If You Don't Do ______, Then I Am Going Home/not Going to Play with You!

Updated on July 05, 2011
J.A. asks from Spartanburg, SC
18 answers

I have a boy who will turn 3 next month and a girl who is 4 1/2. They LOVE to play with our 6 1/2 yr old neighbor. (Insert many of the annoying neighbor kid issues you have read about on this site to explain why I cringe when he comes to play). Most of the issues I have dealt with in a way that makes his visit okay with me and while it is usually more trouble/time for me, my kids and the neighbor seem to usually really enjoy each other's company.

How do you respond (or do you?) when you overhear one child attempting to get their way by saying, "If you don't _________, then I'm not going to play with you!" or "then I am going home!" (which is what the neighbor says b/c he lives next door and can actually follow through).

I know I don't want my kids saying this or thinking it’s an okay/acceptable way to interact with their friends, anyone else feel this way? What have you done/said to make that clear to your kids? What are some alternative’s to give the kid’s to say when play isn’t going the way you want it to? I haven’t heard my younger one repeating it yet, and definitely not in such a threatening, angry way as the neighbor. I think he mostly says it to my younger one b/c he gets frustrated with him…result of 4 year age difference probably. I have heard my older one say it back to the neighbor and I have gotten her attention and said, “That’s not nice, we don’t say that our friends.” She accepts the correction, but I personally would like to elaborate on how it’s bullying and coercion for the benefit of all the kids, but don’t really know how to do that? Any ideas?

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So What Happened?

Thanks for so many good responses, please add more...Just to clarify I know this is a "normal" thing with kids, I am just looking for how other parents have dealt with it, if at all, b/c I am dissatified with what I can think of on my own. Thanks!

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answers from Norfolk on

Well, when we were growing up, if someone tried that, we'd take them at their word, say "See you later!" and let them leave.
It's the same from the other side.
If the others want to do some thing that's not fun and you don't want to, then by all means - go home and do something else.
End of play date.
Don't threaten - just do it.
Kids quickly learn not to say things like that if they really don't want to stop playing.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Unless someone is being a bully, don't micromanage the play of kids. Kids have to learn how to deal with people of all types. That's life. That statement is annoying, but not bullying.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Minneapolis on

If I heard a neighbor playmate say that I would say, "It's time to end our playtime today, I can hear you kids are having a hard time agreeing on what to play. We'll see you another day X." And nicely walk him to the door. You can tell when tension is brewing when kids start to talk to each other like that. I just end it, plain and simple. No one gets manipulated, and the kids learn what kind of bossiness is not OK in my house.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

ALSO keep in mind, that "If you don't ________, I'm going home." can be a completely LEGITIMATE thing for one kid to say to another. It often is, and at the least CAN be laying a boundary down, and clearly putting both cause and effect on the table, and letting the other child choose whether to continue the behavior or not. For example, fill in the blank with:

- Stop hitting me
- Let me have a turn
- Keep poking me (or pick a harmless but annoying action)
- Don't start sharing
- Keep making fun of me/ them/ my friend
- Keep threatening me/ them/ my friend
- Keep screeching / whining/ hurting my ears
- etc

While the phrase is often used in a 'my way or the highway' / in situations that don't warrant it, the phrase is ALSO often used by children learning how to stand up for themselves/ in 'conflict resolution' where one child is giving another child a chance to stop an unacceptable behavior.

It's developmental step that follows AFTER the "I'm telling! Moooooom! Make Susie stop _________!" as kids start learning to deal with their own problems.

Do they use the phrase in the same 'teaching voice' that a parent will use? Hardly ever in the first few years. They're kids who are trying to learn to 'use their words' instead of just getting angry and storming off or getting an adult to 'make' someone. It progresses onto the mature/healthy way of expressing one's own needs instead of either being a doormat/helpless in a situation, or waiting for adult 'rescue'.

9 times out of 10, when I've heard children use this phrase... it's not them just being rude/bossy, but them trying to be mature about a difficult situation (lol...although usually in a really immature voice...which is what I try and help 'correct'). As such I teach my son to listen to what the other child is saying and to 'weigh' it, AS WELL as to stand up for himself in a similar way when situations call for it.

To correct the 'immature voice'. I repeat what the child (mine or the other) has said in a mature, calm, voice and then put it on the table for consideration.

"Kiddo, your friend has said that if you don't start letting him play with the legos, too, that he's going to go home. That's fair. He's leaving the decision up to you, which is very kind."


"Sweetheart, Kiddo's asked you to stop breaking apart his legos or he won't play legos with you anymore today, that's fair. He's leaving the decision up to you. Either choice, to keep playing with the legos but not breaking them apart if they're not yours or to stop playing legos and do something else, is okay. He's asking you which you would like to do."

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Visalia on

oh gosh i hate mamby pamby stuff of correcting other kids. if neighbor kids says this rude saying, just show him the door and that he can come back later. ur kids will learn too that how u say things have consequences. enough said. better than continuing to be manipulated.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

You can have your kids call his bluff and teach them to say, "That's your choice if you want to leave. I won't stop you." And then your kids can continue doing what they were doing in spite of what the other child wanted. Although it could also be a good time to teach your children to be good hostesses and learn to compromise so that they can all do something that everyone wants to do.

It's normal for children to use the "I'm taking my ball and going home if I don't get what I want" tactic. I don't know of any child who hasn't used it in the history of children. I've taught my children not to use this emotional blackmail, but it's human nature. I would be wary of labeling this sort of behavior as bullying.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

The "Old Fashioned Answer", "Don't let the door hit you on the BEEhind on your way Out". With the addition - "When you are ready to play nice, you will be welcome back".


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answers from Minneapolis on

The little girl next door used to do that all the time and my daughter would be in tears. I would always show her the door. I know it is just a phase, but I dont want my kids copying her ( I did hear my daughter do it a couple times) I was kind of bitcchy about it, but would always say "it doesnt look like T wants to take turns, and sounds like she would rather go home. We will see you later" Her mom knew if she came home quickly, that was usually why and would talk to her. It has finally passed.
Good Luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

We say it to our kids all the time. No wonder they use it against their friends..lol
If you dont eat your broccoli, you cant have any dessert.
If you dont pick up your toys, you cant go out and play.
If you dont brush your teeth, you cant watch tv.
If you dont get dressed, I wont read you a story.
Sure there is a time its not appropriate and I think its fine for a M. to tell the kid,"thats not a nice way to talk, so dont do that anymore"..
We also need to teach our kids at an early age to never let someone try to get them to do something wrong in exchange for treats or fun favors.
If you take your panties off I will let you have an ice cream bar.
If you let me touch you there, I will give you a puppy.
If you throw the rock into the window I will give you a $1.
Just have to keep them safe, and help them grow up polite and nice, but not a door mat that gets taken advantage of or hurt.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

Well, it depends on how the blank is filled in.
Both of my kids had other kids over who would say things like, "If you don't let me keep this toy, then I won't be your friend". "If you don't let me play with your Barbie that's never been taken out of the box up on your shelf, I'm going home and I won't play with you anymore".
In those cases, those kids were shown the door. Pronto! They were told to go home because I was the one who made the rules about who played with what and if they didn't like it, they didn't need to come back.
I then explained to my kids that friends don't do that to each other. "I'll only be your friend IF"....is a bunch of hooey and not nice at all.
Usually that's all it took for the kids to come play nicely. If they weren't interested in doing that and never came back, frankly, I didn't care.

I've always had a bunch of kids at my house. There were things that were safe to play with and to be shared by everyone. If my kids were tired or crabby, I've sent other kids home because it was fair for them to say, "If you don't let me share the crayons while we're coloring, then I'll go home".
It didn't happen often, but my kids had 8 million crayons and I wasn't going to let them only share the yellow ones. That wasn't nice and I didn't blame a kid for not wanting to play with them if they were acting like that.

Like I said, it depends on how you fill in the blank. "If you don't want to play nicely with me, I'm going home".
That's not bullying.
"If you don't let me do something we're not supposed to do I won't be your friend"...still not necessarily bullying, time for the kid to go. Lots of kids say those things.

Learning how to play nicely is a process. Your kids will learn from how you handle it when they are inappropriate and they will learn from how you handle things when other kids are inappropriate.
I just always told kids if they couldn't play nicely, then they didn't need to play at all. Usually they wanted to play and worked it out for themselves. If not, play was over for the day. Or a couple of days if I didn't want to hear the bickering.

Best wishes.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I think you are over thinking this. That behavior is perfectly normal. They are learning social skills and it's not in their benefit for you to step in and redirect their play unless someone is getting hurt or is about to get hurt. They learn so much more when they are allowed to negotiate the play on their own.

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answers from Portland on

Wow, I can recall using that threat on neighborhood playmates, and them using it on me. Classic!

I don't think it's reasonable or mentally healthy to tell our kids what they should want, and if not wanting to play with other kids for any reason is what they are feeling, then that's what's real for them. At least in that moment.

But my grandmother took me aside once and told me that if I always wanted everything to be done my way, then I would eventually end up without anybody to play with. It made a big impression, and I remember making different choices as a result of her wise observation. I was at least 5 at the time, though. I'm not sure what a younger child would do with that information.

Many child development experts suggest that children be allowed to work out a reasonable amount of this interpersonal stuff themselves. There's a lot to be learned that way, and the deepest lessons usually come from making real-life mistakes. But do listen in to see where a little well-timed advice is in order.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

ALL kids, MOST kids, say things like that.
It is a phase.
I remember saying stuff like that as a kid.
I knew it was not right.
But as a kid, you say it.
You then grow out of it.

Sure, if you don't want your kids to think this is okay, then you talk to them.
Just talk to them.
It is not complicated.
You tell them it is not nice, it is not acceptable, it is rude, it is mean, it is sassy, or whatever you feel is the connotation of it.

Then you teach them sentences/words to use instead:
"Stop doing that. I don't like it."
"I am going home, I don't like the way you are being bossy."

And if a kid is telling your kid: "If you don't do what I want, I am going home!" Then fine. TEACH your kids, how not to be Bullied. If that is what the kid is doing. Then THEY should go home. Why would you want that kid to stay over, anyway?

Role-play with your kids.
Teach them words and sentences to use.

Kids are kids. And even the BEST of friends, will do that. If play is not going the way they want, they just have to have self-direction and go play with someone else, or do something else and/or speak up. The child CAN actually say "I'm going to play with someone else." And do so. Or "I don't like how you are acting, its mean...." then the child can walk way and do something else.

Yes, the kids DO have a big age difference.

And yes, a 6 year old is also young. They are not grown up either. They have their own, age-related phases and issues.
Not congruent with a 3 and 4 year old.

Also, the 6 year old is not your kid.
Will the Mom actually appreciate your 'teaching' or 'correcting' her kid?

You- ALSO need to teach YOUR kids, that they are NOT 6 years old. Thus, don't act that way. It is not appropriate.
You teach your kids, that that child is a LOT older than them. You need to teach your children too.
So that they learn, how to "Discern" other kids/friendships in the future.
And nothing is wrong with just saying "That child is not nice. That is not proper behavior. Mommy does not allow that. You know that" etc.

Once your kids enter elementary school- this.will.happen.all.the.time
So, its best to teach your kids about how to 'discern' other kids and behaviors, too. Because you cannot 'correct' every kid that they encounter. And THEY have to learn, how to manage too. And how to 'choose' friends. Not just befriend everyone and those who are mean.

It is about teaching your kids. So that they can think on their own.
This is one of MANY phases and things that kids say.
So, it will happen.
And it will happen a lot, once they start school.

That is not your kid.
You should not think you have to correct all the other kids that exist in the world.
You 'teach' YOUR kid. About how to choose and discern and how to manage in life's moments and how to express themselves and have skills.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I would explain to all the children involved that saying "if you don't _____, then I am going home!" is not a nice way for friends to talk to each other. Give them some acceptable alternatives to use, ex. If you play the game I want now, we can play the game you choose next" Also let them know that if they want to "go home" they are welcome to at any time and if you hear them threatening each other with "going home" then you will not hesitate to end their play for the day and send them home. Expressing your feelings is great but you can not demand that your friend do it your way every time, friends take turns. Or give your child the verbal tools to handle it themselves, let them know that if X child says "If you don't...." then your child should respond with ........... (what ever you feel is most appropriate). Kids are kids and kids are mean to each other, good for you for being involved.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I just interrupt them while they are saying it and say " Excuse me Joshua, we don't talk that way here. If you would like to play with the toy, please ask Matthew for a turn.:" Then I go on to say---"Friends treat eachother nicely and speak kindly. How would you feel Joshua if Matthew came and yelled that at you? It doesn't feel so nice does it? I would explain that saying those things hurt feelings and that there are better ways to handle things. Make sure all kids understand and have the offending child appologize.


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answers from Los Angeles on

I don't like it either. When I hear it I say the same thing you do, it's not nice, we don't say that to our friends, and if I hear it again playtime will be over. And I will say it to a neighbor's child. If I do hear it again from any of the children playtime is indeed over, and in your case the child lives next door so it's easy to send him home.

One thing I've found is to talk about the things I want to impress on them when it's not happening and everything is calm. I also ask them how it would make them feel if someone said it to them, and when they (hopefully) say they would feel bad or sad I tell them that's how it makes others feel, too. I tell them we shouldn't try to make others do just what we want, that that's being mean. And if I get the "But he says it!" comment i remind them that just because someone else does something doesn't make it right, and that they have to think for themselves.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I would tell him he can't szy that in your house and now he needs to go home.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Macon on

I don't see it as bullying- but feel left unchecked could lead to bullying. That being said, I have shown more than one child the door. I don't jump right up but listen to the discusson before acting. It was usually a long drawn out... I don't wanna play that I wanna play this and if you don't wanna____ then... well, there's the door. Yes, I've heard my own kids say it and while kids do need to deal with the issues themselves and make the decisions of which way they want to go... watching YOUR own kids constantly do what Joey wants to and then complain after he goes home that they always do what Joey says isn't fair. So, my kids were explained that it's nice to do what Joey wants as he is a guest, but that you shouldn't sell yourself short, either. Play somethng YOU wnat and then something HE wants. That way you can each pick and "share" in the days fun. My boys learned that using that line with each other didn't hold water with me as t was always said in a whiney tone.
The neighbor kids learned that to play at our house, EVERYONE got a chance to play what they wanted AND things must be cleaned up before the next one got to play what they wanted as so on.
Even the kid who always wanted to play HIS whatever first! He'd always go home right after-and not always helped clean up. So, after my boys complained, we had his whatever played second. AND when he didn't clean up like the others, he was given an option....several times, that he follow the rules and if he couldn't he couldn't play at my house. It took 2 times for me to act on what I said and all was good.
My boys wre sent home from a friends for the same reason one time. After a discussion about why and how they feel when that happens in OUR house, they never got sent home again!
Fair is Fair and if it's repetative, then someone isn't having thier feelings validated. My kids want to be sure others have fun and they also want to have fun. No one wants to be walked on. At almost 20 & 13, my boys still want to play fair and have lots of friends over all the time and everyone has an equally fun time.

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