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Do You Make Your Child’s Friend Help Clean Up?

Your son or daughter really loves playing with a certain special friend, but when the play date is at your house, your little guest is never asked to clean up by his/her mom or dad before heading home.

Moms Talk is a weekly feature on all Lehigh Valley Patches in which local parents, caregivers and other members of the community are invited to share opinions and advice on parenting topics.

This week’s Moms Talk question relates to playdate clean-up etiquette.

This week’s Moms Talk question comes to us from one of our Moms Council members who needs help with a recurring problem at her house: a child who comes over to play but never puts away any of the toys before heading home. This seemingly small dilemma is fraught with lots of hidden and not-so-hidden landmines ranging from her own child/children who are angered at having to clean up the mess after the playmate leaves to our disgruntled Moms Council member who is a bit peeved at the other parent for not making her child pick up at least some of the toys.

So, here’s what we want to know:

Do you make your children’s friends clean up before they head home? When your kids are at their friends' houses, do you check to see if there’s any cleanup that needs to be done before you leave? And, how would you handle our Moms Council member’s problem? 

Our Moms Council members include: 

  • Lisa Amey of Upper Milford Township is a stay-at-home mom to an 8-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. A past president of the MOMS Club of Emmaus and longtime member of MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers), Lisa is an Independent Consultant for Arbonne International. 
  • Lisa Drew of Emmaus is a certified nutritionist and personal trainer, wellness and fitness coach with more than 17 years of experience. She is the mother of a 13-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy.
  • Jennifer Elston of Emmaus has almost two decades of professional experience in child development and counseling. She is currently a stay-at-home mom to two beautiful girls. Together with her husband, Chris, she owns Christopher Elston Photography.
  • Jeanne Lombardo of Nazareth is the mother of a 10-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. She’s new to the Lehigh Valley, having moved to Nazareth from Bergen County, NJ in January.
  • Lisa Merk of Lower Macungie is a stay-at-home mother of four boys – a 12-year-old and 6-year-old triplets. Lisa is a past president of the MOMS Club of Lower Macungie East. In her “spare” time, Lisa teaches piano to school-age children.
  • Zoila Bonilla Paul of Bethlehem is a stay-at-home mom to two girls – a 5-year-old and a 14-month-old. Zoila is a member of her local “moms’ club” and says she is “well-versed in the fun that children can bring.”
  • Beth Sharpless of Emmaus works part time in a local emergency department as a nurse and part time from home as a customer support specialist. She has two children -- a boy who is almost 2 and a 5-year-old girl. She says they love spending time outdoors and dancing.

If you would like to become a part of the Moms Council and/or have ideas for future Moms Talk questions, please email jennifer.marangos@patch.com.

