Author Topic: Help! How can my son politely ask a friend to stop by less often?  (Read 7958 times)

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ArcticChick

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"How can I get *classmate* to not come here so often?" My 11 year old son asked me today.

This boy is here daily, and often several times a day - including in the morning, to go with DS to school.

I am blessed with one grown bonus-daughter and one bio-child, a very popular boy. He has a best friend, a couple of close friends, and a number of acquaintances who would like to spend more time with him than he wishes to spend with them.

DS likes this particular boy...but doesn't want to spend as much time with him as he wishes. According to DS he has lots of other friends. But he likes DS best. DS and his best friend (since they were 3) spend time together every day. But DS does not wish to spend that sort of time with any one other friend. He would like to have this boy over maybe once or twice a week.

Unless we have other plans or scheduled events, DS may have as many kids as he wishes visiting him at any time. At mealtimes, for example, we just feed whomever is here and hungry. On weekends several friends typically spend the night at our house. Both DH  and I mostly work from home, so the kids are seldom or never alone. But the neighborhood is safe and the boys are increasingly independent, so mostly they take care of themselves.

DS has tried to put limits on the boy in question, including saying "I don't want you to visit me today," and "don't come over until 2 pm, please." The friend has respected these, in part, but in part ignored them. And when this boy does show up after DS has requested he not do so, DS invariably has other friends over already, and does not feel able to dis-include him. So he gets to join the pack.

I find myself unable to help DS find ways to be more assertive with his friend, and better at setting limits and sticking to them. I suck at setting and enforcing boundaries. Frankly, DS already has a stronger, shinier spine than I. I cherish DS' ability to set limits, and want to nurture and support it. But I don't know how. So I am hoping you Ehellions can help me feed DS some good strategies/conversational lines.

Some background:

I am struggling with how to help DS set limits with his friends in part because DH and I place a very high value on inclusion. We have always made our open-door policy is contingent on no child being excluded from whatever him and his friends are doing.

That may seem odd to you Ehellions. But the backdrop for that absolute house rule is that where we live is extremely socially excluding: most groups of friends are made up of families that have known each other for generations. DH and I, for example, have known each other since I was 12, and our great-grandparents were neighbors. It is extremely hard for any outsider to decipher the social codes, and nearly impossible for any new arrival to gain access to an established social group.

Until very recently this region was extremely homogeneous: 95% of us natives are blue-eyed, nominally protestant blondes, with a smattering of discriminated-against indigenous peoples minority population. Immigration is a very recent phenomenon. Racism and religious bigotry are rampant and frighteningly socially acceptable among adults as well as children. DS is among the very few kids who has an ethnically and religiously diverse group of friends. To ensure that this remains so, we enforce an extremely strict no-bullying, no exclusion policy. We do not tolerate any "us against them" behavior, and have kicked DS' friends out on the few occasions where the group did not respect this rule.

Up here most kids his age have a lot of unstructured time to play. All his friends live close enough to each other to bike to each others' houses. We live in the far north, and now and for all of the summer the sun never sets. It literally is light as day, all day and all night. Most kids get to stay up later, and all the kids bike themselves home until bedtime. They leave between 8 and 9 pm, but on weekends and during the summer most of the neighborhood kids are up until midnight.

Most kids have mobile phones, and often DS friends will phone rather than show up at our doorstep unannounced. But not always. And our immediate neighborhood kids will invariably just show up. And if we don't answer the doorbell, they will walk right in our (mostly unlocked) front door. (Our dogs bark, so any entrant does get announced). For our part of the world, this is the norm.

So...suggestions? Comments? Questions? I will be grateful for any and all feedback you may provide.

Respect, love & thanks from this community newbie
« Last Edit: June 15, 2014, 08:19:36 PM by ArcticChick »

Mergatroyd

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Re: Help! How can my son politely ask a friend to stop by less often?
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2014, 08:40:05 PM »
What happens if kid shows up and your DS is not home?

TootsNYC

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Re: Help! How can my son politely ask a friend to stop by less often?
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2014, 08:49:06 PM »
I think that maybe you need to set up some sort of rule that applies to everybody--everyone must text or phone first, no dropping by.

"Sorry, guys--it's my mom's rule, and she's fierce about it." Be the bad guy--that's your job.

And then, be fierce about it. Nobody may just come to your house without being invited.

