A Choose Your Own Adventure Script
By Geraldine Moxy
These are the things you SHOULD NOT say to your child when he/ she is playing with another child, because they (the things to say, not the children) are useless, invisible things:
"Are you being bossy?" (Laugh nervously)
"Are you sharing?" (Laugh nervously)
"Hey, is that nice?" (Laugh nervously)
Etc., etc., etc.
Here is what you SHOULD say to your child on a playdate because they (the things you say) will make your child a better human. Your kid's friend's mom might laugh nervously but she will, at the end of the day, or maybe decade, appreciate everything you've taught her:
STORYLINE 1: If you see your son Tommy take a toy from his host Marissa, you say, "Tommy, it was Marissa's turn. Please give it back and say CAN I HAVE THE NEXT TURN PLEASE?" If he doesn't give it back, do it for him. (And you, gentle reader, must refrain from giving me lip for using "can" instead of "may." If your child is using these kinds of manners, syntax will be a secondary afterthought.) When Tommy repeats your EXACT WORDS, because you've given him something exact to say, you tell him that yes, he can have the next turn (even if Marissa doesn't agree). "In five minutes, it will be time to share, Marissa."
STORYLINE 2: If you see your host, Marissa, take a toy from your darling Tommy, you say directly to Tommy, "I saw that she took that from you. Just tell her "I WAS PLAYING WITH THAT, CAN I HAVE IT BACK PLEASE?" What I'm saying is, give your child the tools to handle the problem himself. If you intervene on his behalf ALL THE TIME, you're basically screwing yourself. And your kid.
If you DO need to help dear sweet Tommy, you can say, "Hey, Marissa? I know these are your toys and you're doing a great job sharing. But Tommy was playing with that. Could you give it back please? You can ask him for the next turn." Repeat prompting measures (i.e. take it from her and give it back to Tommy if necessary) and announce that in 5 minutes it will be time to share. Say to Tommy, "Tell Marissa that it will be her turn in 5 minutes."
STORYLINE 3: Both Tommy and Marissa lunge for the same toy. You say, "Tommy, this is Marissa's house and it is polite to let her have the first turn." (OR, "Tommy, this is our house and it's polite to let our guests have the first turn.") When he gives it to Marissa, you say, "Great job sharing. In five minutes, you can have the next turn. Marissa? In five minutes, it will be time to share."
Consider this your introductory course. Alternate appropriate interventions include redirecting a child's attention to a new toy (though this should NEVER be used exclusively because it only teaches your child how to replace getting what he wants for getting something ELSE that he wants). And of course there are other issues, like hitting (usually because of a stolen toy) or fighting (usually because of a mutual desire for the same toy). But because you are all children of the internet, I don't want to burden you with too much information at once.
Consider yourself accomplished for having gotten this far. And please, for the sake of the future generation, just take my advice. About everything. All of the time.