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A couple of kids recently moved into the neighborhood and they are great kids that my daughter is having a really good time with. Rules at their house are pretty lax - they can go all over the neighborhood (as far as three blocks) on their bikes and even visit other houses while mom doesn't actually know where they are at.

I am absolutely comfortable with having them at my house and with my daughter bicycling with these kids when I am in earshot, but as we are in a neighborhood where there have been wild dog attacks not too far away, I prefer that my daughter stay in view of the house and that she report to me whenever changing households (going inside) just so I know which house she is visiting.

My inclination is to do what I can to encourage the kids to play at our place and insist my safety rules be followed even if she does visit the other's houses. When she is visiting elsewhere though, how do I politely (to the other parents, I don't really care about being polite on this front with my daughter) insist on things like checking in with me say - before lunchtime, at 2:30ish and before dinner or before switching houses as well as staying within view of my house - there is also a third friend they all like to go "visit." (both parents live within a few blocks from here, but are separated so the other kids go back and forth quite a bit - all houses in question are in view of each-other except the father's house.)

A part of this question is also, how reasonable is it for me to expect my seven year old to be able to express what my rules are for her, remember them and follow them? The kids are all six, seven and eight (two eight year olds), mine is currently seven.

In the past, she hasn't been allowed to be on her own - usually I'm working on the garden, or in the garage (with the door open) and at least hearing things if not seeing them. I get concerned when things suddenly become quiet (which is why I insist she tell me before going inside to any of the other houses). However, she is starting to want to go visit the others at other times too (when I am inside) so I'm trying to figure out where to draw the line (the dog thing is truly of concern to me - a woman was killed here not long ago, I keep mace near always etc etc. but is not of concern to the other parents)

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4 Answers 4

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Your rules are not too difficult for a 7-year-old to remember and follow on her own. When I was that age, I was allowed to go visit my friend who lived down the road, but my mom's rules were explicit. You have permission to go to X person's house. You are NOT to be anywhere else and you are to be home by X time. If I find out otherwise, you are in serious trouble and it will be a long time before you are allowed to visit X on your own again. Comparatively, your rules are lax (I would never have been allowed to leave X's house and walk to Y's house even if I called to tell my mom I was going there first!). Just from what you've posted about Alice, she seems more than capable of handling this kind of thing on her own as long as she has the right tools to do so and you've made your expectations clear, and this is an excellent growth and development opportunity for her.

If your expectations are for her to check in with you on a regular basis, I think you need to define what is ok as far as checking in goes. Is a phone call acceptable or does she need to make a physical appearance? Otherwise, break it up:

  • Before she moves from one house to another, she must ALWAYS check in with you. Period. No questions asked. If that is what makes you comfortable, then that should be the rule. If she violates it then you will deal with the situation accordingly. You have a perfectly logical reason for your expectations.
  • If you expect her to check in on a regular basis, like if she's playing with her friends for most of the afternoon, I would remind her at her previous check-in. So, when she leaves the house for the first time in the morning (say, 1030 or so), tell her that you expect her to check in at noon. Then when she checks in at noon tell her that you expect to hear from her again at 230 or something. If she has a cell phone or something that she carries with her, she might need to set an alarm so she remembers. Kids get busy playing and won't pay attention to the time.

I wouldn't worry about explaining anything to the other parents. If Alice knows the rules, then the other parents don't necessarily need to be involved. If you want to explain your rules to the others, there's no reason why you shouldn't and it might be nice to know they'd help remind her if she comes over to play, but I guess I was always raised with the expectation that if I was mature enough to visit a friend's house on my own, then I better be mature enough to check in when my mom told me to whether an adult reminded me or not. If a phone call is acceptable but she doesn't have a cell phone, the other parents might appreciate knowing that she'll need to use their phone from time to time.