And you can say to these kids, under the rule that you get to say how you want to be treated (and that this is not usurping someone else's parenting): "Sorry, boys, you can't just invite yourself to our house. You'll have to leave, and DS can't just go with you, because you didn't follow the rule. So he'll stay home, and tomorrow you can try again to get together."

And then once that is established, DS and you can work on saying things like, "No, now's not a good time, I'm getting together with other people."  (edited to cross that out--no need to say that, it's hurtful.)


Explain this "they may not invite themselves, and I'll be the bad guy" strategy to your son--it sounds like he's savvy enough to get it, and to be willing to go along with a few disappointments (where someone he'd like to see dropped by without calling).

Also get DS to be proactive in planning with the people he *does* want to spend time with.
 
I think it's time to relax this:

Quote
I am struggling with how to help DS set limits with his friends in part because DH and I place a very high value on inclusion. We have always made our open-door policy is contingent on no child being excluded from whatever him and his friends are doing.

Because your son has a *right* to exclude people from whatever he is doing. He gets to pick his friends. Now that your son is older, he has every right to say, "I don't want to spend time with this person, and I -do- want to spend time with this person."

You've done the work of making sure your son has friends who are not of his narrow race/culture/family background. Great work!

Now let him pick his friends based on their actions and their personalities. That's his right.

If you stick with the rule of yours that I've quoted, you rob your son of the right to choose his friends. And you force him into the situation where he can't refuse to be friends with someone just because -they- want to be friends with him. That's really unfair to him.

Of course it's hard to set limits--you won't let him!

So, by setting up this basic etiquette rule--it is rude, rude, rude to invite oneself to someone else's home--and enforcing it at *your* house, you give your son the tool to determine whether he'll be friends with someone.

He chooses whether to include them at his home. They can choose to invite him to theirs. And that way, no one is being excluded, because nobody's sending them home. The only thing that happens is selective inclusion. Which is how it is supposed to work.

   And you'll be setting an example for those kids too--because it's a universal etiquette rule that inviting yourself to someone else's home (which is what "dropping by" is) isn't polite. So now start enforcing it, so that your house is not one of the exceptions to this standard rule.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2014, 08:55:58 PM by TootsNYC »

ArcticChick

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Re: Help! How can my son politely ask a friend to stop by less often?
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2014, 08:50:35 PM »
Thanks for asking, Mergatroyd. We say, "DS isn't here." We often but not always tell him where DS is (usually visiting another friend). And the classmate says "OK" and leaves. Sometimes he asks when DS will be back, or asks him to call. But usually he just goes home or visits someone else.

TootsNYC -

lots of food for thought in your excellent response. I need to digest it a bit, but my immediate reaction is that you are right that I need to lighten up on the "everyone or no-one" rule. Your point - now that you have pointed it out to me - seems exactly right: DS does have a right to choose his friends.

But having taken that in I struggle with the possible consequence that DS joins/forms an in-crowd, and excludes the interesting but less conventional kids. I have seen those tendencies...and if I let him pick and choose and close the door to kids at will, I do fear that he (and I) will contribute to further marginalizing the kids that by nature, nurture, circumstance or personality already struggle to find their place among their peers. I am not talking about foisting on DS time with kids he can't stand or with whom he has nothing in common. Rather, I am thinking about the kid with ADHD, or parents with substance abuse issues, or the awkwardly large boy who sucks at sports...kids whose company DS does enjoy, but whom his peer group see as borderline reject-losers. Peer-pressure and the pressure to conform is vicious up here, and I do think these more awkward kids may be included in the neighborhood gang of kids in part because we insist upon it as a condition of any kids spending time in our house and garden.

Thank any and all deities, I do not think DS would exclude kids based on ethnicity, country of origin or religion. Some of his friends have floated bigot trial balloons, and he has clearly and unequivocally shot them down. So my anxiety is more about contributing to sorting the kids into A and B teams, socially, based on their having some trait or circumstance that makes being their friend a bit more work.

