Setting Boundaries For Kid’s Friends

Last Updated on February 24, 2022 by Single Dad In Diego

I have a hard time trying to “parent” kids that are not my own. The problem for me is when friends are with us and not obeying the rules. Because of that I often struggle with setting boundaries for kids’ friends.

So how do you go about setting boundaries for kids’ friends? Just because kid’s friends are not your kids does not mean they can get away with anything they want. This holds true when they are at your home or when they are under your supervision out and about. Set consistent and simple boundaries for ALL of the kids and be consistent in your enforcement of those boundaries for ALL of the kids.

I try to take a two-phased approach to setting boundaries for kid’s friends:

  1. Make them adhere to the same rules as your own kids
  2. Have constant communication and dialogue with their parents

I feel all parents should work together to make sure all kids are behaving properly and positively. If other parents have an issue with setting boundaries for kids’ friends, it may be a sign that you should not have your kids “hanging out” with their kids.

Setting Boundaries For Kid's Friends

This should not be about any deeply involved parenting styles or skills. Setting boundaries for kids’ friends should be about common sense. 

Every parent has their own unique set of rules and parenting style. You should never try to match their style when their kids are with you.

For starters that would be virtually impossible. In addition, they may make choices that you do not agree with and thus it will be hard to enforce that choice when their kids are with you.

Setting boundaries for kids’ friends should be more of a “macro” level of parenting. Simple and repeatable things you would assume most parents would expect from their children.

Things as simple as saying “please” and “thank you.” Being respectful of the people and the things in your home. Having your kid’s friends expecting the same in return from you and your kids.

Working With Other Parents Setting Boundaries for Kids Friends

Since we are not talking about overly complicated parenting skills, there may not be too involved a discussion about rules that are set. When one of my kid’s friends is with my kids, I do not sit them down and give them a long list of rules I expect them to follow. 

I watch how they are all behaving and interacting and then respond accordingly if necessary. I tend to deal with minor issues on a case-by-case basis without immediately sending a text to that child’s parents.

If issues become major or there’s a continued pattern of problem behavior, that is when a friendly discussion with the child’s parent should occur. Even in this situation, I am always mindful of how I would feel if I was that parent. 

I do not want other parents telling me how to raise my children. When setting boundaries for kids’ friends, I do not want to come across as trying to do the same with their kids.

A great way to approach this is by letting the other parents know how you expect your kids to behave in their home. I always tell other parents that I expect my kids to behave and listen to them. 

I tell my kids the same thing. Just because other adults are not your parents does not give you permission to act disrespectfully.

I feel that when other parents know what you expect of your kids in their care, they will be much more open to the notion of expecting the same when their kids are in your care.

How To Know What Rules To Set

Let’s start with a real-world example to explain this concept. One of my kid’s friends has limits on the amount of screen time he gets when he’s at home.

The precise amounts are not that important for me. What is more important is knowing that the parents want to limit how much screen time the child gets. So in this scenario of setting boundaries for a kid’s friends, I try to limit the amount of screen time he gets at my home.

Setting Boundaries For Kid's Friends

Not only does this dovetail into what the parents want for their child, but it also strikes at the entire notion of why the child is at your home. If they are coming over to “play” with your kids, in my mind that does not mean spending hours sitting in front of a television.

If the child in question balks at the limits, my response is often “if you want to watch TV you should probably just go to your house.” Of course, the child knows that when they do go to their house they will not be able to watch because of the limits that are imposed. 

They then have the choice of do they want to stay and play by the rules or do they want to go. As you can see this does not make you overbearing in any way. In setting boundaries for kid’s friends you are proposing gentle boundaries on how they may behave with you and your kids. If they are not interested in doing something so simple, they have the choice to leave.

How Do Your Own Kids Fit Into This Plan

When setting boundaries for kids’ friends, let your kids know that their friends have to follow the rules. Tell them that if they are not doing so, it is their job to let their friends know.

One way this hits home with my kids is when it is time to clean up. When their friends leave cups, dishes, or toys behind I tell my kids it is their job to clean it up.

As you might imagine my kids might grumble at this. I use the old tried-and-true “they’re your friends not mine” to explain why it is their job to clean up after them.

When your kids begin to see it this way, they are much more apt to be diligent in making sure their friends are following the simple rules that are in place for all of them.

Should you try to “punish” or “discipline” your kid’s friends?

It is certainly your choice, but for me, the answer is absolutely not. My “nuclear option” is always just sending the friends home. I do not want to get in the habit of trying to discipline or punish other people’s kids. I will give gentle reminders when the rules are being broken, but beyond that, if kids do not want to listen to the rules then they simply have to leave.