Playdate Gone Wrong: What’s A Parent To Do?

Aug 18, 2016

As a mom, odds are you’ve experienced a playdate you thought would never end. Just like wetting the bed, spilled juice and grocery store temper tantrums, bad playdates happen. While sometimes they go off without a hitch, other times (under the exact same circumstances) putting the little ones in the same room doesn’t always go as smoothly. The kids argue, toys are fought over and broken and worst of all, parents butt heads.

Just like in the dating world, it’s all about finding the right match. After all, sometimes kids (like adults) are just not going to mesh. And in today’s world of modern parenting – where child-rearing philosophies are all over the map – the playdate can be a minefield of potential bad behavior on the part of both kids and parents. So if and when things do go awry, what’s a parent to do? Do you discipline someone else’s ill-behaved child? Do you dare utter a word about it to the other parent?

Thankfully, most playdates go off without a hitch, but sometimes things happen, and we just have to deal. Here are a few helpful tips on how to navigate your way through a playdate from hell:

  1. Keep Your Cool

    It can be difficult to keep your emotions in check when you first learn something happened unexpectedly during a playdate. But keep calm and carry on. Maintaining a calm demeanor is your best course of action. Don’t shame the child, yell at them or put them in a timeout – they are not yours to discipline. Instead, try to diffuse the drama without taking sides (even if your kid is innocent) and navigate the moment toward a resolution. However, if the other child is aggressive or physical, it’s time to intervene. Take a deep breath, end the interaction swiftly and get the child to their home as soon as possible. As the experts at WebMDd comment: “While normal tiffs over toys are bound to happen, you can’t condone the “hitting, biting, kicking” child”.

  2. Redirect

    When an issue pops up, take the opportunity to enforce your rules and values with your own kids and explain to your guest about how things are done differently in your home. While you can’t discipline the other child, you are more than welcome to speak up. Say something like – “Hey, please keep your hands to yourself. We have a house rule against hitting.” If the problem was inappropriate language or mean behavior from your young guest, tell them that your family doesn’t say those words or treat people that way. Explain that if they are going to come to your house again, they will have to respect your rules. If trying to reason with the other child doesn’t work, divert the kid’s attention to something they can all enjoy (until you can get the “offending” kid out of your house).

  3. Talking To The Other Parent

    When someone else’s child acts up during your playdate, is it your job to give the other parent a play-by-play? Depends. Ask yourself how important this transgression really was. If a child misbehaved at your house, is it something his parents would need to be aware of it? Consider carefully the possible aftermath of deciding to make an issue of whatever happened. Basically, don’t confront another parent about their child’s behavior unless you are willing to potentially lose that parent as your friend.  Never tell a parent their child was a brat. Do you think they’re really going to be thankful for that type of wake-up call? There’s probably never been an instance where parents responded positively to criticism of their children. And odds are, their child was a brat long before she came to your house for a playdate and will be long after. If this is the case, simply stop future interactions. If you don’t want your child exposed to another child’s behavior, don’t let yours be around them. You can’t change other people’s behavior (whether it’s the parent or the child), but you can change your own.

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