DEAR AMY: My 10-year-old daughter, "Amber," has a good friend, "Hannah." They play well together, and are extremely bright and creative. Over the past few months, they have started having more frequent play dates and sleepovers on the weekends and this is where the problem begins. Hannah constantly wants play dates. Every single weekend, her mother asks if Amber is free. Amber enjoys Hannah, but also enjoys spending time at home. I have seen Amber struggle with this. She wants to be a good friend, but she also wants her alone time. I feel awkward, too, because Hannah's mom will call or text me multiple times a week asking for a play date for the girls. I have found myself saying yes to be polite, or lying and saying that we have plans. I have never been able to just say no because I'm far too concerned with other people's feelings, even at the sake of my own happiness, comfort or well-being. Amber has started to feel overwhelmed by Hannah's constant demands and won't pick up when she calls. I know this is not a good solution. How do I help set a clear, reasonable boundary?
-- Can't Say No
DEAR CAN'T: Toughen up, Mom. Your daughter needs you to be confident and in charge. Consider this process very important training for the more challenging issues that will come later.
Your duty is to establish, protect and defend the culture within your own household. When others want to encroach upon it, you will have to create a "rule" for everyone to follow: " 'Amber' can have one overnight with a friend every other week. She can do one daytime play date on a weekend, if we are free."
In addition to providing reasonable boundaries for people who don't recognize them, you will also be providing "cover" for your daughter. (When Hannah bugs Amber, she can very safely tell her, "My mom won't let me.")