I am immediately in love the idea of enforcing a "call first" rule. That is very not the norm up here, though. So it may not be practical. And if I tried, I think both parents and kids would find it a very prickly, overly demanding move.  What typically happens is that a pack of kids drift around the neighborhood and go from house to other garden to next house...and kids come and go, so the group is constantly forming, changing, breaking up into smaller groups and getting back together again, from early afternoon until bedtime. It is kind of the opposite of scheduled playdates or visits.  But I will mull...hard. Because you are absolutely right: having such a rule, and having me be the bad guy who insists upon it, would solve a host of problems. And during the winter, when it is dark and kids do need rides to visit friends and are mostly indoors, it may be perfect.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2014, 09:16:27 PM by ArcticChick »

PastryGoddess

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Re: Help! How can my son politely ask a friend to stop by less often?
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2014, 09:27:59 PM »
It's also not rude to tell this boy that you are not having visitors and he needs to go home.  If he asks why, just repeat that you're not having visitors and he needs to go home. 

TootsNYC

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Re: Help! How can my son politely ask a friend to stop by less often?
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2014, 09:33:45 PM »
It's also not rude to tell this boy that you are not having visitors and he needs to go home.  If he asks why, just repeat that you're not having visitors and he needs to go home.

Of course, if there *are* other visitors (i.e., her son's friends whom he has invited over, and with whom he would -like- to spend time.

The OP has set it up so that Clingy Boy only has to say, "But they're here! Why can't I be?"

So if the answer is, "We invited them, we didn't invite you," that's sort of hurtful. But if it's delivered as: "Nobody can come in our home unless we have invited them first."

Tea Drinker

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Re: Help! How can my son politely ask a friend to stop by less often?
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2014, 09:34:39 PM »
Maybe rather than having a rule that everyone can drop in all the time, you could have specific everyone-can-drop-in days and times (even if it's Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, from noon until bedtime, the point is that the door isn't open all the time). That would reduce the amount of time classmate is there by meaning he didn't come over before school.

The other thing is that you should probably think about what circumstances, if any, would lead to you modifying the category of who can drop in. I suspect that there are behaviors that would lead to you saying "this child is not welcome in our home, because it's not safe to have them here." (You may not have thought about it, because the obvious things, like physically attacking your son out of the blue, haven't come up.) It's probably healthier to have the rule be "we aren't going to exclude anyone without a specific reason that makes sense to us"--that means nobody is excluded because of their skin color or accent or who their grandparents are, but you don't feel compelled to invite someone who repeatedly steals from your son and his classmates.

I could go on about geek social fallacies and the dangers of refusing to ever exclude anyone, but that wouldn't address your practical question of how to say "yes, you can hang out here, but not every day." For that, try the time-constrained version, and see how it goes.
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Onyx_TKD

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Re: Help! How can my son politely ask a friend to stop by less often?
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2014, 09:36:18 PM »
Unless we have other plans or scheduled events, DS may have as many kids as he wishes visiting him at any time. At mealtimes, for example, we just feed whomever is here and hungry. On weekends several friends typically spend the night at our house. Both DH  and I mostly work from home, so the kids are seldom or never alone. But the neighborhood is safe and the boys are increasingly independent, so mostly they take care of themselves.

DS has tried to put limits on the boy in question, including saying "I don't want you to visit me today," and "don't come over until 2 pm, please." The friend has respected these, in part, but in part ignored them. And when this boy does show up after DS has requested he not do so, DS invariably has other friends over already, and does not feel able to dis-include him. So he gets to join the pack.
...
I am struggling with how to help DS set limits with his friends in part because DH and I place a very high value on inclusion. We have always made our open-door policy is contingent on no child being excluded from whatever him and his friends are doing.
...
Most kids have mobile phones, and often DS friends will phone rather than show up at our doorstep unannounced. But not always. And our immediate neighborhood kids will invariably just show up. And if we don't answer the doorbell, they will walk right in our (mostly unlocked) front door. (Our dogs bark, so any entrant does get announced). For our part of the world, this is the norm.

Sorry, but I think your family will need to revise one or more of your rules to make this work. Right now, based on what you've said:
1. Kids can show up and even walk right in at any time without any advance notice.
2. Once they've shown up, they may not be excluded. (I.e., your son has to choose between inviting Classmate in or kicking everyone out.)
3. There is no limit on when or how many kids he can have over, so he can't even use that as an excuse to turn anyone away.

