We all have a point in our parenting when our children do something awful around another family's children. If you haven't had that humbling experience yet - just wait. Your time will come. I have been called to the carpet about a number of poor child behaviors, everything from having boys who are too rough, to little girls with potty-mouths, to kids of all ages who like to take their clothes off in public. At the same time, I have found myself in situations where I have had to address less-than-pleasant behavior by children that don't belong to me. Generally when the children (who are all works-in-progress let's remember) act inappropriately and the parents aren't there, I just address it with the children. I am much more comfortable telling children "we don't do/say that in our house", than I am calling a friend to tattle-tale. But some of us aren't comfortable correcting other people's children, sometimes it just isn't appropriate to correct them, and sometime you do correct them and the problem persists. Below is a list of Dos and Don'ts when addressing your friend regarding her child's behavior when your friend was not around.
The Do's and Don'ts
2. Do... Talk about it before an issue arrises. If you are around a friend's children on a consistent basis (traveling together? carpools?), ask them first how they want you to handle the inevitable. Do they want you to address it at the time or do they want to address it themselves? This also gives you the chance to tell them your preferences too and opens the door for more friendly conversations when problems arise. I recently asked a friend and she wisely and honestly responded "I don't want to know anything about little sibling bickering. I already tell them to be nice to one another all day long! It will mean more if you just tell them".
3. Do... Be complimentary ."I know you are really on top of your parenting and would want to know".
4. Do... Stick to the Facts. Come right out and say what the actual problem is without emotionalizing the situation or rationalizing anything.
5. Do... Provide context about what happened. Were the kids bickering all day before your child hit hers or did it seem to happen out of the blue. Were they telling jokes to each other and trying to be funny? What happened right before the naughtiness? Had you asked them to stop? How much did you witness?
6. Do... Recognize you live in a glass house. Today it is your friend's child but someday it will be your own child. Our kids are works-in-progress as are we! Keep that in mind especially when it comes to raising an issue. Is it really a big deal?
7. Don't... Blame older siblings. This makes it sound like the parent doesn't have a handle on what older kids say (which we usually don't -but still don't say that!), and implies that they maybe let things slide with the younger ones.
8. Don't... Assume this is an ongoing problem about which they are aware. This really may only happen when you or other parents are around. Pointing out "I am sure you know..." makes it all the worse if they did NOT know.
9. Don't... Assume this is something that they aren't addressing at home. Usually parents are very aware of their own children's faults. They may be very frustrated that their tactics at home are not working. If this is something that you have addressed before and their child persists in naughtiness, what makes you think they could fix it easily if they just knew?
10. Don't... Preface it with how you feel. "I feel so bad, I am so uncomfortable, I don't want you to be mad..." Just tell them the problem.
11. Don't threaten. "I want our kids to be able to still hang out but...(but if this continues they can't)" You don't even need to complete the sentence to be offensive. This whole line of thought sends the message that a. you wouldn't otherwise take the situation seriously, b. there is a likelihood that the child is going to keep being naughty, and c. your child is too good to be around their demon child. Generally not ideas you want to convey to your friends.
Recognize we are all on the same team. You can't and shouldn't be the only adult guiding your children's actions. We all have the same general goal of raising good citizens that we would someday want to spend extended periods of time with. Make sure your conversation conveys that 'team' attitude and comes from a loving, nonjudgmental heart, and I am sure it will go well.