What To Do When Play Dates Go Wrong? | Play Date Etiquette Part 2

by Queenie on May 13, 2010

Image of QueenieIn a perfect world an effective play date happens when two children interact with the world in such a way that reality fades away and they are whisked away into their own special wonderland. Yet, there are times when a play date comes to a screeching halt and disaster arises. Here are a few scenarios to help you handle any play date disaster with compassion and integrity.

The Ticking Time bomb
Your child has made a new friend and at first everything seemed fine, you executed your play date etiquette with precision but you didn’t see this one coming. You certainly didn’t realize that by allowing the play date that you were secretly agreeing for you child’s behavior to start changing. In short, the other child’s behavior doesn’t really work for you. Your child’s behavior is changing and your starting to not like the way you are experiencing them.

Do Not: Go to the other parent blaming their child for their “odious” behavior and how its affecting your child.

Do:Check in with the other parent and ask them if they’ve noticed any changes in their child’s behavior. Talk about how you’ve notice that they pull out the “stretches” in each other. Stretches are areas academically, socially or emotionally that a person needs to work on. Suggest that you all both speak with the kids about this and set some clear limits with the kids. If it persists, peel back on the play dates for a while until the kids can agree to uphold the limits and play with each other in a way that works for everyone.

Bossy Susie

I know exactly how you are feeling, you are in complete amazement and you just cant seem to understand why your son or daughter allows someone to dictate to them how to play, what to play with and submit to the  “commands” of the other child. You’ve even seen your child do things that you know, they know, they shouldn’t be doing. (shaking your head in agreement)

Do Not: Interject and take your frustration out on the other child

Do:Talk with your child, ask them if they notice how the other child speaks with them. Ask them if they feel comfortable with suggesting their ideas, and sharing with the other child what they would like to do? At the end of your conversation talk about how friendships are supposed to be mutual and balanced. Teach them that its important for them to judge if their friendships are balanced and mutual. If it persists, check in with the other parent, be sure to come from a perspective of your child and not the other child. If you don’t it will become a very sticky situation.

Selfish Jasmine and Boston

Jasmine and Boston are typical kids, they love to play with other peoples things and treasures but when its time to share their toys they are not only apprehensive but have a  loud and clear no with their things.

Do not: Lecture Jasmine and Boston about sharing

Do: Check in with the parent and tell them what you have noticed. Be sure not to judge or evaluate the situation,  just share what you have observed. Ask them to look for it as well. Next, talk with your child about the idea of sharing and ask them if they think this is a balanced friendship? Teaching your child early that they have a choice about their friends is a powerful concept, even at six, but especially at sixteen.

Remember: Play dates will naturally have conflicts, yet when the conflict effects one party more than the other it can be disastrous. Giving your child the skills they need to have healthy relationships is something that they will carry with them throughout their life.

Queenie Lindsey is an academic coach and educational consultant. She is the founder of Tandem Teaching and Distinguished Learning Group, an academic coaching firm. Follow her on Twitter.


angela August 20, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Awesome advise, guys, but what do you do when it’s your own child whom is bossy suzie, or selfish jasmine??? Whenever it’s time to go outside and play with friends, everyone likes to switch bikes and take turns….except my son. I do prepare him ahead of time, but this doesn’t seem to help. then, he’ll yell at the kids ” I hate you” or ” I want to kill you” ” you’re not my friend” and such. I feel bad for my son, the other kids,…add to that the embarrassment factor! HELP!

Megan August 20, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Hi Angela,

Thanks for your candidness! Wow! This is something that a lot of parents will be curious about so we’d like to take some time to think of multiple strategies that would be applicable to different types of children and feature it in a post in the next two weeks. We appreciate you giving us the time to come up with the best possible solutions for your child 🙂