These rules as stated basically allow other children to hold your son hostage in his own home--he has to host them whenever they wish, or he can't have any other friends over. Your son sounds like he's embraced your inclusiveness philosophy, so is it still necessary to have such a strict rule about it? He doesn't want to exclude this kid entirely, or exclude him because he's different. Instead, he just doesn't want to spend every waking moment with the kid and wants to spend time with other friends without him. I agree with Toots that this is a right kids ought to have. Not liking every single person on earth (much less just wanting to spend a little less time with otherwise-likeable individuals) isn't being exclusive and intolerant, it's normal.

If you want your son to establish boundaries, then the rules have to permit him to establish those boundaries. Requiring kids to call first before coming over, like Toots suggested, would make it easier to control who was invited at any given time without them knowing whether he was hosting other kids. Another possibility would be to set a rule that having more than X friends over at once has to be cleared with his parents (choose a fairly low number). Then, if Classmate (or another kid) shows up unannounced when it's obvious Son already has guests, Son can "check" with you. If it's someone he doesn't want to include, you can be the bad guy saying "no" because there are too many people over already. Note that this would allow you to keep an eye on who's being included and when, so you could have a chat about being inclusive if you spotted a problem. Whether he already has guests or not, it's perfectly polite for Son to say "Sorry, it's not a good time" or "Sorry, not today" without having to justify why, but your house rules have to allow him to do that.

TootsNYC

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Re: Help! How can my son politely ask a friend to stop by less often?
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2014, 09:38:25 PM »
Maybe rather than having a rule that everyone can drop in all the time, you could have specific everyone-can-drop-in days and times (even if it's Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, from noon until bedtime, the point is that the door isn't open all the time). That would reduce the amount of time classmate is there by meaning he didn't come over before school.

But why should the OP's son have to have him there at all? Maybe he doesn't even really want him around that often! Maybe he doesn't want to be close friends with this kid. He shouldn't be required to.
   "Freedom of association" is a fundamental American right--I know the OP isn't in America, but it's still frankly an important *human* right. You should get to choose who you spend your time with.
   Just because they like -you- shouldn't mean that you are stuck with them.

Quote
The other thing is that you should probably think about what circumstances, if any, would lead to you modifying the category of who can drop in. I suspect that there are behaviors that would lead to you saying "this child is not welcome in our home, because it's not safe to have them here." (You may not have thought about it, because the obvious things, like physically attacking your son out of the blue, haven't come up.) It's probably healthier to have the rule be "we aren't going to exclude anyone without a specific reason that makes sense to us"--that means nobody is excluded because of their skin color or accent or who their grandparents are, but you don't feel compelled to invite someone who repeatedly steals from your son and his classmates.

Again--the OP's son shouldn't have to come up with a "good enough" reason to not want to be close buddies with this kid. It's completely not appropriate to say, "you have to welcome him into your home, and into your inner circle of friends, becuse he isn't a thief." Maybe he's just annoying and clingy and needy and has no boundaries (which is what it sounds like).
   We often tell grownups here at EHell that they don't need to have -any- reason to decide who is or isn't their friend. Or who is or isn't invited.

TootsNYC

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Re: Help! How can my son politely ask a friend to stop by less often?
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2014, 09:40:27 PM »
Quote
But having taken that in I struggle with the possible consequence that DS joins/forms an in-crowd, and excludes the interesting but less conventional kids. I have seen those tendencies...and if I let him pick and choose and close the door to kids at will, I do fear that he (and I) will contribute to further marginalizing the kids that by nature, nurture, circumstance or personality already struggle to find their place among their peers. I am not talking about foisting on DS time with kids he can't stand or with whom he has nothing in common. Rather, I am thinking about the kid with ADHD, or parents with substance abuse issues, or the awkwardly large boy who sucks at sports...kids whose company DS does enjoy, but whom his peer group see as borderline reject-losers. Peer-pressure and the pressure to conform is vicious up here, and I do think these more awkward kids may be included in the neighborhood gang of kids in part because we insist upon it as a condition of any kids spending time in our house and garden.


Your kid is not the county Social Worker.

He can be friendly with these kids in other ways; and I think you underestimate the influence you will have on him.

You can still encourage your son to include those kids in his gatherings--he can still insist that they be included, and treated well, in anything he plans. But *they* don't get to insist that they are included.

Basically, it comes down to, it's your home. People shouldn't invite themselves into your house.

