Dealing with other people’s children
March 24, 2021 5:44 AM   Subscribe

How do you guys deal with other kids at your house and manners/rules? We have a member of our pod who often does not follow our rules or use what I consider good manners.

While I’m aware that every family is different, I also don’t think I should have to deal with a kid who is rude to me or has tantrums when I tell them no. The parents are indifferent and will say “oh boy she’s testing you isn’t she?” or “I was like that too.” From long association, the family isn’t likely to do anything, although they may pay lip service. I don’t want to be the mean mom but my child is asking why she has to use her manners when this kid doesn’t.

* Kid doesn’t ask for things politely and doesn’t say please or thank you.
* Kid doesn’t sit down in a chair at mealtimes and then loudly sighs or complains when I ask her to sit.
* Kid chews with her mouth open and leaves her trash wherever she finishes with something.
* Kid refuses to hear a no and will debate for a long time and then has a noisy tantrum and refuses to speak to me.
* Kid goes through my refrigerator and takes whatever she wants after telling me I offered her gross things.

Again, I’m aware that these things may not bother others, but they aren’t things I allow with my child.

These are first graders and for reference, this child is at my house 3-4 days per week. This child is our only COVID socialization and this we can’t just cut the cord.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Hi, parent of a kid who will likely be like this when he’s in first grade.

Kids are different. My kid is ADHD and we struggle with things like you’re describing. We’ve chosen to focus on specific behaviors that are actively harmful (running away when outside, etc) rather than a lot of manners-related things.

Every kid has something that they struggle with - perhaps you can talk to your daughter about this and frame it with an example of something she struggles with.

It sounds like most of the things that bother you are food/eating-related. Maybe you can choose one of those things and talk about working on it.

I can tell you that the parent of this kid is likely going to not respond well to you listing these behaviors. They already know. They’ve just chosen their battles and these aren’t them.

Please try to be as sympathetic as possible to parents with kids who struggle behaviorally. It is hard.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:57 AM on March 24 [27 favorites]

Would it be useful to think about how you would respond to these behaviors if they belonged to an adult guest? For instance, I would not correct an adult on using please and thank you. However, I would probably not let an adult go through my fridge. I might say something like, "Oh, those brussel sprouts that you found are for lunch tomorrow. We cannot eat them now. Would you like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?" I would offer a guest something else to eat, though, if the guest didn't like whatever I had prepared. I am sure that your own way of interacting and hosting adults will be different than mine, but this framework might be a useful starting point for thinking about the interactions.

I suppose my advice boils down to focusing on the boundaries you want to enforce rather than training or disciplining the child. As a bonus, this will give you the opportunity to teach your child about boundaries too.
posted by ASlackerPestersMums at 6:15 AM on March 24 [31 favorites]

In our house, we let non-adult guests have a little more leeway in terms of manners than our own resident non-adults. That's because they're guests and we don't see them often. If someone exhibited such behavior, we'd be seeing them less often. In your situation, considering this kid is basically a part-time member of your family, I'd be less lenient.

I would start gently setting the boundaries with this kid. "Our house, our rules." I would also be a-ok with another adult doing this to my own kid in their house. (Eg. we let kids start eating as soon as they sit down for dinner and get up as soon as they finish their meal, but other families are big on waiting for everyone and my kid has been gently warned that this is a thing at a friend's house - in my presence - and we were both "yep, of course, sorry, I'll wait".)

On preview, I agree that you should be thinking in terms of setting boundaries and not trying to discipline this kid in general. (Because discipline sounds like a lost cause, considering the parents' attitude.)
posted by gakiko at 6:22 AM on March 24 [12 favorites]

These things would drive me up the wall (but I'm not much of a people person or a kid person in general).

I have defaulted to reinforcing the rules to the visiting kid if the parent didn't seem inclined to do it themselves. As in "in this house, we..." or "it's not okay to..." or "no means no and you need to stop asking now."

I guess I learnt it from a mom friend who had no qualms treating my kid like her own in her house! It felt relaxing to me, llike being with family. If it ever led to people not wanting to visit us, I haven't noticed.

I can't tell whether you're doing that already and are just sick of it or whether you feel that's no option - from my point of view it is.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:24 AM on March 24 [27 favorites]

First, I would let go of the idea that your child will be ruined if this other child doesn't follow the same rules. It's a great opportunity to tell your child "what I expect from you is X." Don't negotiate. This will serve you really well in the teen years when all the other kids are doing some activity you don't - you've established it's not about group norms, it's about what's okay in your family.

