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Play By the Rules 3.18.09

...but whose rules? What do you do when you don't agree with the rules at your child's friends' houses?

The first thing you need to do is think about your rules. Ask yourself the following questions:

Will breaking this rule cause my child physical, psychological, or spiritual harm? You may not allow your child to drink soda, but is it a big deal if he drinks soda at a friend's house? It can be if your child has certain medical conditions. Maybe you're okay with suspending the rules on soda, but you want the rules on watching R-rated movies to be hard and fast because you know your daughter is sensitive to violent scenes. Remembering why you've created these rules can be a good guide to how you feel about them being suspended at a friend's house.

What does suspending the rules say to your child? If you let your kids abide by the rules at their friends' houses, what does that say about your rules? Talk to your kids about why you have the rules, and why it's important to abide by them no matter where they are, or, when it's appropriate to make an exception.

Is your child mature enough? Your child may be mature enough to politely refuse a certain activity/movie/food/etc. and abide by your rules. In fact, your child may even be able to model positive behavior and have a beneficial impact on his/her friends.

Having a conversation with the parents is not out of the question, but remember that they have the right to make their own decisions and it's not your place to tell them what to do. However, a candid conversation may be beneficial. Some points to remember:

Talk about the kids. Talk to the parents about your kids and why you've developed these rules for them. Don't make this conversation about you or them.

Talk about your rules. Other parents may not be comfortable with the rules you have, so make it a two-way conversation.

Get to know them. Don't just barge in on people you don't know, or make judgements before you know the whole situation. Invite your children's friends and their parents over for a BBQ or dinner and get to know them. The conversation may come up naturally.

This is one of the most difficult situations you as a dad can face, and it will only get more complex as you get older. Developing relationships with friends' families and keeping a healthy relationship with your child will make this process easier and keep open important lines of communication.

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