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House rules

publication date: Apr 23, 2007

Spontaneity is great but what’s fun for one child can create havoc for the rest of the family. You know the scenario - your kid has gone off to play with his friend and you’ve arranged to collect him at five o’clock. At four-thirty he rings to ask if he can stay to tea, you agree, then at six-thirty he phones to say he’s been invited to stay the night and can he ple-e-e-ase? In the meantime your own schedule has been knocked for six not to mention the rest of the household’s.
Once children start controlling their own social lives - and this seems to start earlier and earlier -  they really do have little consideration for other members of the family, especially parents who are expected to concoct meals at a moment’s notice, act as a taxi/walking home service and be out of the way when they and their guests want to watch the TV or listen to music. 

Tips for a quiet life
  • Agree an arrival and departure time for guests and whether a meal is included in advance.
  • Encourage your child not to make offers or invitations in front of his friend. He should speak to you privately.
  • If your kids want to be independent and offer snacks to their friends, make sure they know if something is off limits - for example you may be keeping some fruit for a salad or packed lunch.
  • Don’t be bullied into allowing a child to stay overnight if it will interfere with plans you have for the next day. Overnight stays often work better when planned in advance or are offered as a treat.
  • Insist homework is done before socialising - otherwise you’ll end up with frantic kids trying to finish projects in the mornings.
  •  If you have certain rooms - like your or a sibling’s bedroom - which are out of bounds, make sure everyone knows this.
  • Make sure children understand that your ideas about behaviour still apply when they’re with someone else: for instance anything you don’t  allow, like watching TV after a certain time or playing out in the street/going to the park alone. One way to ensure this is to get to know your child’s friends and their parents and let your views be known in conversation.
  • Tidying up after a visit: if you expect your child’s guest to help make sure they are aware of this and give a ten minute warning before the child is due to leave. Younger children need adult help here - as do many older children!
  • Sharing a room: each child must respect the other’s toys and possessions.
  • Concentrate on praising your child for clearing up, helping a sibling after a visit, being home on time, taking heed of your wishes rather than moaning about an occasional misdemeanour!