When You Can't Send The Other Kid Home

We have all encountered those times when we agreed to care for the child of a friend or relative and ended up regretting it. Perhaps there was an emergency and the adults had to leave town for a few days. Of course, you wanted to help. What are friends and family for, after all? However, the time turned into a nightmare with fighting, attacks on your children and pets, and general anger bubbling below the surface being the daily fare until the child went home.

When Her Rules And Your Rules Clash

When it becomes obvious that the children are being raised with entirely different sets of values and disciplines, the challenge arises as to how to maintain control without over-reacting. The delicate balance requires patience, forethought, and the ability to remain calm under pressure.

When your child comes running to you in tears because the "guest" has taken her doll out of her hands, declaring in no uncertain terms, "MINE," what do you do? Grab the doll back? Probably not. Tell your child that it's okay; she should let the other child have the doll and get another one herself? What are you communicating in doing that? This is when a firm, loving, posture must be taken. You have just been provided an opportunity to speak into a little child's life.

Step One - Try Explaining

Little ones don't understand psychology, but they understand far more than we credit them. By sitting both children down, asking for the doll from the visiting child, and explaining simply your standards in your home regarding such activity, the visiting child may understand a new paradigm. If the child is somewhat compliant, you may have succeeded with your mission of creating a boundary, and you can carry on with your day.

Create Boundaries

However, what if the visitor decides that your rules are not going to work for her? How will you deal with her? How do you create boundaries with a child who is not your own? The same way you create them with anybody else. You set the boundaries, explain them, and then enforce them. If they are overstepped, there are consequences to pay.

One way to be sure a child understands the boundaries you are setting is to have her repeat back to you what she understands you said to her. If you explain that taking a toy out of someone's hand is not acceptable and if the behavior continues it will be met with a time-out in a separate room, then have the child repeat back to you exactly what she heard. Stay with it until you're sure she's gotten the concept and then, be vigilant. Anything can happen afterwards.

Follow-Up, The Most Important Part

The primary act afterward is follow-up. If you don't back your stance up with action, then you've just communicated that you don't mean what you say and the child feels free to do whatever she wants. It's not easy, but for the children and your own sanity, it's a good tact to take.