DEAR AMY: My wife and I are friends with the families of two children who play with our 7-year-old son. We know these families separately through church and school. We enjoy the parents' company and value their friendship. Their children, however, are a different story. These children are disrespectful, aggressive and do not listen to adults very well. It has reached the point where we do not want our son to play with them because of the behavior they model. Obviously this poses a dilemma for us when we are asked to watch one of their kids -- or for play dates at our home. We've thought about explicitly telling the kids our house rules and when they don't follow them calling their parents to pick them up. We can't imagine that would be good for the relationship among parents, however. How can we preserve our relationship with the parents and not expose our son to poorly behaved children?
DEAR FRUSTRATED: It is completely reasonable for you to expect children who visit your home to adhere to your basic rules. Let them know what your expectations are and then deliver a reasonable consequence if they don't comply.
Give a child latitude to adjust and behave well, but if he can't comply over time, you respond, "You aren't sticking to the rules I explained to you, so I'm going to call your folks to come get you now." Tell your adult friends that you are working hard to teach your son to behave well. Give them a heads up that you're going to be calling them if there is a problem. When this happens, don't make a federal case about it; do leave the door open for future visits. Be calm, consistent, understanding and friendly. These children are still growing and learning -- and you can be a positive influence for the adults and kids if you handle this well.
DEAR AMY: I am the godmother of a delightful 8-year-old boy. At the time of his birth, his mother and I were quite close. Over the years, his family moved to a city an hour away, and they have jobs, friends and a life that is busy and full. We don't see each other unless I arrange to drive to their town. That's fine -- I understand that friendships wax and wane. Also they are not religious and neither am I. Although I'd happily take him (and his adorable siblings) in a second if anything were to happen to his parents, I don't think that I'm designated to be in that role. Does a 21st-century godmother have obligations? Do I continue to send him Christmas and birthday presents (which aren't acknowledged anyway) and make the effort to continue to see him? Or should I accept that this was an honor for which I'm grateful and leave it at that? When I do see them, his mother makes quite a fuss of calling me "Godmother," and so I think there's something I'm supposed to be doing or providing. Can you advise me?
Not so Fairy Godmother
DEAR GODMOTHER: You are not required to be anything special or do anything extraordinary for this child. If you and the child's family aren't religious, the "godmother" status doesn't confer specific obligations.
However, I'd like to make a pitch for you to consider continuing being a special friend to this "delightful boy." Send him a postcard when you travel, remember him on his birthday and at Christmas (ask his mother to help him to thank you). Keep it up for two more years, until he hits adolescence and/or it seems forced or embarrassing to one or both of you.
DEAR AMY: I appreciated your response to "Sad," whose boyfriend's "racist and rude" family continuously disrespects her. "Screaming and walking" away from this relationship is definitely the answer. I hung in there in a relationship like this and it never improved. She should learn from my mistake and run while she can.
DEAR BEEN THERE: Many readers offered this advice. I hope "Sad" pays attention.