I admit, I was that mom, where I thought that it was better to have the children at my home than any place else, and I still am. I was the mom that other kids called "Mom" and I was the mom that even when they went to college many of my oldest son's friends still called and asked for relationship, career or college advice. These are wonderful memories. But unfortunately I was also a single mom, working, going to school and trying to figure out how to make my small budget and meals go further as we often had unexpected "guests" that just never went home. Now that I'm doing the mom thing all over again, and as we start to see visitors to our house I have to wonder, "How can I avoid letting the neighborhood kids move in?"
Answer your own door. There are many good reasons why the children should not answer the door, such as safety, dogs running wild or even a delivery you don't want them to see yet. By making it a rule, at least until your children are in the upper tween/teen years, that only adults answer the door, you can make sure the dilemma of when to send the neighborhood child home is not even encountered. You can simply tell them at the door that now is not a good time.
Ask first, avoid questions later. "Mom can Sara come over?" Whether your child is 13 or 3 asking questions about the visit first will avoid questions later. Find out when Sara wants to come over and establish acceptable dates and times for the visit. It is much easier to set the limits of a visit when you do it upfront.
Avoid explanations. "Sara, now isn't a good time because we are headed to soccer practice." Now you have gone and done it! You will now get questions like, "Can I come to soccer practice?" Or, "When will you be back? Can I come over then?" It's best to avoid explanations because those can prolong the inevitable.
Round them up and move them out. Let your children and their guests know what time that they will need to go home and follow up that discussion with reminders. We like to use the 30, 15 and 5 minute warning in our household. At 30 minutes they learn that they have a few more minutes to play. At 15 minutes they learn that it is time to clean up; all of them are to participate in cleaning up -- not just my children. Lastly, we follow up with a 5 minute warning and then playtime is done. It's time then to "round them up and move them out."
Find some family time. It's important that your family has family time too. Maybe you would like to go outside and spend time with the children walking, riding bikes, playing basketball or swimming. Once the school year starts you will also have dinner time, homework time and bath and bed times to worry about. Set aside "open play" times, much like many play places and bounce houses do.
Don't open the door. I admit there are times when we just don't answer the door. It is simple, it's my house and I didn't invite you here so I'm under no obligation to open my door to you. This goes for children, adults, and sales people. It sounds mean, but to me it is actually nicer than getting mad about my chicken burning because I'm at the door, not at the stove.
I know that there are many reasons why children may come to my home and I try to be understanding and considerate of those. I love that so many of my kids' friends feel comfortable with me and that I can offer them help and advice, sometimes when there is no one else to turn to. But it is also important to make the most of my time, both for work and play, and sometimes that means that the neighbors have to go away, instead of heading out to play.
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