We're back to that wonderful time of year when my neighbor's daughter comes to visit, sends her two older kids over to my house, and sits around visiting with her mom and baby while I take care of 5 kids (apparently I have a "free drop-in childcare" sign hanging someplace-- I'd take it down if I could find it.)
Anyhow, today my younger dd (age 4) came up to me a couple times complaining that the neighbor's grandaughter (let's call her Jane) and my older dd were calling her a baby (they are both 6). I figured that since I hadn't heard it, I wouldn't get involved, beyond suggesting that she not play with them. Then I followed her out onto our deck and down the stairs. The older girls were playing under the deck. Younger dd said "hi". Older dd said "hi". Jane said "Hi you big fat baby" in about as nasty a tone as a 6 year old can manage. It was mean and completely unprovoked (and younger dd isn't a pesty kid-- she tends to go off on her own, not tag along with bigger kids).
I told both girls that they may not call younger dd names in her yard, and I sent Jane home (to her Grandma's) and older dd inside for a timeout. Older dd got a timeout because it was not the first time younger dd had been teased, and older dd was going along with it. After 5 minutes I let her go back over and ask if Jane could play, but if it happens again (not just today but for the rest of the summer), they're done for the day.
Was I too harsh? Too lenient? Should I have talked to her mom about it?
I feel strongly that my kids have a right to play in their yard without being teased. If this happened at the park I would have handled it differently.
Any tips for dealing with the childcare issue? My girls are ok playing in my yard unsupervised, but I feel that these kids need supervision in my yard. Clearly their mom doesn't think so, but there have been issues in the past that make me pretty sure I'm right.
As I see it, my options when they are visiting are to drop everything and spend my time chasing my toddler around the yard, or to keep my kids inside. Is there any nice way to ask my neighbor take a turn watching the kids?
Thanks for any input!
Do you have a flag pole or a something like that (you know the kind that people use to put seasonal banners out)?
You could tell your neighbors that you know their kids like to play at your house, but it's not always a good time when they come over. So, when it's a good time, you can put the flag out and they'll know they're welcome to come over. If it's not a good time, the flag won't be out.
Question: Do you want your kids playing at their house? If so, then you can add "If the flag isn't out, you're welcome to call on the phone to see if my older kids can come play at your place."
I would set up in my own mind when 'good times' would be and when not. If the kids come over at 'bad times', say "I'm sorry, but my girls can't play right now." and send them home.
I would also limit the number of hours they are there. Tell them in advance - in 2 hours, you need to go home because we need to do X. (X can be as simple as 'take a rest' or 'fix dinner'). But if their parents are using you as a free baby sitter, it's time to limit the contact.
I'm also fairly strict with the neighbor kids. I explain the rules to them and then tell them that if they can't follow the rules, I'll send them home. And I have. Once. That's all it took.
My big pet peeve is actually the neighbor kids begging for snacks. So, I tell them that I can't feed them unless their parents have said it's OK. And then usually I'll offer goldfish or something like an otterpop and water to drink. I'm happy to offer things to kids, but I just hate it when they start whining for food 10 minutes after they get into my yard!
Oh yeah, begging for snacks is annoying too. But never having anything "good" seems to help with that, LOL! I think setting time limits is a good idea. This is a little more complicated because the kids drift between my yard and my neighbor's, but I need to make a change so I don't spend all summer snapping at these kids.
Thanks for the feedback!
We used to have a neighbor who had 5 girls. And her rule was that if one went, they all went. I hated when my dd wanted them to come over, (or if they just showed up) because all of a sudden I'm watching 6 kids (and do you get involved in their sibling spats????) Also, it was like having a swarm of locusts attack your food supply. I started buying cheapy snacks that I wouldn't normally buy JUST for when they came over (Fig Newmans were just too expensive to hand out to everyone!!!)
Now that we're in a new neighborhood, we have girls who come over that are my girls' ages. I've talked to the mother about each of our sets of rules, and she's explained them to her girls (it's a little tough since we're in Sweden and I don't speak good enough Swedish to enforce most of the rules with her girls) but I've found talking to the other mom about expectations is good. We also have similar ethics when it comes to how long our kids can hang at each other's houses. I'd say talk to the other parents too!
You should certainly set limits that you are comfortable enforcing -- both in terms of timing and house rules. Sending kids home after a warning is a perfect way to enforce the rules. Of course, you should explain the rules to everyone (your kids and the visitors) so there are no misunderstandings.
I would sit down and figure out how much time you are willing to spend supervising this many kids. And you are right, big playdates take more active supervision. Then explain the limits to the mother and/or grandmother and to the visiting kids. If they arrive at a bad time or too many times, send them home immediately, but politely. "I'm sorry, this isn't a good time for my kids to play." is my standard line.
As for how children treat each other, I would enforce the same standards you would expect from your children. We have 3 neighbor boys who come over a lot but have few courtesy manners. I finally decided that I wasn't willing for my kids to be exposed to their way of dealing with each other and adults without correction, so now I offer polite corrections and tell them my expectations and house rules. If they can't follow them, I ask them to go home. I am especially vigilent when they try to exclude my DD from playing, generally while they are in her room with her toys! I also insist on polite (not mean or nasty) tone of voice and clean language. These are clearly not rules for these boys at home, so I generally give one reminder and take it from there.
We have an open snack policy for our kids, but I have had to put more limits on snacks when the neighbor kids are here. I have a more set snack schedule and I put out the snacks I am willing to offer for them at that time, rather than have 5 sets of hands in my fridge. Luckily the budget for snacks is pretty flexible, so its more a matter of not wanting that many kids exploring the kitchen rather than a money thing.