Q: My 9-year-old daughter and her friend made a huge mess in her room during a play date last summer. I told them that they would have to play outside until they could earn the privilege of playing indoors again. Fair enough, or so I thought. When time for the next play date arrived about a week later, I mentioned to the babysitter that if it was going to rain they might play at the other girl’s house since they had not yet earned the privilege of playing indoors. The mom heard about this and interpreted this to mean “her daughter was not welcome in our home.”
Much to my consternation, I could not convince her otherwise and I have tried to do everything I can think of to change her mind. Mind you, this happened in August and the girls have not played together yet.
There seems to be no road back. Everything I have tried has made it worse. How should I deal with this situation?
A: There are several issues involved in this unfortunate situation.
First, a polite guest always will respect the host’s property and any “house rules.” And a gracious host always will show their guest around the house and politely explain any “house rules,” if necessary.
Maybe next time you could offer a simple, kind reminder to your daughter, while her guest is present, to please have fun and clean up when finished. They then will understand clearly the expectation that cleaning up is necessary.
If her guest is uncooperative and they cannot resolve the issue, then the supervising adult should be called upon to help resolve the situation. Of course, hindsight is so easy.
Regarding the miscommunication with the friend’s mom — a quick phone call after the original play date explaining what happened, and how you feel about clean up may have been helpful. Maybe together you could have worked out a reasonable way to deal with the situation. Again — hindsight.
It sounds like you’ve tried various approaches to resolve the situation with the friend’s mom. The only approach left to try, if you haven’t already done so, is a “humbling” call, saying you believe you made a mistake in your approach to the situation.
It doesn’t excuse the fact that the children were disrespectful by not cleaning up. However, it could open the door for a meaningful way to constructively deal with the problem in a fair manner.
If that doesn’t deliver the results you were hoping for, then a lesson can be learned from this experience.
A Prepare your child for social situations (play dates) ahead of time and kindly remind your child about any “house rules.”
B Respect needs to be a “two-way street.” The guest always gets special treatment (i.e. gets served first). However, the guest always should respect the host’s property and ask for permission before doing anything.
C Prevent miscommunications between parents and/or babysitters, by politely addressing any problems or concerns right away. Hopefully, this will enable all parties involved to resolve issues before they snowball into big problems.