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Friday, May 8, 2015

Play Dates Gone Bad: If & How to Discuss Concerns About Other Children's Behaviour

Picture this: You're on a play date with a friend you've been close with for years (think of someone you've known since before having kids) and your kids are playing together. All of a sudden her child does or says something that you consider inappropriate and feel it should be addressed (maybe a rude word is used, a toy is grabbed away from your child, or they act out), but your friend ignores it or brushes it off. If it's the first time, do you mention it or wait and see if it happens again? Maybe this has happened before and you're starting to become concerned with how this other child behaves and their influence on your own. Do you try and avoid getting your kids together and just go on Mom dates to avoid an awkward conversation? Do you address it with your friend? And if so, how? Even if your kids are a little older- say school age- the issues may be different, but the challenge about how to address behavioural concerns and how other parents are addressing them remains fairly much the same).

As Moms- parents- how do we- or can we- address other kid's behaviour, especially when it's the child of a friend or loved one? When chatting with my friends this concern has come up a few times and can become quite tricky to handle, especially when you start to notice a negative influence on your own child's behaviour, whether it be in how they react or if they start to act out in the same way.

It's a sensitive issue that can come between friendships, especially when your parenting/ discipline style is quite different from others you know and are close with. With most of my friends, we have fairly similar approaches with most things and luckily feel comfortable discussing those things we differ on. However, it can be awkward in the moment to address something and talk to a friend if their child does or says something you feel is inappropriate; this is especially true if the other Mom is out of the room when it happens. Respect, trust, and good communication are key, but it doesn't  always make it less awkward or easier to deal with.

To help address this tricky situation, I asked parenting coach Paula Milbradt from Empowermil  for some advice about how to effectively communicate these kinds of concerns with friends and loved ones (check out the other great post by Paula about fostering healthy relationships with your kids from toddler through the teen years here). See below for her great advice.

How can you nurture friendships and relationships from a considerate and respectful place? This can be tricky when it comes to parenting. Here are some simple things to keep in mind if/ when a situation arises that you feel you need to address with someone about their child's behaviour:

Communication is key
As we all know relationships can be challenging, and this normally is based on how we communicate our feelings or viewpoints with one another. Parenting is normally based on how you were raised and what your known virtues are.  Make sure you discuss what you think is acceptable behaviour for your child (especially good to know for when you leave the room during a play date) & have your friend(s) do the same so you both know if and how to address certain behaviours, and make sure to communicate anything of concern with them when they return, so they can address it themselves. I do believe that people can support their friends, and to remain in their lives and offer acceptance, patience, and kindness. How we nurture our friendships will be the same way that your children nurture their relationship with peers, adults, and you. 

Nurture your relationships with mutual trust & appreciation
Mutual trust and appreciation is very important for parents to have for one another. When we express appreciation for our differences we are teaching our children tolerance and kindness.  Try to focus on the positive aspects of your friend and what the learning opportunity is for both of you.  Trust that the right thing will occur when you address it with kindness.  

Respecting how you feel is important and when you share your feelings with your friend you are communicating that you trust that they also respect how you feel about something. 

Some examples of how you can communicate your concerns:  
"I feel very nervous with how your child treats my child and I am wondering if you have the same feelings?"  


"I really enjoy our time together, however, I find I am always watching our children interact with one another because I am worried about how they are playing together."  

-> Note from Katherine: I like how Paula suggests using 'I" statements to communicate the concern being addressed vs 'you' or 'your child', which can come across as accusatory. I feel this opens up the conversation to discussion, rather than having the other person feel they have to go on the defensive for their parenting style or child's behaviour.

Be honest about how you feel
By being open with your emotions you communicate your confidence as a person and as a parent, and that you hope that your child will develop this strong self-identity and confidence.  

Have empathy for the other parent(s) & don't jump to conclusions 
Empathy is an important emotion as well.  When we show our friend compassion by asking how she/ he is or if she is needing support with challenges, we may learn that there is much going on in her/his life.  Environments impact behaviour and for this reason, they may not even fully "see" the behaviour that you "see" in their child, because of stress or sadness. 

When we can collaborate, share and, communicate openly with one another we teach our children how to do the same. 

Ask yourself: How will you strengthen your friendship today?  

Have you ever had to address a tricky situation about your kids with a friend or close one? If so, how did you do so? How did they respond? What other advice would you add?

Thank you Paula for another great article! I hope if you ever run into this situation this post will help you address it. :)

Paula Milbradt is a Parenting Coach and Early Childhood Expert specializing in supporting families develop positive relationships and guide behaviour that is respectful and developmentally appropriate. With the company she founded, Empowermil, she has worked with children and families for the past 20 years providing the tools and techniques to help empower both parents and children to foster healthy relationships.  She has worked with educators, coaches, and teachers in addition to families, working with ages 0- 18. Paula is passionate about teaching the importance of communication and social emotional support to create a healthy environment for individuals to thrive.

If you would like to learn more about Paula or would like her help, visit her website or contact her via email at paulamilb@gmail.com.

You can also find Empowermil oFacebook & Twitter: @childnurturer

Image Sources:
Be brave- Feels Like Home
Parenting is the easiest- LDSSmile
Behind every great kid- We Have Aars
Empowermil logo courtesy of Paula Milbradt

May posts are sponsored by Little Dreamers Consulting