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How to Deal with Other People's Kids

It can be complicated. Their parents' rules or yours? Can you discipline them? And what about posting photos on Facebook? Some practical dos and don'ts.

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Chava Docks, an Oak Park mom of three, believes "every parent should speak up and not be afraid. I know I don't want my child picking up bad habits."

She even insists that any child in her care exhibits good manners – "please" and "thank you" and proper respect for adults. "Teaching any child good manners is an act of kindness," she says.

On the other side of the "home rules" issue with dealing with other people's kids is when those kids come with a long list of rules of their own.

"We have certain rules in our house, like we don't watch TV until after dinner," says Wheeler. "But I don't expect other parents to enforce that rule for their families just because my son is there. I don't think that's fair or realistic."

Others don't share her flexibility, though.

Some parents expect many of the rules of their home to be enforced when their child is staying with you. What do you do then?

"I think it really depends on what it is," says Alicia Dunlap of Ann Arbor. "If it's something related to the child's health, like a peanut allergy, then, yes, of course, I'll make concessions in my home to accommodate that. But if they are wanting me to duplicate their exact living situation, forget it."

Wheeler says that a friend of her 12-year-old son, Brandon, came with an instruction book so long that she dreaded his visits.

"At first I tried to honor as much as I could. No television. Brushing his teeth after ever morsel of food. No books or media with guns or violence. It was just hard to keep track of and exhausting, so I ended up telling his mom that her son would have to police himself when it came to these issues."

But Dunlap says that's not always easy when it comes to parents' rules for younger kids since they're not self-governing.

"In the end, I think you have to just be honest with the parents about what you can and will do, and what you won't, and if they aren't OK with it, then perhaps they'll have to limit the ways your child spends time at your house, or they won't come over," Dunlap says. "It's a shame, but you can only do so much."

Online privacy

In this technological era, it's not just disciplining another child when a scuffle or bullying scenario breaks out. Parents today also have to think about whether to post photos of their children alongside their friends online.

Given the perennial nature of the Internet, where everything out there remains out there forever, many parents are prone to posting pictures of school parades, birthday parties even play dates. Should they? Or do other parents deserve to weigh in before a photo of their kid goes viral?

Absolutely, ask first, sources say.

"If the child is not old enough to have his or her own account, I would call and ask the mom's permission," says Pierce.

Gray agrees. It's a legal issue, really, about sharing pictures of a minor in the public domain. And especially given the "ick" factor of Internet predators, parents today should beware the dangers of sharing content, names and images online without permission.

"I recommend not posting photos of other people's children without permission and especially not connecting the child's full name to a photograph without express permission," Gray says.

"There is nothing on Facebook that you MUST have," echoes Frieman. "This includes a photo of someone else."

Wheeler says this one of the most difficult things she's had to deal with as a modern parent.

"I'm fairly active on Facebook and like to upload photos from my kids' birthday parties or weekend outings online, so my family and friends can see, but a lot of these photos include other children," she says, "and I know some parents don't want any photos of their children posted online, even if they are not identified or tagged, and I respect that."

Her general rules are that she never "tags" or identifies a child in a photo. If she knows the parents and is Facebook friends with them, she will often "tag" the parent instead.

"Most really like that. I've just shared a photo of their child they hadn't seen, and it's sort of the way we share photos now," she says.

However, one of her daughter's friends has parents who don't want their child's photo posted online in any capacity, even without identification.

"You know, I appreciate that, too, and I've learned to work around it," Wheeler says. "Most of the time I just don't pick photos that she's in, but if it's a great shot and she's visible, I basically crop her out."

"Snacks, discipline, posting pictures online – isn't good communication the solution to pretty much everything?" Pierce says. "It pretty much is! Communication 101 – which we all need a crash course in – because how many of these situations could've been solved ahead of time? We're all mother bears when it comes to our kids."

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