Second, I think this is how I would approach it generally (and do in my after-school programs.) I would think of myself as a concierge to "Warrior Queen's Domain." So to go down your list:

1. Please and thank you - I wouldn't engage at all, but I'd model the behaviour and correct my own child.

2. "Child, at our house we sit down to eat." ("At our house, we..." covers a lot of stuff.) Tone is positive and helpful, like "oh, in Canada we take our shoes off at the door." Every time. It may change or it may not, but consistency is nice.

3. Chewing with her mouth open is nothing to do with you and I'd drop that one. Trash is again "oh, Child, at our house we put our trash here."

4. Cut the child off: "Child, this isn't a debate. At our house/right now, we ____." I think for me in my home, a tantrum would result in my calling the parents to come get the child so that the child learns at the tantrum the play date ends. (If the child doesn't like coming over this may backfire.) If that's not an option, I'd just walk away and say the fun times resume when the tantrum ends.

5. "In our house, we don't just go into the fridge." I would establish ONE back-up snack/meal (toast or whatever) and it's either what you've planned, or that.

Gently, I would let go a bit of whatever cultural and family baggage you have about rudeness/raising a mannerly child for kids not your own.

I work with a lot of kids who have behavioural or family challenges, in a very structured environment where we explicitly teach those things. Bad manners, even tantrums, at the age you're describing are very much a developmental thing, and also about stress levels and in some cases opposition. The calmer and kinder you can be about it, the faster they will turn around - note that "calm and kind" doesn't mean "walk all over us" but it means picking your battles and being warm and consistent.

A lot of the kids I've worked with who had THE WORST manners/tantrums turn out to be extremely kind and thoughtful older kids and preteens, if that helps you with your own feelings about this child.

Finally, if ultimately this is just a kid/family that rubs you the wrong way - it's worth changing your pod as soon as you can, because it's bad for everyone. But I think if you can see manners as not a challenge to your authority, but A Thing This Kid Doesn't Have Yet, you can enjoy them again.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:29 AM on March 24 [80 favorites]

Oh, also - direct verbal disrespect/meanness is just a no-go in my house, that gets a Mom Glare and then a "in our house we NEVER talk to people that way." For me that's a very big difference than the chewing with the mouth open thing.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:31 AM on March 24 [27 favorites]

I think you need to drastically reset your expectations of this child, as well as your attitude towards her. As the adult caregiver (it sounds like you are providing childcare here?) it's your job to meet her where she is at. It's not reasonable for you to hold it against her or to resent her for not meeting your standards when she has not been trained to meet your standards and she's clearly used to something completely different! It's like resenting a child for being unable to read english books at their grade level when they are new to the english language.

This kid can't magically learn to behave the way you want her to behave overnight, any more than she could magically learn to read english overnight if she can't read now. Behavior skills really are skills in the exact same way as reading is a skill. This kid needs help with her ABCs. That's just where she's at, and it's time for you to accept it. Your frustration and anger is genuinely harmful to her. You're failing in your role as her caregiver.

And by the way, if your daughter asks you why she's being expected to read chapter books while this other kid only has to deal with picture books, this is a valuable opportunity for you to introduce your daughter to the concept that "not everyone is the same" and "expectations are based on individual ability, standards are not one-size-fits-all". If your child is capable of protesting uneven rules & expectations, she's fully capable of understanding this concept too.
posted by MiraK at 6:36 AM on March 24 [15 favorites]

Have you read How To Talk to Little Kids Will Listen? If not, give it a try. If yes, give yourself a refresh. I agree with MiraK - your attitude and expectations are likely contributing to the tension here for both you and this child.
posted by shesdeadimalive at 6:43 AM on March 24 [6 favorites]

I think I would do a couple of things. First, pick your battles. Focus on one thing at a time, like sitting down at the table. I'd let the child know this was an expectation in your house. Then I would not put food down until they were sitting, and would take the plate up as soon as they rose. Do this without anger -- do your best to do it without judgment. Like you are a machine and the conditions for picking up the plate were met so you picked up the plate. If the child responds by wanting their lunch back or whatever, remind them that the rule in your house is you sit at the table to eat and if they want their lunch they can sit down again. Do this without judgment and without emotion. I bet they will start to internalize your rule after a short while. When they are consistently sitting at the table until done, notice that and praise it. Then move on to the next thing.

