I often find myself thinking, “they (ie other moms) should know better than that,” or “isn’t that a little rude?”, or “I can’t believe they think that’s cool.” Maybe since I’m older, I was raised when there were certain social graces that everyone knew how to follow. But now, many moms behave in ways that I can’t always tolerate. Here are ten ways to tactfully manage your child’s social interactions:
1. Party etiquette: If your child is invited to a children’s birthday party, some reciprocity is expected (especially if your child is attending the party). If they invite you, you should invite them. Yes, I know some parents need to keep parties small for financial reasons, but if that’s the case, have a party in your backyard or basement. Kids just want to run around and have fun.
Please RSVP to the party invitations ASAP. Don’t show up without an RSVP: If you don’t know if you can do it, let them know as soon as you can. The parents organizing the party don’t know how many party bags to make, etc. If you RSVP to say you’re coming, then come! If an emergency arises, call the other parent to let them know as soon as possible. Also, if your child is invited to a party, that doesn’t mean all of his siblings can attend as well. The invitation is for the child whose name is on the envelope. If it is an electronic invitation that is sent to the parents’ email, clarify which child or children should attend.
If your child attends a birthday party, don’t show up empty-handed. A gift is expected (unless donations to a charity are requested instead). There are many gifts under $5 that children are happy with. Browse the dollar store as a last resort.
2. Game date etiquette: Game dates should also be reciprocal. If you can’t set up a playdate at home, go to the park.
If another mom asks if you want a play date, contact her right away. Don’t leave them hanging wondering if it’s a yes or a no. If you don’t know his schedule, tell him.
If you have a young child, always offer to stay for the playdate, especially if your child has separation anxiety or you know they may be a “handful.”
3. Playground Etiquette – Younger children should have a parent or babysitter present while on the playground. If your child needs help with equipment, the parent or babysitter should be the one to help, not the other moms or dads. I have seen some parents and babysitters who let the kids run free on the playground while they sit and talk on their cell phone completely unaware of what is going on. Once, while I was in the courtyard of a mall, a little boy sat with us for 15 minutes (I gave him a snack because he asked) and the babysitter was nowhere to be seen. He had no idea who the child belonged to, but eventually a young woman who seemed embarrassed went to claim the child. This was a small enough playground that if she was there, she would have seen it with us (guess she had some shopping to do, ahem!)
4. Don’t gossip about other kids to other moms. Gossip is downright bad no matter who it is. If you have a real problem with a certain child, call his mother directly and discuss it. No one else needs to know or hear about the problem.
5. Don’t tell other moms how to raise their kids. If you have a problem with another child and need to tell his mother, do it tactfully. What works for one child doesn’t necessarily work for another, so skip the part about how you would handle it or what you do with your child. Chorus of lecturing other mothers about how you enforce the rules, how you require them to eat their meals, etc. The vast majority of mothers do a completely adequate job of raising their children. Unless you are truly concerned about a child’s well-being, don’t get involved.
6. Do not comment on another child’s physical appearance. This is common sense, right? Apparently not for some people. Refrain from commenting on how tall another child is, how short another child is, how heavy or skinny a child is, etc. Chances are if a child is very big or very small, it could be something the mother and/or child are sensitive about. Your comments just state the obvious and lead to embarrassment or hurt feelings. Keep it to yourself!
7. Do not discipline other children. If you’re at the park or in an area where a lot of kids play, and a kid does something that’s clearly not right, do your best to find his mom and discuss it. If you can’t find the other parent, gently approach the child and say, “Honey, my son/daughter doesn’t like being pushed, can you be a little nicer to him?” or “My son just got that bike for Christmas and it’s not ready for anyone else to ride yet.” In fact, I was in a park when a boy started riding another boy’s bike and the bike owner’s mother yelled, “THIS IS NOT YOUR BIKE, GET OFF!” On another occasion, I heard a mother tell a child (not hers) “you have to learn to share”, the child’s mother was sitting there and raised her eyebrows at the comment. I know there are times when you want the mother of a child to take certain actions, but that doesn’t give you the right to take those actions for them.
8. Don’t punish your own child in front of other children (or parents). Yes, I know there are times when you need to tell your child to stop doing something, but whenever possible, put it aside and say it quietly. Constantly yelling or scolding your child in public can give other children “license” to do the same. This can lead to other kids ganging up on your kids or other parents labeling your child a troublemaker. Another option for less urgent matters is to bring it up and discuss it once you’re home alone. Likewise, don’t announce to others that your child is grounded or “in trouble.” If punishment is part of your discipline, simply tell others that your child will not be able to attend that day.
9. Don’t brag. Period. If someone asks you about one of your child’s accomplishments, answer honestly and don’t embellish. I realize that parents (and grandparents) feel like they’ve earned the bragging rights, but it’s annoying and makes other parents and children feel inferior. Actually, that’s one of the reasons other kids might not want to hang out with yours. Your child’s achievements will stand on their own. Teach your child not to brag… he’ll be more respected if he doesn’t constantly sing his own praises.
Likewise, don’t brag to other parents about all the parties, playdates, or fun things your child is doing or about to do. Teach your child not to talk about playdates or parties with other children. If the child they are talking to is not invited, they feel hurt: no one likes to be left out. This not only hurts the child, it also hurts the mother.
10. If your child goes to the movies, the pool, or any other place where admission is charged (even if invited by another child), send them with enough money to cover admission and perhaps a snack. Unless it’s a party, don’t assume the other parent will cover the cost. Money may be turned down, but you should always offer.