As the mother of an elementary school child, it is becoming increasingly perplexing as to how some parents can function in everyday life. In just the few short years we've been interacting with other parents, it proves to be more amazing every time I see a parent berate their child, publicly bicker with their child, or just plain ignore their child — and there is always a next time.
As my child grows more social as a third-grader, it seems to be a striking coincidence that she has a propensity for befriending the children whose parents have exhibited the worst behavior. In simple terms, she wants to hang out with the kids of the parents we like the least. While we never would deny our child a friendship, we do take issue when the inevitable question is asked ("Can I go over to X's house to play?") and the truth is that we just don't trust the other parents.
There are several reasons where trust becomes a factor. Living in a small area where everyone knows everyone, it's not uncommon to be aware of which parents let their children run without supervision, which are known for domestic dysfunction, and which openly display disrespectful behaviors. In our case, these are not assumptions. While we may not have walked a mile in their shoes, we can't deny what we have seen with our own eyes. Our concern lies in the fact that parents who act in such a manner publicly are capable of what exactly in private?
Dealing With the Situation
Offer play dates at your house
When parents don't necessarily get along, it ultimately will be the kids that lose out. Instead of denying a friendship, promote playtime under your supervision. Offer to pick up and drop off the child to ensure the play date is limited to your terms. Some parents are happy to assume a play date translates to free babysitting, so you may have to make the extra effort to eliminate the possibility.
Be open but positive with your child
Your child may question why they are never allowed to visit X's house, so you may have to simply explain some reasons as to why the play dates are always at home. Don't specifically lie to your child but don't talk smack about their friends' parents. Explain that you enjoy having your child and their friends at your house and leave it at that.
Remember your child is listening
While you may not directly be telling your child your real feelings about their friend's parents, never take for granted that your kids are not listening. Don't discuss negative issues with your spouse or friends with a child in earshot. Young kids will often repeat information without understanding the true consequences of what's been said. If you are not shy about expressing your feelings, expect the other parents to learn about them in no time.
Monitor the friendship
A child not used to structure may have a hard time abiding by your rules. Monitor play dates to ensure things are working out. Remind kids that future play dates may be jeopardized if everyone can't play nice. Even young kids will come to their own conclusions about who they want to play with. Listen to what your child has to say about the experience when the play date is over.
Don't punish the child
You may not like little Joey's parents, but don't take it out on Joey. Instead, redirect your feelings into positive reinforcement for Joey who may not get the same from his own parents. While you are not obligated to parent little Joey, you can make a difference in his life over time. Having an adult who listens and gets excited about what they have to say goes a long way. If your child and Joey appear to be on the track of becoming life-long friends, you'll likely be seeing a lot of little Joey.
Take the high road
When kids become friends it doesn't necessarily mean parents must do the same. But if kids are interacting, parents too will need to have some face time together. Take the high road and communicate what's necessary to arrange play time. It can be difficult to deal with certain types of people, but the only thing that matters is what is in the best interest of the children.
Have you ever faced the same situation? How did you handle your reluctance to trust another child's parents? Share your story in the comments.