On preview, I like warriorqueen's whole take on this, and would let the child know the rules of the house, but I would pick one thing at a time to focus on "training" so that the whole day is not you scolding the child for every infraction. And some of the politeness things, yes, I think you will have to let go of while at the same time modeling good behavior and letting your kid know you expect good behavior from them. As others have said this is a good opportunity to discuss differences with your kid. Grace means moving lightly and gently in the world, and also making space for those who cannot move so lightly and gently, or know not how.
posted by gauche at 6:44 AM on March 24 [8 favorites]

Other people are exactly right about this kid possibly being less neurotypical or less advanced than yours. Things like chewing and leaving trash around are huge flags on this, as is not being able to process everything you're asking of them. So don't think about this as "rudeness." That said, if you're exhausted by having to clean up after this child and they leave significant messes, the other parent should be doing it, not you. When they come over to get their kid, or if they're there, say "Hey friend, can you please grab that plate of Kid's? Oh the vaccum's in the closet if there's a lot of crumbs under their seat."
You should not be the manners police for their child but that parent should certainly be taking up the extra slack that way.
posted by nantucket at 6:51 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]

You've already got good advice on how to talk to this kid as well as which rules to prioritize (I agree that not accepting a "no" is much worse than chewing with their mouth open) - I will just add that I was your kid, so to speak. If your kid wonders why they have to follow any of these rules, you just need to tell them. "We don't leave our trash around the house because if we all did that, the house would get dirty quickly, and it wouldn't be as pleasant. Getting into this habit now as a kid makes it more likely you'll have a clean house when you grow up." And so on.
posted by coffeecat at 7:04 AM on March 24

Are the other parents typically around for this?

In general I think 3-4 days a week is solidly in the "not a guest anymore" territory - if I had an adult visiting my house that often you better bet they would be expected to bus their own dishes and load the dishwasher and such. It seems very reasonable to set house rules for a kid who's spending that much time with you. I distinctly recall learning, at about that age, that a particular friend's parents had a broader definition of swear words than mine - even if I could say "that sucks" at home, it was not okay in their house. That was for a friend I visited every Wednesday when school had early release and my parents were still working - regularly, but way less than your case.
posted by february at 7:46 AM on March 24 [12 favorites]

Maybe I'm an outlier, but when my kids are guests in someone else's home, I expect them to follow the rules of that home. In turn, I expect the same thing in my home. It's entirely unreasonable to expect someone else to allow all sorts of things in their home that they don't allow their own child just because it isn't their kid. We have a similar dynamic with a friend that we see often (albeit less than 3-4 days a week) and I have no problem addressing their behavior the same way I do my children. I never get angry or upset - it's always very kind and matter of fact

The most recent exchange was about what was for lunch - friend said they didn't want to have what was being served because they had eaten the same thing for lunch the day before at their home. I told them that what was served was the lunch option and they didn't have to eat it - I wouldn't be offended. They asked if I could make them something much more involved and I repeated that what was served was the option available. The child responded and said, "I'm going to tell my mom I don't want to come here anymore." and I simply said "You should definitely talk to her about this if you feel so strongly." Kid ended up eating the whole lunch and the day went on as normal. Never heard another word about it from kid or mom, so I'm guessing either A) he got over it, or B) mom coached him on how to be a more gracious guest.

Bottom line is that you are absolutely within bounds to expect that little guests in your home have some modicum of respect for the rules of the house - Our Home, Our Rules is something this child may need to hear. Assuming this isn't a tiny guest (less than 6 y.o.), I'm laying this one on the parents - I could never imagine saying to someone “oh boy she’s testing you isn’t she?” after my child was rude, disrespectful, or argumentative with, especially someone close like this in their own home. I've spent the last 12 years of my life working with kids daily and I can tell you that this is not going to end well unless they establish some boundaries.

Good luck on dealing with this.
posted by _DB_ at 7:49 AM on March 24 [32 favorites]

Our kid is a 2nd grader and our next-door neighbors are in 1st and 3rd. They hang out a lot, especially during COVID because of proximity. Always masked and always outside, so this is a little different. However, we've agreed that they follow our rules when in our yard and our kid follows their rules when he's in their yard - and they have an overarching "no nerf gun" rule that applies in our yard too.