If you choose to address the situation with the other parents, I'd simply say, "Alice knows she needs to check in with me from time to time. I'd appreciate it if you'd make sure she checks in like she's supposed to." If they ask questions, just answer simply. BUT if you expect Alice to check in multiple times during a play session, I would not make that their responsibility. Give her the tools to keep track of the time on her own (a watch with an alarm, a cell phone, even an ipod) and expect her to be responsible enough to check in with you at appropriate times. Parents are parents and I think we all understand that every parent loves their child(ren) as much as we love our own children. We all want our kids to be safe, and most parents I know understand that we all kind of go about keeping our kids safe in different ways. They might go about it differently, but I can't imagine them taking issue with your request, and there is no reason why they shouldn't be able to let Alice use their phone to call you or whatever.

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3  
I agree with this. At the start of each play session, it would be good to review the rules that you expect her to follow. You might also add something about TV or video games if that's something you watch at home. Both my daughters had to call and check before they were allowed to watch anything over PG until they actually turned 13. Never was a problem, we told the girls to blame us for being overprotective if it made it easier for them. –  Marc Jan 19 at 16:39
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The ideas about having her wear an alarm to remind her about check in times are especially helpful as that would be the expectation she would most likely have a difficult time living up to - an alarm will remind her what is up and she can run back over to our house to check in. I could even set two alarms on a device so she had a "warning" alarm to help clean up - at the end of her time for play before the alarm to tell her to come home. –  balanced mama Jan 19 at 17:44
    
@balancedmama you could even give a watch or other gizmo that can store several alarms, and just set these alarms for her before she leaves home. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 20 at 6:42

Seems to me that it mostly should be up to your daughter to follow these rules on her own, if she can. Unless one of the other parents is explicitly tasked with watching the group (as opposed to all of you watching sporadically from indoors), it doesn't sound like you're really "passing the baton" so to speak. Keeping in view of your house is certainly something that she should be able to remember to do (most of the time), as well as periodic check-ins. If she's mature enough to be playing on her own outside, seems to me she should be able to remember to check in.

As far as the other parents go, since your rules are not particularly cumbersome, it seems like it should be a fairly easy conversation. "Could you remind my daughter to check in with me if she comes over, or if the girls are heading over to house?" seems like a pretty reasonable request, and something another parent should understand. You're not placing expectations on them to monitor or limit their children, after all, nor criticizing their parenting.

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She isn't completely on her own - usually I'm working on the garden, or in the garage (with the door open) and at least hearing things if not seeing them. I get concerned when things suddenly become quiet (which is why I insist she tell me before going inside to any of the other houses). However, she is starting to want to go visit the others at other times too (when I am inside) so I'm trying to figure out where to draw the line (the dog thing is truly of concern to me - a woman was killed here not long ago, I keep mace near always etc etc. but is not of concern to the other parents). –  balanced mama Jan 19 at 1:08

Firstly: politely requesting help and a oiding misunderstanding with other parents. Your request is totally reasonable, but sometimes people are hyperaware where children are concerned.

One approach is to tell the other parents how happy you are that the children are friends. Then say that you're trying to get your child to follow some rules which are X, Y, Z but that the child might be a bit forgetful and that you'd be really grateful if the parent could help remind the child if she forgets. Then finish up with some more happy positive stuff about how great their kids are.

By requesting help for your own child you are focussing on what is important to you - your child's safety, and not on things that could cause distracting discussion or argument - the other parents lack of rules.

By sandwiching the request in two positive bits of feedback you further avoid the potential for misunderstanding.

Allowing growing children to have more freedom is scary. I think that setting some rules early helps the child learn that you knowing where they are is not punitive or preventative. You are not trying to recuce the child's freedom. You are in fact helping the child develop sensible boundaries. With luck this will hold into the teenage years.

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What you first should try and understand is that this matter is with your daughter, your rules and your household. So the rules and an agreement need to be met between you and your daughter ( only) explain to her that SHE is your daughter, SHE is your responsiblilty and how much you love her. Than let her know if your rules are broken. She and only she will be responsible. If any rules are broken visits with friends are over, for a reasonable amount of time or until further notice. Remember be consistant when grounding or discipling. Meaning if you say a week, make sure to inforce it.

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