House Rules

20 Sep

Letterbalm Two Boys as FriendsDear LetterBalm: My 10-year-old son Josh has been friends with Lucas since pre-kindergarten. Lucas and his family moved away three years ago, but we’ve kept close with them. Everybody’s gone camping together and spent holiday weekends at Lucas’s family cabin. Lucas will be coming to our house alone for Thanksgiving week, and the boys are looking forward to it. The problem is, based on our time with his family, we see that Lucas doesn’t have the same “house rules” as we do. He has no assigned chores, and he’s allowed to be at the computer for long periods and play video games. How can we keep the peace during the visit when Josh may resent having restrictions when he sees Lucas having none?

–Mom the Mediator

You and your husband are the grownups. That means you get to set fair rules. When Lucas is in your home, the house rules apply. If Josh has to make his bed, pick up his room, set and clear the table, take out the garbage and put his dirty clothes in the hamper, Lucas has to do the same as long as he’s a guest. Since you have a good rapport with his parents, even if he badmouths you to them and they ask you about it, you have an opportunity to explain after the fact. At the next visit, brief Josh ahead of time that you will be talking with Lucas privately. Don’t make a big deal of it. After Lucas arrives, take him aside and say this:

Lucas, we’re so glad you’re here for Thanksgiving. Josh is lucky to have you as one of his best friends. Just a couple of things: We have house rules that everybody here follows – simple stuff like picking up after ourselves. It makes everything easier and the house doesn’t get into chaos. Josh has some assigned chores: he has to set and clear the table, take out the garbage, make his bed and pick up his room. His dad and I think it’s only fair that you help out with this while you’re here, and we hope you agree. We also have house rules about time on the computer, but we can talk about that later. C’mon, I’ve made those chocolate cookies you like. They’re in the kitchen.

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