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Disciplining Other People's Kids

Q. How should I handle it when my daughter's friend breaks our house rules while she's over for a playdate? Should I punish her the way I would my own child?

She's not your child, so you don't have to try to teach her anything by lecturing or disciplining her. Just let her know in a nice but firm tone that whatever she's doing -- jumping on the bed, running indoors, pulling the dog's tail -- isn't allowed in your home, and that she should stop, says Ruth Peters, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of Don't Be Afraid to Discipline. By this age, she should be able to understand that, and be able to control herself. If that doesn't work, distract her with a new activity, like playing a board game or coloring.

If your daughter's friend continues to act up -- especially if she's doing physical stuff like hitting your child or pulling her hair -- separate the kids, preferably by putting them in different rooms. Once they both calm down, it's fine to let them play together again.

If things don't improve, though, call the other parent and ask her to pick up her child -- you can gently inform her of the reason. Keep the kids apart until she arrives.