I’ve heard about some jaw-dropping playdates in my time. And I’ve even experienced a few crackers myself. Like the time I had a child jumping on my sofa like a trampoline, and another who thought hitting was a form of sport. So how do you handle rowdy behaviour without the child running home crying? The Queen of Etiquette and author of Elbows off the Table, Patsy Rowe gives her advice on handling raucous behaviour…
Scenario #1 The child says ‘no’ when you ask her to stop … drawing on your invoices, whacking all the bread in the bakery, kicking…
Should you call the parent and ask them to pick-up their child immediately? Well, no. Not if you want survive the entire primary school curriculum. Patsy says the easiest solution is to struggle through the playdate but make it the last! “Make it the last play date that kid gets at your place,” advises Patsy. “And let’s hope they’ve not been invited for the weekend! Yoicks!” But what if your child loves hanging with the little devil? “If your child particularly likes and wants to invite the friend over again, you need to speak to your child up front,” suggests Patsy. “Point out that you are only having their friend on the condition that their behaviour changes. You are giving their friend one chance. I also suggest that when the friend arrives you speak to the two children together and point out that you will not tolerate the kind of behaviour you saw on the last visit. If your child realises that this could be the last play date with their unruly friend it’s likely it will encourage better behaviour from their friend. And may I say. ‘Good luck’”
Scenario #2 The child jumps up and down on your sofa while the parent looks on. When you ask them to stop, the parent doesn’t even acknowledge the bad behaviour.
Yep, this happened to me. It was awkward. Patsy says there’s not much you can do to make a parent reprimand their own child but you most certainly can ask the child to get off your sofa. “Perhaps you might like to use my favourite saying: ‘Sweetheart, chairs are for sitting on and floors are for standing on so please don’t stand on my chair.’ If you accompany this with a smile (even if it’s through gritted teeth) the message will get through to the parent but they may be too embarrassed to let on.”
Scenario #3 The parent asks how they behaved – how much should you tell?
We tell our children to be honest and truthful, but to reveal to a parent their child was, umm, difficult, is not an easy task. Patsy’s advice? “Be truthful, but tactful,” she suggests. “You can still tell the truth gently, but tell it. If the child has been rude and unruly, best to say so. If the parent takes it badly, so be it, but a sensible parent will appreciate your feedback and deal with the child when they get home (and wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall!). Knowledge is power so tell it as it is.”
Scenario #4 You’re a guest at someone’s house for dinner, and your child refuses to eat the food dished up. You don’t want to make a scene or be rude to the hostess – how do you discreetly manage your child.
This happened to me last week. A table full of guests and my son awkwardly trying the new foods then screwing up his face. Sheesh. I thought he had a well-developed palette. Should I have persevered, or let him go hungry? “Well, I can see one hungry child coming up!” laughs Patsy. “Offer a possible alternative such as a Vegemite sandwich but that’s it. If the child doesn’t accept that, he’s unlikely to fall prey to malnutrition by morning. Fussing and hovering with suggestion after suggestion is just pandering to the child and making him the centre of attention. However I wouldn’t let him escape from the table and nor would I let him play with his phone or IPad. Sitting at the table while others eat and enjoy themselves won’t seem like too much fun and who knows, he may suddenly decide the pie’n’peas look good after all.” Aaah, if only I’d spoken to Patsy first. Always next time…
Patsy Rowe, author of Elbows off the Table, Manners Magic for Children, The Little Book of Etiquette and a host of other books. Check out her site.