Once you've re-established that very sane and sensible boundary, then you can work with your son as he (and you) figure out whom he wants to invite.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2014, 09:42:29 PM by TootsNYC »

TootsNYC

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Re: Help! How can my son politely ask a friend to stop by less often?
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2014, 09:45:13 PM »
In a way, the fact that all these kids are always descending on you, and that they're getting older, larger, more independent, more mobile, and now have mobile phones, gives you the perfect excuse to say, "This is getting to be too much. We have to change how things are done, because our family is getting overrun and blotted out. New rule--you may not come in our house on your own; and you may not come unless we invite you."

ArcticChick

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Re: Help! How can my son politely ask a friend to stop by less often?
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2014, 10:25:56 PM »
Thanks for lots of good and eminently practical ideas, comments and thoughts. I am blown away and humbled by your extremely insightful advice and comments.

You are making it very clear to me that I have set DS up to be stressed out by unrealistic social demands. Did I mention that I myself am sorely boundary-challenged? Yup, Doormats-R-Me. I would prefer not to pass that trait on to my child. Who btw already is showing a degree of social competency I lack. Including with respect to setting boundaries.

New house rules are clearly in order. You have suggested some specific rules as well as some ways to think about how to create rules that I am  taking to heart. You have made me realize that I need a shift of paradigm with respect to how I think about structuring DS' social interactions so that he is not tasked with being the neighborhood junior social worker. That is neither fair to him nor to us.

At present DS has no friends who steal, destroy or engage in violence. But we have in the past had such visitors...and I have done a crap job of setting and enforcing appropriate limits on their presence in our house and their behavior while here. Mostly because I saw them as good kids acting out because of very difficult circumstances in their lives. But again: it is becoming clear to me that I have been placing an overly heavy and unrealistic burden on DS as well as upon DH and myself with respect to Solving the Problems of the World. And that doing so is arrogant as well as unrealistic and even undesirable. So as long as we are rewriting the family rulebook, I'd love some suggestions specifically regarding those kinds of issues. How do you folks deal with misbehaving kids who, to take one example, have a terminally ill parent?




TootsNYC

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Re: Help! How can my son politely ask a friend to stop by less often?
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2014, 10:34:05 PM »
I think you separate the behavior from the cause.

It doesn't matter why they are misbehaving. They need to stop, or they need to go home. Period.

Lots of kids have terminally ill parents and they aren't rude, don't break stuff or steal, etc.
This kid can too.  If he has a reason to do so.

I once read a book about kids and sleep ("Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems" by Dr. Richard Ferber). Dr. Ferber said about sleep: You cannot teach children how to fall asleep. It's too internal. They have to figure it out for themselves. All you can do is offer them the opportunity to teach themselves.

I think that's true of things like misbehavior . You can't help kids figure out how to deal with things, how to do the internal "mental switch" that lets them act respectfully. You can only create a place where they *have* to do it, so that they have the motivation (which is "the opportunity") to teach themselves.

And I don't think you do kids any favors by letting them indulge their baser urges out of sympathy. They know they're misbehaving. And they feel crappy about themselves. And their disrespect for you only grows.

Hold them to a standard. And don't link it to their "reasons"; that's patronizing.

"You aren't welcome in our house when you misbehave. You need to go home now."
Then you mentally decide how long you'll give them as a "time out." Be arbitrary. Make it long enough to hurt. If they call or come by, you say, "No, sorry, you misbehaved while you were here. You aren't welcome in our home again until a month has gone by."

It doesn't matter why. What matters is how they act. And no matter how wounded they are, they *can* treat you with civility. Other people with the exact same wounds--with *worse* ones--do it, so they can too. Insist that they do. They'll figure it out--but not if you're making excuses for them.

Minmom3

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Re: Help! How can my son politely ask a friend to stop by less often?
« Reply #13 on: June 16, 2014, 12:09:41 AM »
Toots, I think that was beautifully said.  Standards!  Everybody need 'em!
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ArcticChick

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Re: Help! How can my son politely ask a friend to stop by less often?
« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2014, 12:15:37 AM »
I'll second that: standards! They are A Good Thing.

Thanks for all the excellent advice that I will turn over in my mind as I go about my day.  :) 

Clearly a radical change of house rules is in order. And to get it as right as I can, I need to think about the details of this for a while, and discuss it with DH and DS.

So please keep the suggestions coming while we mull and plan.

I promise to keep you updated as to what we do...and how it goes.