Lani July 15, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Something drastic has changed in child rearing over the years. There seems to be a trend of a complete lack of discipline, resulting in children that do not respect others or their things. When I was growing up, you weren't asked to help clean up a mess you made at a friends house. You just did. It was that simple.
Lisa Merk July 15, 2012 at 09:34 PM
And it's that simple now....to solve the problem, 10 minutes before they go - everybody clean up, sing the clean up song if that helps. If the child gives you a problem, say TO THE CHILD...if you like to play here and want to come back then you have to help clean up when you leave. If they don't want to help clean and the parent doesn't back you up, then they don't come back. If you are asked why by the parent or the child why children aren't playing together anymore, I'd tell them the truth. If you still want to have playdates with the child, but don't want to deal with the issue - meet at park, the pool or some other outside place. I have always made my children at least help clean up when at a friends house, and expect their friends to do the same here
emery1129 July 15, 2012 at 10:01 PM
I agree. No clean up = No come back!
Cheryl Carpenter July 16, 2012 at 12:59 AM
the inability to inflict proper discipline allows blatant rude behaviour, the entitled kids of today i laugh at when they get fired out of college, they learn real quick you cant play games and keep a job.... NOTHING IS ENTITLED
Beth July 16, 2012 at 12:10 PM
I agree with most everyone. We pretty much have kids over whose parents we know and have similar parenting styles. I'd have no problem letting someone know that they need to clean up the toys. They won't be invited back if they can't do that-plain and simple. Things have changed-so many kids get what they want when they want it, devaluing the things they have because they get "have" anything , anytime. It is a shame.
Sheila Corley July 16, 2012 at 12:48 PM
I would ask....don't think you can "make" someone else's child clean up but I'm with the others...if they don't pitch in, they don't get invited back. I've got enough to do with three of my own.
Mary Anne Looby July 16, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Lisa, it doesn't seem as simple as it was. You say to solve the problem you have certain steps to take. Those of us who raised kids 20 years ago didn't have a problem. We didn't have to tell them, we didn't have to sing a song. Kid's just knew what to do. Not just mine, but everyones.
Lani July 16, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Exactly, Mary Anne! We never left someone with a complete mess. I can recall being reminded to pick things up on occasion, but we never had to walk around together, singing a song, to pick things up. We just did it! It was common sense. It was just how we were raised! It amazes me, I watch children in public places making gigantic messes, and their parents just sit there and watch them, talking on their phone or to the person next to them or completely ignoring them. If I was at a restaurant and started just pulling napkins out of a holder, my parents would have taken the holder away, and sternly told me that wasn't appropriate. And if me or my brothers carried on, we would have left. That simple. Now I work in two different public service jobs, and at both places I witness parents not even showing one ounce of concern that their children obviously are out of control, and blatantly show no respect for their environment!
Jennifer Elston July 16, 2012 at 07:08 PM
This always bothers me! I always ask children at my home to help clean up. I also always have my children clean up at others'. Recently I had some friends over and the family up and left without cleaning anything up--and my whole house was a disaster. Boy was I annoyed! I don't like that I have to ask guests repeatedly to help clean up--I've tried to teach my kids that if you want to be invited back, you need to clean up no matter how many toys you played with. I would never leave someone's house a wreck and can't believe some do it to me!! GRRR. If the house was messy to begin with I will often say just clean up a little to help out. Also, I don't like making it a game either. You clean it up or don't take it out to begin with.
Andy Bresnan July 16, 2012 at 07:42 PM
I agree that children should be taught to respect people and their homes. I ask kids to clean up, too. However, we entertain fairly frequently, and something I took from my folks growing up is that you absolutely don't ask adult guests to, say, wash up after the party. People take a few dishes to the kitchen, that's fine. But when I wake up to a messy house after we've had guests over, I never resent anyone for it. I'm usually thinking, "That was a fantastic evening." Similarly, if my kids' friends don't clean up, my kids are learning that you pick up the slack. At some point, when having guests over no longer involves hundreds of Legos and so on, they will learn that some of the burden is part of gracious hospitality. I'm ok with teaching that over time.
Mary Anne Looby July 16, 2012 at 08:55 PM
I absolutely agree about not asking adults to clean up after coming over. If they start to fuss and say "oh we should help you with the dishes", my response is, "you don't clean up in my house, and I don't clean up in yours"! When the party is over, it's over and we want to go to bed or clean up and rehash the evening alone.
Lanya July 16, 2012 at 09:01 PM
A lot of people are saying that they notice a trend in children nowadays having no sense of accountability. Of course, most of that behavior comes from the way they are being raised. There was recently an article in the Wall Street Journal about how French parents are superior to American parents nowadays in the way they are raising their children to be patient and respectful - something we seem to have forgotten how to do. "...the French have managed to be involved with their families without becoming obsessive. They assume that even good parents aren't at the constant service of their children, and that there is no need to feel guilty about this..." It's a really good article and worth a read, along the lines of this conversation.
Mary Anne Looby July 16, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Thank for the tip Lanya, it sound right on point. I recently viewed a youtube video that my cousin sent to me. It was of a flashmob, who just happened to be a symphony orchastra in this town in Spain.. It started with one musican in the plaza, dressed in black tie, with a hat on the ground. People were listening and walking by and pausing and putting money in his hat. Long story short he was joined by the entire orchastra dressed all different ways, and they played and and some of those gathered were also singers with the orchastra. It was amazing, but the most amazing thing to me was how the children in the crowd of on lookers behaved. Not one unrully child nor one parent disciplining. Sadly you would not see that here.
christine July 16, 2012 at 11:35 PM
I agree with everyone, but when it's a neighbor it makes it really tough. I politely asked the child to put away the toys they got out and they started crying and their mom said, don't worry, you don't have to. Unfortunately this child is turning into a "priviledged child" where they want and get everything.
christine July 16, 2012 at 11:40 PM
I'm still stunned at a recent birthday party I had. After serving cake the children when out to play. When my son wanted another piece of his birthday cake, it was all gone. Some of the kids had come back in and helped themselves and finished the cake. I would hope my children would never help themselves without asking first.
Mary Anne Looby July 17, 2012 at 01:01 AM
I agree that it was wrong of the kids to help themselves, but I'm wondering where you were while this was happening. I'm not criticizing, just commenting.
christine July 17, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Sorry Mary Anne, where I was has nothing to do with my comment. I guess you missed my point.
Mary Anne Looby July 17, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Christine, I don't think I missed your point. Bratty kids ate your sons birthday cake without asking. I was just wondering how they managed it if they were being supervised. If these were older kids, say 10-12 I can understand the reasoning for not standing over them every second, however I don't think in this day and age of frequent lawsuits I would let any kids in my home without constant supervision.
christine July 17, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Yes, Mary Anne, the boys were all 12 years old and older. My point is that my supervision has absolutely nothing to do with this article and there was no need to bring it up. Children, and for that matter adults, should ask permission for even a drink of water before helping themselves in someone elses home. This is about common courtesy.
Sheila Corley July 17, 2012 at 11:16 PM
As WOMEN and MOMS.....I wish we could support one another not judge. We're all doing our best in the moment and I find the support and encouraging words of a "Mom who's been there" to be wonderful (which is often why I read this thread). The summary of what we're all doing wrong in todays age is really so unhelpful. I am sure you some of you ladies raised wonderful children and have some helpful advice on how you handled different things. Many of us do subscribe to a "softer and gentler" parenting style these days but that doesn't mean that we aren't raising good kids too. There is more than one way to reach a goal. :)
Mary Anne Looby July 17, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Got it, Christine.
Jennifer Elston July 18, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Just to clarify: I wasn't saying I ask the adults to clean up.
Mary Anne Looby July 18, 2012 at 04:58 PM
This is what I really hate about internet chats and emails. 5 people can read one comment and come away with 5 different thoughts. My husband, who has been a COO multimillion dollar companies hates emails for that reason. You have no nuance or emotion in emails or chats and they can be interpreted differently by different readers.
Jennifer Elston July 18, 2012 at 06:59 PM
After I reread my comment it sounded as if I ask all guests to clean up my home. I mistyped.

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