woman talking to small boyBy Linda Rodgers
Even if you're the most diplomatic mom around, sooner or later you'll probably blurt out something to your child's pals that will set off their parents. "Sometimes we're in the habit of saying these things to our kids, but mostly it's because we don't know the other parents well," says Michele Borba, EdD, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. Before you have another child over, try a group play date at the park so you can pick up valuable intel-from the other parent's discipline style to what types of foods or conversations are off-limits. If the kids are too old to hang out with you, call the other mom before the first get-together. And during the kids' meet-up, ask yourself, "Will what I'm about to say infringe upon another parent's rights and values?" The following eight remarks definitely do, so avoid them at all costs. Photo by Getty Images
1. "I'm sorry your family's going through a tough time."
Of course you mean well, but saying "I'm sorry your mom lost her job" or "…your dad's sick" can make a child feel worse, says Borba. Instead, let the child be your guide. If he's a de facto member of your family and seems eager to vent, you can ask, "Do you need a hug?" or "Do you want to go out for ice cream?" On the other hand, he may want to escape what's going on at home, so let him play without asking questions. Another reason to steer clear of "I'm sorry" statements: The child may be clueless, in which case you've just spilled a family secret, says Linda Sonna, PhD, a psychologist and author of the Everything Tween Book. That's why it pays to check in with other parents before you have their child over.
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2. "Come to church with us!"
When it comes to religion and politics, many parents prefer you don't share your point of view. "You have to exercise restraint," says David Bakke, a single dad in Atlanta, GA. "I've heard other kids say they don't believe in Christmas and I don't dispute what they say. But once at a birthday party, another parent told my five-year-old that he didn't have to love God if he didn't want to. I was furious-I'd told my son that loving God is an important part of Christianity, and that remark disrupted his religious upbringing." Even an innocent invitation to tag along to your house of worship the morning after a sleepover could be construed as an effort to preach your values. Get the parents' okay the day before or drop off the child at his home before heading to church, says Borba.
3. "Don't worry-you'll grow. You're just a late bloomer."
"My son went through puberty late, so for years he was the shortest kid in class," says Fernanda Moore, of Swarthmore, PA. "I'd hear parents tell him, 'I'm sure you'll be tall because both your parents are. You're just a late bloomer!' Or they'd put it in the third person and say the same to me when he and his friend were in earshot." Though you're trying to make your kid's buddy feel better, he's probably focusing on the negative. "He's hearing you say, 'You're short and there's something wrong with you, but eventually you'll be normal,'" says Denene Millner, founder of the blog My Brown Baby and mom of two girls. In general, don't make comments that aren't 100% complimentary about kids' appearance, she adds.
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4. "I'm giving you a time-out!"
Different families have different rules, so it's likely your child's friend will break one of yours at some point. Even if your blood's boiling because a playmate rudely demanded a snack or shoved your child, don't punish, yell, or show your anger, says Borba. Instead, calmly explain the rules ("In this house we say please" or "In this house there's no shoving") and suggest the kids take a break from each other for a few (a sneaky way to give a time-out sans stigma). Even better, let your grade-schooler explain the rules to her pal, suggests Dr. Sonna. "It pulls you out of the discipline role and boosts your child's leadership skills." No matter how you handle the situation, give the mom a heads-up about what went down-that way, you don't get bad-mouthed when your child's friend gives her version of the story.
5. "Didn't your parents teach you to…?"
Citing the house rules works for some smaller infractions too. For instance, if a playmate eats pasta with her hands in your home, resist remarking on how she was raised. Negative comments about other people's parenting belong on the forbidden list, says Dr. Sonna. Instead say, "In our house we use a fork to eat." What about when you're faced with a picky eater? You may be tempted to tell Finicky Fiona that her parents should've made her more adventurous, but hold your tongue. As much as it stinks to make one special grilled-cheese sandwich when you thought your planned menu was kid-friendly, "In our house we eat hot dogs" won't fly here.
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6. "There's no such thing as the tooth fairy."
From the Easter Bunny to Santa, every family has cherished rituals that are hard to give up, even when their child is old enough to start questioning them. If your kid's classmate is asking you if the tooth fairy or Santa are real, chances are he's not getting the scoop from his mom and dad. Instead of breaking the news, sidestep the topic, advises Borba. "Ask: 'What do you think? What are your friends saying?'" Then, tell his mom or dad that he was asking so they can figure out if it's time to 'fess up, she adds.
7. "What are wet dreams? Here's the lowdown…"
"My husband and I always answer our daughters' questions, no matter how uncomfortable they make us," says Millner. So when her six- and nine-year-old nephews talked about wet dreams and periods in the car with her same-age daughters, Millner and her husband answered their questions and told the other parents what they'd done. "Let's just say they weren't pleased. At all. They thought it was their responsibility to tell their sons about puberty and they didn't even think their older child was ready for the conversation. We didn't necessarily agree, but we respected that they should've had the opportunity to talk with their children first, so we apologized," she says. The lesson? "Answer questions in a basic way; then, tell the child to ask his parents for more details," she says. The same guideline applies to hot-button issues like drugs, drinking and abortion.
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8. "Who's Jack? Emma talks about him a lot-does she like him?"
What mom doesn't want to know more about her increasingly private tween's life? But seeking info from your child's peers is a manipulative move, and puts friends in a tight spot, says Dr. Sonna. If one spills, she betrays your child's trust; if she doesn't, she'll start avoiding you-and strengthen that "us vs. your mom" mindset your tween's tempted to develop. If you're curious about what's going on with your kid, drive the gang more often so you can overhear her conversations. The exception to the no-grilling rule: You're worried about your child's safety or reputation, says Borba. If you suspect that Jack's too old or wild for your daughter, then take the pal aside to voice your concerns-just don't put the child on a witness stand, she adds. And talk to your tween too: Say, "When I bring up Jack, you don't answer. I'm getting worried."
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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