The Perp: The Bad Influence
Your kids get along beautifully, but your values clash. Your child loves going over to Bad-Influence Mom's house because she lets the kids drink soda by the liter and play M-rated video games -- even though you've asked her not to.
How to deal: Without judging, make one last attempt to explain to this mom why you set your rules and how important they are to you, says Adam Wasson, author of Eats, Poops, and Leaves. "Telling a parent that she's a bad example will just upset her," he says. "All she hears is, 'I'm better than you.'"
If nothing changes after your chat, you have two choices: Make your house the "fun" house (best snacks, coolest G-rated activities) where the kids want to hang out, or relegate this friendship to in-school hours only. Yes, your child may be upset, but children also get upset when you don't let them eat Krispy Kremes for dinner.
The Perp: The Wimp
This mom lets her child flaunt every rule because she can't or won't stand up to him. At a playdate, she pretends not to notice when her kid hits yours. When you take the kids to the park, she lets her child feed the ducks, even though the sign forbids it. Wimpy Mom takes pride in being "laid-back," which really means she never disciplines her child -- she just wants to be his best friend.
How to deal: Be passive-aggressive. Instead of calling this mom's attention to the problem, get down on one knee and enlist her kid's cooperation: "Hey guys, let's use our words if we want something," or "Those ducks are going to get a tummy ache if we feed them crackers." If Wimpy Mom sees you talking to her child, don't shoot her a dirty look. "Give her one that says, 'I'm stepping in, because we all know it takes a village,'" says Wasson.
In the long term, cut back on playdates with this parent. You don't want to get stuck being the bad guy all the time, and your child will get frustrated seeing other kids break rules he has to follow.
The Perp: Thoughtless Mom
She shows up late for playdates, changes her baby's poopy diaper on your living-room couch, then plops it into your kitchen trash can. This mom is more oblivious than rude -- she's too overwhelmed or self-involved to realize how her behavior affects others.
How to deal: Coping with this mom requires a combination of backbone and funny bone. There's no point in getting offended; you need to set boundaries and protect your turf -- be it your time or furniture. "During a playdate, a parent started changing a dirty diaper on my coffee table next to the food!" recalls Wasson. "I swooped in with a big smile and said, 'Oh, look, we have a changing table right over here!' I almost grabbed the half-naked baby." Keep your tone apologetic and hospitable, like you know she would have done the right thing if she only knew where the changing table was.
You can cure recurring lateness by always ending playdates with this parent on time, regardless of how late they start, says Wasson. Apologize for the "previous commitment" that you simply can't miss, and let her know --pleasantly -- that you hope the kids will get their full two hours together next time.
Copyright © 2007. Reprinted with permission from the May 2007 issue of Parents magazine.