Playdates That Have Not Gone Well

Updated on February 16, 2016
L.J. asks from Minneapolis, MN
20 answers

Recently, my 8 year old daughter has had some strange playdates with 2 of her friends. All the girls are close in age, neighbors, and school friends. When I have set up playdates with either of these 2 other girls, both of these mom's have invited over the one child that was not originally invited, without me knowing. I have found my daughter plays best with just one of these girls - more of a one on one playdate. When it's the 3 of them, I usually hear that someone was excluded, this activity didn't go well, etc.
My question is - what is with these mom's? I am all for my daughter learning to play with more than one friend, but if the original plans were to just have one child over, why is the other one there when I go to pick my daughter up? These mom's are neighbors and friends, so it's hard to avoid them, but I would never invite someone over that I didn't originally plan on, nor not let the mom know. At my house, I usually only have one friend over at a time, it seems to go better. Am I off in my thinking - or are mom's these days really wimpy and cave into the other? Thank you for any thoughts.

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So What Happened?

Thank you everyone for your replies! I did chat with the mom that had the 3 girls over recently and she agreed that maybe we should consider not having the 3 girls play together all the time. Having two pair off and leave the third one out is not good. Rather if 2 want to play, probably better - but if 3 is okay - then the girls can decide that on their own. I agree that it isn't my home, so it is up to the mom to decide who's invited.

In summary to all - I found the most helpful responses were the ones that directly addressed my question about "if you arranged your child to play with someone and other kids started showing up... or that generally 3 kids playing together doesn't usually work out" The responses that were commenting on my word choice of "playdate", "wimpy/caving in" never truly answered my concern. I realize at 8, my daughter should be able to manage her own friends (with my guidance), but again - where is the common courtesy today? As I asked before about an adult scenario - for example - "if you and a friend were planning on lunch to catch up/visit, and then another person was invited that you didn't know of - wouldn't that be disappointing to you that they didn't let you know in the first place? (No one really answered this one). Just keep me informed is all I ask, and we'll make our choices from there : )

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answers from St. Louis on

More than likely the other friend rang the doorbell.

My girls were always required to have one or three friends over to keep the number even and I had no trouble telling a friend at the door they were busy. Parents these days don't seem to want to say no to anyone so you get awkward things like this.

5 moms found this helpful

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answers from Minneapolis on

You can only control who is invited to your own home. The other two moms do things differently. It's not wrong, it's just different, and they aren't under any obligation to notify you of the guest list (which may be more of a spontaneous and fluid thing). The only thing you can do is ask you daughter when she is invited to someone's house, "You've been invited to play at Becky's house this afternoon. Do you want to go? Remember, the last time, there were multiple friends there, there were some rough patches. You can expect they MAY have Sally or other kids over again at the same time, as it seems they like to host groups (not in a negative tone). Are you comfortable playing with Becky in a group? Does the fun outweigh the conflict, or the other way around?" It's OK to say yes or no thanks." Let your child decide. I think parents in general are way to over-involved in planning and scheduling kid's play.

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answers from Washington DC on

i don't think it's wimpy or that the moms are caving. they're simply not micromanaging.
i'm sorry your daughter doesn't play well with more than one other kid (which is pretty much universal) but that doesn't mean she has to be catered to about it. when my kids went to friends' houses it would never have occurred to me to double check to make sure my kid was the only friend invited. real life meant that sometimes they played one-on-one, but honestly it was more common for the wolfpack to have an assortment. and that frequently meant one or more who wasn't a perfect friend.
i find it interesting that you word this so that it's clear that you're not really looking to see if you're 'off in your thinking'- just looking for those wimpy other moms to get slammed.
your 8 year old needs to learn how to deal with triads.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


Since you asked. YOU are the problem. YOU are the wimpy parent.

Sorry. Your daughter needs to adapt and overcome. She's EIGHT not TWO. She NEEDS to learn to play with more than one child.

The other mom's are NOT whimpy. Sorry to say - but YOU ARE. Catering to your daughter so she gets to be the center of attention. Tell HER TO SHARE. SHOW her HOW TO SHARE. Seriously. You are doing your daughter a HUGE disservice by NOT getting her more involved...

Also - it's NONE of your business WHO I invite over to MY house for a play date.

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answers from Phoenix on

The only way you can control this is to have the play date at your house...if it is at someone else's house, they can invite whoever they want.
I totally understand the three kids gets left out. I usually only had one at a time and it's less drama that way.

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answers from Chicago on

Unstructured play dates of 3 are always a bit concerning to me, especially with girls.
They can go well depending on the maturity of the kids.
But girls have a hierarchy of friendships, and if one of the girls is not in a power position and doesn't know how to navigate the situation, it can get tricky.
My daughter is 7 so I understand where you are coming from.
She has a neighborhood friend "G". I agree as other mom's have suggested that neighborhood fiends are usually friends of proximity.
90% of play dates go great, and a lot of the time more kids merge in so that there is then a group of 5+.

But we had two tricky situations: the girls were going through a secrets phase and using secrets to be in the power position, and the other time "G" had a close friend over who was much higher in the hierarchy then my daughter and it became a 2:1 situation with my daughter being the 1.

I think these are pretty normal stages of relationship development. The only control I have in these situations is how my daughter handles herself. So we talk about how to listen to our gut/feelings to know when a play date is over, that it is ok to say that she is ready to end the play date, to speak up to the other kids, what behavior to tolerate, how to be a good host/ get the gist.

These situations need to happen so that my daughter can experience when and how to use these social tools to better recognize good relationships and her sense of boundaries.

I think rather then always 'screening' these play dates, teach your daughter how to navigate them, and also 'host' more at your house.

If you haven't all ready, you might want to read "Reviving Ophelia" and "Queen bees and the wanna bees".

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

I have had this same problem this year. My daughter is 6 and she has one little friend where this tends to happen on playdates. This other little girl has a best friend who is ALWAYS over at her house. Playdates where it is the three of them just do not go well at all. The two girls are so close that they would be a little mean to my daughter and leave her out or make her feel bad. One on one playdates go wonderfully. After a few times of my thinking it was going to be a one on one playdate and the other little girl ended up being there too...I had to say something. My daughter would come home crying and feeling bad. I felt awkward but I explained the situation to the other mom and simply told her that it would work best if we just did one on one playdates. I was worried she was going to think I was an overprotective parent. But because she saw the ostracizing in action, she agreed. PS - I disagree with the person who called you wimpy. Sometimes specific personalities of different kids just make this kind of 3 kid playdate go bad. My daughter (and probably your daughter) does fine in group playdates with other kids...just not with these two specific girls.

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answers from Danville on

Thank you for adding to your original question.

I would never dream of trying to dictate to another parent who they could have over during a playdate. These kinds of situations I would leave 8 year olds to work it out.

If you are not comfortable with that, you always have the option of declining the play date, or hosting yourself. I just know that when I was a kid, I enjoyed going to play at other kids homes better than having them over at mine.


4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Having volunteered a lot at my son's school during his K-3 (so far) experience, yes, it's common for girls in threes to be prone to problems. I have seen this in the classroom and other activities *a lot*. There is a dynamic some have studied which suggests that there is a certain amount of power in the dyad when it comes to young girls, which can lead to exclusion. It happens, even among groups of girls that are tight with each other. Usually one or another is left out or preferred, etc. It happens, it's common and just like boys have that one friend who seems to turn everything into a fart joke, the Three Girls dynamic is something most girls are going to experience.

That said, all you can control is your own actions, right? It may be that these moms have an 'arrangement' of sorts to give each other breaks and just trade off whose house is hosting the fun. That said, it's up to you to make the choices for your home and leave these women to manage theirs. Some groups of girls do get on fine, others do better in pairs. That's life. I'm not sure why you would want to avoid these moms, it's not as though they are spreading lies and rumors, you know? They are just arranging what they feel are 'fun' playtimes. If your daughter doesn't feel they are fun, then invite one girl or the other over separately and just OWN it. "My daughter prefers to enjoy her friends one at a time" and leave it at that. I'd encourage you to drop the hostility about this. This isn't an act being perpetrated deliberately against your kid. As you could see from previous answers, many of the experienced, wise moms here haven't really noticed the dyad dynamic-- it does exist but it doesn't make everyone who hasn't noticed it terrible people, either. (I studied dynamics between women, which makes me a bit unusual, but it's not anyone else's fault that they haven't, you know?)

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answers from Norfolk on

I think maybe it's time for you to do play dates with other people and not so much with these current friends anymore.
I know you want to know what these other Mom's are thinking, but getting inside their heads is not something we or anyone else can do.
If your child isn't having fun over there, then don't take her there anymore.
That's all there is to it.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I don't know why but it's true. I remember this from my own childhood, groups of three are tough, because girls tend to partner up. I saw the same thing happen with my girls as well.
I would just let your daughter take the lead on this. The next time one of the girls invites her over she can always ask, is Jane coming too? Then let her decide if she wants to go or not. She can also invite other school friends over, it doesn't just need to be these two. Remind her that there are many fish in the sea!

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answers from Los Angeles on

When my kids are invited to a friends home I don't expect to be privy to the guest list. My house is the kind of house where kids tend to congregate, so any number of kids can end up here, not just those we plan ahead for. My son might invite a friend over, then another friend might call wanting to do something we'll say come on over. Then the kid next door will see there are other kids here and he will pop over to join them. What is with these moms? Maybe they like having their kids and their friends around the house. I don't see how that is being wimpy or caving to other mothers. I suppose if this is a problem for you then you should stick to playdates at your house where you can be in control.

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answers from Honolulu on

There are only a few times when it's guaranteed that only one invited friend will show up. Yes, you might tell your daughter she can invite one friend to the circus, and purchase the appropriate tickets and pick up the friend and enjoy the circus. Or you might plan a dinner at a restaurant and reserve the table and tell your kids they may each choose one friend to invite, and then you arrange this - in detail - with the parents.

However, unless this is a ticketed event, or an RSVP only event, or a event with reserved seating, most play "dates" and play times and meetups are in public and likely to include other children.

I think you're missing an opportunity to teach your daughter to be inclusive, to be spontaneous, to gain social skills, and to learn to be welcoming. To tell her (or imply) that you only invited Jean but Joan showed up and that was rude will only limit your child. It won't deepen friendships, it will make them more exclusive and restricted.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I definitely hear what you are saying. Sometimes playdates do go better just one on one. I would say just that to your neighbor. There's nothing wrong with being honest and doing what's best for your kid.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I grew up in a time when kids arranged their own "play dates" (otherwise known as "Mom, I'm going over to play at so-and-so's house, see you at dinner"), so this whole "play date" thing is really weird to me, but it's the way things seem to be done these days, so we go along with it.

When my son was younger (4-7) I was pretty strict about 1-on-1 playdates. The few playdates where we had more than one friend over never seemed to go well.

Now that my son is 9, I'm really trying to step more and more out of the playdate and make him more responsible for it. I still make the arrangements with the other parents, but once that's done I don't get involved much with the playdate itself unless the kids are destroying my house or something that could turn dangerous is afoot. He's responsible to make sure everybody's getting along, everybody's sharing,everybody's involved.

There's a kid that lives two doors down. Every time a playdate comes over, they want to run over to that kid's house and bring him back to our place so they can all play together. Sometimes the kid's half-brother is around and he comes over to play too. They all seem to have a great time. It reminds me of how I used to play with a bunch of neighborhood kids when I was little.

The only thing I put my foot down about is that the kids can't play over at the other house - when a kid is under my care as a playdate, it's my responsibility so they have to be here under my supervision. But no, at the older elementary school ages I don't think it's wimpy letting other kids in to play, especially when my kid and the playdate want those kids to join in.

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answers from San Francisco on

First, 8 years old is too old for a "playdate". Especially with neighbors. What's wrong with the girls knocking on each other's doors and asking if their friend can play. Teach your daughter to take responsibility for her own social life. As I always told my daughter "I am not your social director" and neither should you be your daughter's.

Also, you said you set up these playdates, but they happened at someone else's house. You don't get to make the "rules" for events happening at someone else's home. I don't think the moms are wimpy and "cave," I just think they are in charge of what happens in their own home and who gets to come over or not.

Time for your thinking to evolve.

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answers from Boston on

I think, by age 8, kids can either learn to play together or learn to express to their parents which combinations aren't working so they don't have to be repeated. One way they learn to play in groups is to actually have time to practice those skills.

I think you have every right to just invite over whichever 1 friend your daughter chooses. But I don't think you can really tell another parent who she can invite to her home. I never called other parents to say, "Oh, in addition to your child, I've invited Billy." Does that thinking apply to, say, a pool party or a birthday party? Does every parent have to approve the entire guest list? I've never heard of any parent doing what you suggest - I'm not saying it's never happened, but I never heard it discussed unless there was a reason for several families to carpool (out of convenience) to a "host" house beyond the neighborhood. You know, "Hey, I've invited Susie as well as your Jennifer, so if you and Jennifer's mom want to carpool, be my guest."

If there was a huge conflict with a certain child that I knew about, then I would avoid antagonizing another child with the first one's presence. But you are describing 3 kids who play together all the time, but sometimes in threes it isn't perfect. I wonder if perhaps the other moms have more tolerance and more of a philosophy of letting the kids work it out? And if they are all in the neighborhood, it's really much more insulting to exclude one of the kids just because you don't really like it. I don't see it as them as being "wimpy" or "caving" so much as being inclusive and strong. I think your best course of action is to throw this back on the kids - if your daughter complains all the time, perhaps you could either ignore it rather than buy into the drama, suggest she stay home from both friends' houses, or help her role play some ways to deal with conflict without excluding someone. Kids have so much pressure to just have one BFF, and that can result in way more drama and desire to get one's own way. I think you'll be happier and your daughter and friends will develop more social skills and a spirit of cooperation if the parents take a step back from managing and refereeing play dates.

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answers from Rochester on

Thank you for all your responses. I still have mixed feelings about all the responses. I guess calling these mom's wimpy/caving in was not the best choice of words. Simply I felt that it's like they know when one another is having a playdate - so to them the more the merrier. Maybe this is their subtle way of telling me that they don't want to have my child over alone - and this is the only way they know how to - short of coming out and telling me (which I still feel today's mom's really don't say what's on their minds for fear of offending someone else).

Yes, it is good to have more than one friend to play with. Yes, 3 kids playing together is hard, one is usually left out. