How do you get your kids' friends to respect your kids' things?

Keri - posted on 03/30/2013 ( 6 moms have responded )

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We moved to an apartment complex back in August 2012 but my son only really started socializing with the other kids in December 2012/January 2013. At first they were the older kids that live immediately around us, but soon he met friends of theirs who are more his age. I've already banned them from playing video games because the can never co-operate or my son takes over because the other kids don't know how to play (and I think as an only child, he's got a "I-know-how-so-let-me-do-it" attitude which I'm trying to break).
Since the video games are out, they've been playing with his toys in his room or outside (we live in AZ and the weather's good right now). When they play in his room, his room get DESTROYED. Seriously destroyed. There are toys and books (some ripped now) all over his bed, under it, in his closet, on the floor, everywhere! It's like a minefield going in there after all the kids have been in there. It's happened twice in two days! The first day I helped him clean up, but with this second mess I'm trying to "let it go" until his friends come over again so I can put my foot down about cleaning up before they leave, but they haven't been back near the house and they're actually semi-listening when I say no playing in the house today.
So my question is: HOW DO I GET HIS FRIENDS TO RESPECT HIS ROOM AND HIS STUFF?
I'm not talking about not letting them play anymore, but I tell them each time when they go into the room and when they want to come out and do something else that they need to clean up. Today is another nice day, so that's one reason I want them playing outside, but also I don't want to pick up a third mess. I don't really want to hear "they're kids, it's what they do" I would like sincere, real answers about how to get his friends to help before they go.

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[deleted account]

We had a very similar problem when J was little. This is what I finally came up with.

I typed up the rules on a fun piece of stationary, then I framed it in a brightly colored document frame (get one at any dollar store or big box store for less than $5) & hung it by J's bedroom door. The rules are pretty simple (pretty much the same ones you use, I just made sure they were short and succinct):
1. Each kid can play with ONE toy at a time.
2. When you finish with a toy, put it back before getting out a new one.
3. Everyone helps clean up.
4. We do not break toys.

When a kid comes over, I take him to the rules and go over them with him, then I have him sign his name in dry erase marker on the glass of the frame (it wipes right off). This tells me that they understand the rules, and for whatever reason, the kids LOVE signing their name! It makes them feel "grown-up" and responsible--not only does it make them smile, but they are pretty determined to make sure they hold up their end of the deal. They are very proud at the end of the playdate when I see a clean room. It made all the difference in the world--I don't know why.

I check in periodically, usually every 10 minutes when they were younger, now I'll go 15 to 20 minutes, but he is 8 years old now. If more than one toy per kid is out, they ALL have to stop playing and put everything away--this is to avoid the "That was Joey's toy" "No, that was Adam's toy" debate. Also, since no one wants to have to stop and clean up, the other kids help keep each other in line.

If a toy is broken, and I can tell it was a genuine accident, nothing really happens, but I do not replace the toy for J. I feel it is his responsibility to protect his toys. If a toy is broken because a kid was playing with it improperly, or deliberately tearing it up, that kid is asked to leave immediately and is not allowed back for 1 or 2 weeks, depending on what he was doing.

If a kid does not help clean up, he is not allowed back for a week. If he refuses to clean up repeatedly, he is not allowed back in the room and can only play with J outside. I give them 3 or 4 chances before banning them. I understand that kids have "off days" when they are tired or cranky or whatever, but for the most part, I expect them to cooperate.

Charndra - posted on 04/08/2013

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Another solutions is to have 'Party Locks'. Put a slide bolt at the top of the door, and lock it when visitors come over. Some toys are out for them to play with, rooms are out of bounds. My sister has done this, I keep meaning to (it was my idea!), it saves a lot of problems.

Kids come in and literally empty every box on the floor, just looking at the toys. It's a nightmare!

Party Locks. For any playdate!

Jodi - posted on 03/30/2013

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I don't think Taisha is "berating" you about your parenting skills. She is offering some very practical suggestions.

I think the problem here is that it appears you have laid down the rules, but you haven't issued or followed through with any consistent consequences. You know, like, if you don't help clean up, you can't come back to play. And then follow through with that. As it stands, they know you aren't going to stop them coming to play, so they have no real consequences. However, I do agree with Taisha that part of having friends over to play is your son's responsibility as well. If his friends don't do the right thing, and he wants them to continue coming over, he needs to be responsible for it.

With regard to the torn and broken toys, etc, your son needs to decide whether he really wants these children playing with his things. He could make sure that he has toys that are put away on these occasions if he is concerned they will be broken. Maybe just have one box of toys that they play with during their visits, and that is it.

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[deleted account]

WOW! Totally didn't intend for you to be offended b/c in no way did I mean for my post to come off as me trying to berate you. As a former teacher and nanny, I've had over 2 decades of experience with kids. If there's one thing I've learned in that time is this- kids quickly learn how far to push you and how much you can be ignored. So when I suggested that you set the tone in your house as the adult, I meant that the next time those kids come over, you change your tone in speaking to them in a way that means business and follow up with whatever consequences you tell them about so they know you mean business. You don't have to yell or be mean about it, but trust and believe that no matter what you say, if the tone and delivery of those words are not equal, kids will run ALL OVER YOU, especially if you don't follow through with ACTION.

Since you've already said that you already have these rules in place and the kids still disrespect your home (b/c that's exactly what they are doing each time they don't follow your rules) then you have 2 choices. Either allow them to continue to come over and do as they please and complain about it OR don't allow them to come back over to play. It's that simple. Once again, it's your house and you are the adult.

You don't even have to go and deal w/the parents about this, unless you are looking for them to replace anything their kid broke or if you're looking to justify the fact they will no longer be welcomed in your house. Any good parent, regardless of race, would be mortified if they were told that their child was disrespectful guest in someone else's home. And as a Latina, I can tell you, even with the language barrier, there's a good chance that if you did try and speak to the parents of these kids, they would quickly realize that you have some issue with their kids in your house and will most likely forbid them from going back there anyway just to avoid further problems, not to mention they would be mortified too! I'm also a mom and dealing with other's people's children in your home can be tricky but I make it simple for myself and I suggest you do the same. Only welcome play dates with children who respect the house rules:)

So once again, my apologies and if somehow you are offended by this response too, know that it's coming from a good place and in no way a judgement of your parenting skills. No one is perfect and everyone at some point looks for and needs help along the way....

Keri - posted on 03/30/2013

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I did not make this post to be berated about my parenting skills. Of course there are rules and they are outlined every time the kids come in - and they are pretty much the rules you've listed. They pretty much just ignore them I guess you can say. It's difficult to go to their parents, because they are Hispanic kids who primarily speak Spanish and their parents barely speak any English.

[deleted account]

You are the adult, it's your house. They are children and guests in YOUR HOUSE. It's not that hard. Have a serious talk with your son about your expectations and let him know that if he's going to have friends come over, then they must abide by the rules in your house or else those kids are no longer welcome. The next time your son has guests come over, make it a point to sit them ALL down and give them the run down of your house rules BEFORE they start playing. Here are some ideas:

1- Play one activity at a time. That means don't pull out every single toy, book, and art supplies for the sake of touching/looking at it. Once they are done playing with that toy, PUT IT BACK and move on to the next thing.

2- Everyone must take turns and everyone must be included in all games. That way, no one gets to be a bully and no one gets left out of a game.

3- All guests must be respectful of your child's belongings. That means they are not allowed to destroy his stuff b/c they want to play carelessly or aggressively with his toys. They should treat your son's belongings the way they would want others to treat their stuff!

4- If something gets ripped or broken, they are to bring that item to your attention right away. Trying to hide it is not acceptable.

5- At the end of the play date, EVERYONE must help and clean up. All toys, books, and art supplies MUST be put back where it was found.

If you speak to them with a firm tone in your voice, these kids will most likely be respectful, follow your rules, and help to clean up. Make sure you check in on them every now and then just to be sure everything is going well and remind them within the last 20 minutes of their play date that it's time to start cleaning up. Make it a point to thank them for following the rules and that they are welcome to come back and play again with your son soon. BUT, if your child and his friends can not abide by these rules, especially if there is any kind of bullying/bossing around, then the play date should end immediately. If these kids are unwilling to help clean up the mess they help to make, then they should not be allowed to play at your house in the future. It's that simple. Good luck!

P.S. It's also important to expect your son to help and clean up at his friends homes whenever he is there for a play date too!

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