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Three young children playing under a blanket fort.

Are You Trapping Your Child in a Lie?

Scene: You are picking up your child from a playdate or sleepover.

You go to the front door, ring the doorbell, and the other child’s parent comes to the door.  You greet them, wait as your child arrives, and then you enthusiastically say to your child “Hey kiddo!  How are you?  Did you have fun?”  Your child looks up at you, assures you they had a great time, says thank you to their friend and the other parent, and you both bid goodbye and head off to finish out your day.

Two young girls playing with stuffed animals.Sound familiar?

It is, but it’s a safety mistake many parents make.

Why?  What’s wrong with this picture, you might be asking?

As the world opens back up, and the frequency of playdates increases, it’s a good idea to re-orient to some safety skills.

And the trouble with this scenario is that if the playdate wasn’t fun or safe or something gave your child that uh-oh or icky feeling, we’ve just trapped them in a lie.

A child is not likely to say in front of their friend or the other parent that they didn’t have a good time because _______________.  That reason could be because the other child wouldn’t share their toys, or because they didn’t like the movie they watched, or it could be something far more serious.  But when we ask them in front of the other parent and child if they had fun, they are virtually obligated to say “yes.”

And if that wasn’t true, they’re now not likely to tell you when you get in the car because they don’t want to get in trouble for lying.  [Yes, I know you probably wouldn’t get mad at them, but they may not know that.]

So, rather than asking at the door, “Did you have fun?” here’s what I recommend instead:

Greet them, hug them, say thank you, and then part ways.  Once you get in the car/walk home, now’s when you can ask some questions.

Here are the questions I like:

  1. Tell me more about your playdate—and remember you can tell me anything, even if you think I wouldn’t like it.
  2. What did you do? What games did you play/movies did you watch, etc. Did anyone else play with you?
  3. What was your favorite part of the playdate?
  4. What was your least favorite part of the playdate?
  5. Did anything happen that gave you an uh-oh or icky feeling or in any way make you feel uncomfortable?
  6. Did anyone try to get you to break a safety rule?
  7. Would you want to go back again if invited?

By waiting until you are away from the other child and parent, and asking open-ended, loving questions, you open up space for your child to report to you if anything happened that wasn’t safe or okay, and you remind your child that you are someone they can trust and talk to if they need to.

If you do this often enough, you might even get this unprompted (as I have) when you pick up your child:

“Yes, mom, we had a great time.  We did X, Y, Z.  The best part was we got to play with my friend’s dog.  I felt safe—nothing gave me an uh-oh feeling, and I would totally go back if they invited me.”

Parenting win, safety win, connection win!

Try this out after your child’s next playdate and let me know how it goes!  I’d love to hear back!

Christy Keating fun headshot

Christy Keating is a certified parent coach,  positive discipline educator, and motivational speaker. She is the founder and CEO of The Heartful Parent Collective, which includes Heartful Parent Coaching, Savvy Parents Safe Kids, and Heartful Parent Academy.

The mother of two amazing daughters, Christy strives to build a happier, healthier world - one child, one parent, and one family at a time.

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