Perhaps the difference here is their parent is onboard with this and has told us to just send them home if they're not following our rules. Maybe pick one or two of these things and talk to the parents to agree on some ground rules (i.e. rummaging through your fridge? I would be horrified if my kid did that at someone else's house).

Though like people have said, they may not be able to stick to all of them. Like my son, utterly cannot sit still and we struggle with keeping him in his seat during meal times. And he tries, he just moves constantly in general. Not sure how well he could do this at someone else's house.

But we do say a lot of, "At our house, we don't do xxx" to our neighbor kids and they see our kid following the same rule, so we're generally successful.
posted by jdl at 7:57 AM on March 24 [3 favorites]

This must be so hard. Unfortunately, with in-school learning not happening, boundary teaching is one more lesson not being taugh right now. Just focus on fridge and table sitting, i.e. property rights, not etiquette.

"Fridge is just for grown-ups. Come take a look. What can I get you?" Later on, when doing something else you could have a friendly chit chat about the reasons: Grown-ups do shopping, put food away, keep track of what's there." Then hand kid shopping list and have him make "suggestions."

"Food is only served at the table so spills and crumbs don't get all over the house."

If there's a tantrum, ask the parents to come get the child.
posted by Elsie at 8:05 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]

I would pick two rules that have practical reasons and cheerfully enforce those as they come up.

We eat at the table only, because it keeps the house clean!
No kiddos in the fridge please, it gets too messy in there otherwise.

No big deal, no scolding, just cheerfully and calmly enforce the boundary - for all kids equally - and move on.

If a kid argues, calmly and respectfully say, “yep, I hear ya, but that’s the rule!”

Once those two rules are being followed, add two more.

Save rudeness for last because it doesn’t have a practical purpose so it’s really just you enacting social friction. When it’s time to enforce manners, be really clear about expectations, maybe one per day, and make it clear it’s a new rule starting now.

“Hey we’re going to add some manners practice to our school days. What do you think we can do to be polite? Yeah saying thank you is a great idea. Let’s start doing that.” And you do it too.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 9:01 AM on March 24 [6 favorites]

It sounds a lot like you're taking this kid's behavior personally and it is challenging behavior. But remember this kid is not on their own turf or even neutral ground like a school. They are in someone's home, which likely resembles their own home in many ways, and with a friend's parent (not a neutral party like a teacher) and that context of their behavior must be considered. Oh and there's a pandemic. They have no control over where they go or what they do in a day -- things like tantrums, "disobedience," and purposefully ignoring "manners" are ways of asserting control and communicating unmet needs. Stop taking their behavior personally and ask yourself what you can do to enhance the autonomy of this kid and meet their needs and then do that.
Examples: Involve them in planning meals they like; make a shelf of foods it's OK for them to pick from in the fridge/pantry; engage their "helper" desires to clean up the messes they leave.
Here are some more tips on promoting and supporting this age group.

The "send them away if they have a tantrum" advice is galling to me. Tantrums suck for adults but they happen when kids are overwhelmed by feelings they don't know how to handle. As the adult, you're supposed to be able to help them handle those feelings. This is advice for toddler tantrums, but since tantrums happen to everyone (including adults, we just don't call them that), it's still relevant.
If you can't handle a tantrum, then you need to stop offering to provide childcare altogether.
posted by shesdeadimalive at 9:18 AM on March 24 [4 favorites]

Lots of great advice around gently setting boundaries. And I wouldn't think of yourself as being the 'mean mom', if you are teaching manners, politeness and that other people have different boundaries than what happens at home, you are doing a service to this child, especially since they are missing out on a lot of this education they would get at school. You can communicate these in a way that's firm but kind and not shame inducing. My son has ADHD and whenever I'm not sure about setting rules for other people's children, I think about his amazing OT and how she handled behavior in her office, she was immensely in tune with the kids she worked with but she not afraid to say no, she was firm about her rules. I do think for my children they resist but appreciate rules, it makes it a lot clearer what's expected and if there aren't clear rules, they are forever "testing" where the line is. I had to recently do this with a friend's child, they were quite frankly, being rude and bratty and I told them (and my children) that kind of conversation wasn't acceptable in our house or our car. We talked about how everyone felt when someone said those things to them, and while I don't know if the child learned anything it was a good teaching op for my kids. If no one talks to them about it they may lose out on friendships, etc. I wish so much that someone had pulled my younger self aside and given me suggestions on how I could be a better friend, less dominiating in the conversation, etc. Instead I've had to deal with this stuff as an adult.

