Disciplining a Visitor

With girls, Two is company and Three’s a crowd. Always try to have just two or four or more girls together at any time for playing.

When Neighbor Girl comes over, she prefers to play with Katie. Katie is 8, she is 10. Jenny is not yet 6, but naturally wants to be included all the time. Naturally, the age gap from 10 to 6 is big enough and is heightened by, firstly, NG being an only child, and secondly, NG having gone to traditional schools which segregate based on silly things like age.

The other day NG was here and Jenny was coming up to me every 10 minutes or so in tears. After a half hour of this, I had had enough. Older children must be nice and indulgent to younger children in my house. I refuse to be the constant arbiter of how much time one child is allowed to pester another child who wants to play with “his” friends alone. Be inclusive…or else!

So I told NG it was time for her to go home. And I told Katie it was time for her to clean her room. Twenty minutes later, Katie and Jenny were playing nicely together (in a clean room). NG took this personally and her mother kept her home yesterday.

How do you handle the neighbor kids? Other times I have doled out punishment (time outs, chores) to everybody, but I just wasn’t in the mood that afternoon.

And how do you handle the pesky younger sibling issue? Do you grant older children their “privacy”? Or do you make them learn how to cope with difficult people by enforcing inclusivity?

And any suggestion on gender wars? Man, the battles are raging here. It’s boys vs. girls on everything.

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10 thoughts on “Disciplining a Visitor

  1. My girls are four years apart. My oldest is the youngest in her grade. The age gap certainly causes a problem when my older child has friends over to play. For a good portion of the play date, I usually keep my younger one occupied doing something fun with me. After my ability to distract her vanishes I insist that my older child and her friend allow her to play with them. I've had a few of the guests complain to me about it, but mostly it's my daughter to complains that this is unfair. (Who said life is supposed to be fair?)
    My older child understands that if she doesn't include her sister she won't be having friends over for several days. When the visitor is the one who complains I simply ask them if they would like me to call their mom to come get them now or would they like to be nice to the little kid and let her play, too. I have yet to have a child ask to go home when presented with those choices. I also let them know that if they cannot play nicely with both of my girls and any other children who are playing at my house that they won't be invited back.

  2. My girls are ten and five, but I still make my older daughter let her younger sister play when the ten year old neighbor girl comes over. Sometimes I have my older daughter be the bad guy and she tells the neighbor girl that she is not allowed to play at our house if she is going to be mean to the any of my younger children. I have seen them be outright mean and I have a hard time holding my tongue if it's going to be me saying something. This may seem harsh, but in the past I have not let the children play again if they have been mean to my little children. That is just not something I put up with and I don't want my children being influenced by kids like that either.

  3. NG is definitely NOT someone I would choose to have as a playmate for my chldren. Unfortunately, she is the ONLY kid in the area. I have come to view her as almost a foster daughter. (And I have proven to myself that foster parenting is not for me.) With school beginning next week, her time here will be less, and I think we'll be moving in February, so her influence will be short-lived. No matter where we live, there always seems to be some neighbor children that just don't fit well, so it's an ongoing problem, just with different faces. In this case, especially, I have felt that it was my job to be the good influence, and so they play mostly over here and she eats dinner here very often…sadly, that is the only time she ever experiences “family dinner.” I can only hope that in 15 years she remembers my family fondly and tries to make for herself a home life resembling ours instead of hers.

  4. I have no advice for the gender wars. Sorry.

    As far as other kids, Gabriel is the one who has friends that come over. His best friend is two years older than him, so he's 14. Dominic is 6. But, this particular child is amazing with Xavier and Dominic. He never gives them the impression that he doesn't want to be with them. Since Gabriel has always played with X & D, it doesn't seem to ping on his conscience to want time alone with E. However, I think they need time alone to develop their friendship. They play all together for most of the time he is here. Then, I send the younger boys outside to play for maybe the last 30 minutes. When he spends the night, I just send the younger boys to bed at their normal time and let the older boys stay up as long as they want to. I find it amusing that they are always in bed by 11:30.

    I am always the mean mom in the neighborhood. If you don't play by my rules, you don't play. I think that sending her home was probably the best plan. Taking away her playmate is probably the most effective way of getting through to her. Unfortunately for Jenny, she doesn't really have anyone else to play with while Katie and NG have 'alone' time. And, if you don't want them to develop a close relationship (the reason I insist on the alone time), then I really don't believe that it is necessary.

  5. I just break it up. The older kids do get some time alone with their friends, but I make it understood that at some point, the little guys will have to be included. So far this works okay because I am lucky to say my kids have nice friends who generally don't have a problem at all including the younger kids-one who has no siblings of his own, often is the first to say hey it's fine if the 8 years old comes and plays (whereas my 11 year old, brother of said 8 year old, is complaining about having to include him-:-))) Anyway, it is more often around here, the gender wars because it's one girls and 3 boys, but still my youngest boy often wants to play with his sister and she-being the queen bee of the house- often is the one saying no. So, obviously my kids are the bad ones (ha ha I am kidding, sort of). Definitely there are times when big-sis is made to play with little-bro, even is she doesn't necessarily love to. But for the most part, they all manage to get along, sort of, generally, sometimes. PS I think it is good to try to be that good example for other kids-hard-but definitely good. mcm

  6. Hi Michelle! Jackie Hofmann, here. You are my hero! We have a NB in our neighborhood who doesn't appreciate our little sibs. My philosophy is: too bad, it's their house; include them, be kind, or go home. As for gender wars, we do a lot of apologizing around here! And dividing and conquering. After enough time spent alone in their rooms, they don't mind so much playing with each other, again. Take care. You go, girl!

  7. Everyone has addressed the importance of sharing, including the younger children when friends are over, etc. What has not been addressed is friend time, alone/privacy time, & shared time. All are necessary. Children should be allowed some time to play with their friends without siblings present. Siblings, by birth order and personality, do not view the family in the same way. They need friends outside the family who can share their views and the time to play with them. Children also need alone/privacy time to think, ponder, daydream, etc. What is needed is balance for each child in all three areas according to each child’s needs.

  8. I WAS the older sibling — of five… and remember well this battle– still with some bitterness. The older kids really do deserve some time with friends their own age without having to constantly accommodate the little ones. Older kids in big families spend a lot of time entertaining and helping to care for younger siblings, but just as parents need a break– so do the “big kids” need some time to hang out with “big kid friends.” I agree with Karen– trying to distract the little ones for a part of the play date goes a long way in both age groups!

  9. Oh, Anonymous, you are so right. Only I was the oldest cousin. The killer incident, leaving the most bitterness, was my cousin being told his 7-years younger sister had to be admitted to his room to watch the TV that he had gotten repaired with his own allowance money – topped off by him being told that she had the right to choose the TV program!

  10. I've got a HUGE age gap in my family, as you well know…10 years between oldest and youngest. And the gap feels bigger when the oldest one is driving and the youngest one hasn't yet made his First Communion.

    We do allow each of the kids “private friend time” but we also request that the older ones (nicely) include Little Brother in an activity for a while. We haven't had any friends who have trouble with this.

    As to other discipline, friends who break house rules get to go home now. Period. Generally that friend does not ever break that rule again.

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