Please don’t speak to me like that. If you do, I’ll have to call your mother. Post says: “Depending on how bad it was, when the parent comes, tell her, ‘I hate to say this, but there was a problem with back talking.’ ” Again, you want to keep things matter-of-fact and focus on the specifics of the behavior, not the child himself.
My 12-Year-Old and Her Best Friend Broke Up. Does This Mean the End of My Coffee Dates with Her Mom?
Just because your child has outgrown her friendship doesn’t mean you’ve outgrown yours. “Don’t force the girls to interact,” says Abrahams, “but you’re old enough to choose your own friends, even if your daughter thinks they’re a bad influence on you.” (You should still be sensitive to her feelings; she doesn’t necessarily have to know about the get-togethers.) Post recommends that you and your friend “agree to stay out of the argument. The girls could be best pals again next week.” Of course, since these are 12-year-olds, it’s possible that at least one of them resorted to mean-girl behavior, in which case you and the other mom might need to talk about it. To cut the awkwardness, Post advises, approach the issue as a mutual problem: “Say, ‘They were such good friends. I can’t believe this has happened between them.’ ”
I Have a Frenemy Who Plays the Comparison Game Between Our Kids. How Do I Nip this in the Bud?
Comparison parents are the bedbugs of the playground: pesky and nearly impossible to exterminate. What you need to do, then, is put yourself in a zip-top bag. “Don’t engage with her nosiness at any level,” says Carlin. “Say, ‘Emily’s great, thanks.’ ” This person may be asking because she wants to be asked in return so she can put on her braggy pants. In that case, ask about her kid and then say, “That’s nice! We’re so happy for her,” says Post. She might also be asking because you’ve talked about a problem before: Maybe she found you in a vulnerable spot and you spilled about the milestones your son has missed. But that doesn’t mean you have to keep discussing it, says Post: “When she asks, tell her, ‘I feel a bit overwhelmed and don’t want to talk about it.’ This acknowledges that what was once open is now private.”