On the eating with your mouth open, maybe you could have a 'manners game' you play. "Let's all practice eaing with our mouths closed and taking turns talking". "Let me time you and see how long you can sit still". etc. Again, teaching this can be a gift to the child - I am close to someone who was not taught to keep his mouth closed while eating at home and was then shamed about it by the mother of a girlfriend as a young adult. That shamed carries on 20 years later they still do it but it's such a touchy subject I can't say anything to them about it, even when I watch it impact other's perception of them in social and professional situations. Personally I myself was pretty mortified a couple years ago at a prof dinner when I reached for a shared plate of what was always 'finger food' for my family only to find everyone else using chop sticks. It made so much sense to not be using our fingers in a non family setting, and I so wished I had been had that experience someplace else first.
posted by snowymorninblues at 9:26 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]

The parents are indifferent and will say “oh boy she’s testing you isn’t she?” or “I was like that too.” From long association, the family isn’t likely to do anything, although they may pay lip service.

To me, also parent of a first grader, this is the real issue. I would not want to be podding with this family. It's not a problem specific to the kid, but rather with the family being one of those families that has likely decided not to enforce any manners or respectful behavior. (And agree with other commenters that chewing with her mouth open and failing to properly deposit trash aren't big deals for a first grader, but basically talking back is just not ok.)

We have a neighbor kid like this. It's just too stressful for me to have to deal with the extreme rudeness and see it rubbing off onto my kids when the neighbor parents won't do anything.

From what you've said, the other family you describe is encouraging a power dynamic where they subtly convey to their kid that your rules are not worth following. Totally not cool and completely undermining when you're watching their kid 4 days a week.
posted by luckdragon at 9:45 AM on March 24 [19 favorites]

Nthing is sounds like this child has ADHD and some sort of sensory processing disorder. My kid can't sit at the table. Well, he could, but he'd be super stressed the whole time and then burnt out for the rest of the day.

I'd ask them to keep their little out of your fridge, but then just be thankful your kids are easy kids. If you'd spent 10x more energy than you spend all day making sure your kid doesn't hit or run into the street, you'd get why they're not worried about thank you or sitting at the table. Having a child with a behavior disability burdens the parent/child relationship. Without a positive relationship, they can't support or correct at all. They have no choice but to let these things go to make it through the day. You're so so lucky you aren't doing this, but these parents are likely frustrated and exhausted. You can just let these things go and know you're doing a great job engaging this family positively already.
posted by Kalmya at 10:39 AM on March 24 [6 favorites]

What's hard about this question is that it could be a neuroatypical kid, in which case a very different approach with special allowances needs to be implemented. But, it could also be a neurotypical kid who comes from a home where there's no real modeling or enforcement of behaviors that are socially constructive and foster mutual respect. Do you have the kind of relationship with the parents where you could bring this up in a way that's more thorough? Are they even aware that their kid is displaying some behaviors that could indicate a sensory processing disorder? If all you get from them is, "she's really testing you" and nothing much else of substance and no insight into how they handle discipline in their home, it's hard to know whether this kid needs extra medical attention or just needs a more supportive way to learn behaviors and habits that are socially acceptable. Regardless, I think more talking with the parents is needed so that both families can work on best supporting the kid in question.
posted by quince at 11:33 AM on March 24 [3 favorites]

I agree that your approach should be different if the kid is not neurotypical vs. growing up in a house where manners and boundaries are not a high priority or substantially more lax than yours. In any case it would be worth triaging the most important things.

In the latter scenario, if it were me, and I felt that my relationship with the parents could withstand it, I'd consider saying something along the lines of "We've realized we need to make more effort to enforce our house rules along the lines of ABC, and we'll be doing so more consistently with all the kids from now on. How would you like us to respond if Little is unwilling to follow the rules, i.e. would you like us to correct him or would you simply like to come pick him up/take him home?"

I don't think you should have to negotiate basic house rules with either the parents or the kid, but informing them in a matter-of-fact way gives them options as well as the chance to tell you if there are some expectations that might not be realistic for this kid. The bottom line is that it sounds like this is an issue to be worked out between the adults first.
posted by rpfields at 12:18 PM on March 24 [9 favorites]

" child is asking why she has to use her manners when this kid doesn’t."
Suggested response: "Every family has cultural differences. Not all families have the same values. Her family's values are different than ours. In our family, I believe that the values I am teaching you will help you have a better life."

Really, the only things I would do, other than explaining the family cultures thing, would be to tape the refrigerator door shut with some strapping tape (near the top where the kid can't reach it); place some brown paper bags in strategic places to be used as waste baskets (this was effective with my grandson); and not take the bait when the kid wants to debate (no means no, end of discussion - ignore the child's attempt to debate); and be glad the child isn't doing things like hitting or playing with matches.
posted by SageTrail at 12:55 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]

others have covered what to do about the kid.

as far as your kid goes, your kid is plenty old enough to hear the truth: "Mindy hasn't learned good manners yet, and it's unpleasant to be around. I don't want you to be unpleasant to be around: it makes life much harder in the long run."
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:22 PM on March 24 [8 favorites]

Rudeness is not a sign of neuroatypical behaviour. My SO and I are caregivers for a young person with autism and intellectual disabilities - and she can say please and thank you. Sometimes she forgets things like garbage, but she doesn't argue back when we ask her to go clear it up. She even had to change a few years ago to have new family norms - and she's open to learning and changing.

If the parents won't support a "my house, my rules" approach, I think you may need to find another family to bubble with.
posted by jb at 2:14 PM on March 24 [8 favorites]

But as someone who lived with many other children as a child (my mother ran an in-home daycare): setting different standards for your child and for your guest will be awful for your child. It will feel unfair (because it is). Sometimes guests are treated differently - I rarely ask a guest to scrub my bathroom - but they are still expected to abide by the basic rules of the house and not treat others the way this child has been treating you.
posted by jb at 2:16 PM on March 24 [6 favorites]

One more add: part of my kid's disability affects her ability to control the muscles of her mouth. She has a pretty severe speech impediment because of it.

But we've worked with her to learn to be more conscious of whether her mouth is open or not when she's chewing, and she's learned that. We know it's important because, otherwise, people won't want to eat around her or live with her - and one day, she might want to live on her own and be a good housemate.

There are many things that she will always struggle with; some she will never be able to do. But we work with her to help accommodate her needs. We don't use her disability as a reason to not have any expectations for her - and yes, we have to put in a lot of extra work to support her to achieve those expectations - because the world will have those expectations of her.
posted by jb at 2:32 PM on March 24 [3 favorites]

I was in a similar situation and it was dreadful. Things did get marginally better but not sustainable.

"Please don't speak to me like that" got a lot of use.
"Please put the rubbish in the bin" or "feet off the table" repeatedly.
"What sort of food would you like?" and having a real conversation about it.

I often find I get along well with the neurodivergent kids, even the ones who are utter ratbags at times. A lot of it is directing the energy - they do projects with me, or help me, things like that. So with dinners they were often heavily involved either in design, prep, or whatever. I would be right there with them, and my own kid, and modelling how to engage as a group. Some things I would let be - mouth open chewing is gross at times but between neuro things and physical things and their family habits, I'm not here to change it. Same with sitting at the table because I'm 39 and I still struggle to sit with both feet on the floor at any table - my ex would repeatedly and kindly point it out while we are with our toddler because it is definitely something kids pick up, even without having the same issues I do that make me like that.

Going in the fridge or pantry has always been something I encouraged from the kids unless I was cooking. I set up the most appropriate shelf with assorted snacks for them. It takes a lot of the mental load off the questions and also helps them feel in control. My kid is 11 and she and her friends know they have free range on food except for specifics I point out when necessary. She is healthy and active and her friends are always a bit startled, but it's also why she taught herself to fry eggs for breakfast when she was 8.

Getting kids involved in meal prep is hard work and requires a bit of rearranging to manage. Food you assemble at the table is good, because you can direct them to put things in bowls and set the table up. Salads are good with all the spinning and dressing - someone shakes, someone uses a (very very) large bowl to dress it. Then everyone gets involved with clean up too. You have to learn to break it into concrete small activities, and handle the noise, but it worked really well for me.

Tantrums were something I usually dealt with using a quiet and darker private room, and sitting with the kid. Sometimes actively hauling a toddler off, or one memorable night a first grader who punched his mother, but I did always have someone else to take over other things. These kids weren't bad kids - one has ADHD and low muscle tone, the other is gifted and I think was traumatised at some point, and all were dealing with huge changes to their lives. That comes out in a lot of challenging behaviours. Not taking them personally is key, or when it is personal, talking to the kid properly.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:06 PM on March 24 [3 favorites]

I used to struggle with this a lot. Now, as the parent of children with autism who has learned an awful lot about inclusion, I have a different view. To me, it sounds like either the child or their parents is neurodiverse. It could also be family culture or exhaustion on the part of the family. I would talk to your kids about inclusion and how some kids are at different ages and stages. Re-orient your child to focusing on their own behaviours.

To me, it sounds like this may be a child with autism, ADHD, sensory needs and emotional dysregulation who needs your kindness and support.

I didn't get all this and used to avoid parents/kids who had those behaviours. Then things started to change for my kids and we're the ones people might avoid and I have learned so much about what I thought was manners or controllable. It can be a neurodiversity and things like single parenting, poverty, family violence, burnout, family support gaps and childcare gaps may make other families vulnerable. I am not the "perfect parent" I once was and that's because those gaps eventually became more obvious.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 3:37 PM on March 24 [4 favorites]

If food is a regular point of contention, perhaps the child would feel more comfortable eating food from home.
posted by oceano at 8:29 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]

While I don't think it's unreasonable to ask visiting children follow household rules, I don't think this child has the toolkit to succeed in your household right now. Since there are no alternative pod arrangements, as the adult you have two options 1) keep the status quo (and nothing changes) 2) take a more "hands on approach" -- try to help the child get as many tools in her tool kit as possible, pick your battles, and try to eliminate pain points.

A metafilter favorite is The Explosive Child.
posted by oceano at 9:40 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]

I would strongly advise NOT saying judgemental things about another person’s family or manners, as in “That kid hasn’t learned good manners” type comments.

It’s snobby and mean, you certainly don’t want your kids repeating it at somebody else’s house, and it could easily veer into classism and racism when cultural differences arise.

I’d talk about specific behaviours and just be matter of fact with no value judgements. “Our family does it like this.” “I’m more comfortable with this.”

Our opinions of what’s good or rude or whatever matter to some extent, but we need to remember they’re just opinions, and moreover, they’re heavily steeped in our personal cultural values, which are not not inherently superior to other people’s cultures!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 3:06 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]

Kind of surprised at the masses throwing diagnoses at this child--there isn't even near enough information in this question to begin thinking about a potential diagnosis. I say this as an adult with ADHD who has worked extensively with special needs children. This really could just be a poorly behaved kid who has never learned boundaries, especially given the flippant response by the parents. Sometimes kids are socially inappropriate because there kids who haven't been taught better.

How do you approach it? That's hard if not impossible to say without knowing what you're dealing with. If it's a child with ADHD or another condition, grace is definitely called for, but it's still important--infact, it's more important--to set those firm boundaries, because how else will they ever learn? Kids, in their most basic form, come into this world feral little things that need to be gently taught the ways of the world if they are going to grow and succeed in this world. The parents may be responding flippantly because they're exhausted and need to pick their battles, to be fair. But this child still needs to learn. Set gentle boundaries and stick with them firmly. Have a conversation with the parents--"In our house these are our rules. Can you help [child] learn and follow them?"

But I'm really, really unconvinced that this is a neurodiverse kid exhibiting symptoms of a developmental condition. This honestly sounds like it could just be a child who hasn't been taught proper manners or boundaries acting in the only way they know how.... and then falling apart when they're told no or redirected, which is unfamiliar and frustrating and overwhelming when you're in first grade. It could be a typical child who feels the stressors of this crazy time more potently and is struggling to cope, hence the tantrums.

So what do you do? Well... there's not too much you can do. It's not your kid. You talk to the parents and ask for their help in setting those firm boundaries. You continue to gently but firmly enforce the boundaries while she (?) is there, but if you don't have parental support here you're simply not going to have much luck. Then you need to decide if this child and their family are important enough in your life for you to simply overlook the more challenging behaviors. Continue to do your best at gentle enforcement, but you may be in a position where you either need to accept the behaviors or slowly start untangling this family from your life. It sounds like this may be your child's best friend or a family member, which is a hard call, but there is always a way to create more distance and set firmer boundaries.

As for your daughter? You tell her "xyz behavior is unacceptable and we don't allow that in her house. We have told [child]'s parents and they'll be talking to her." And then you change the subject and move on.
posted by Amy93 at 5:29 PM on March 26 [5 favorites]

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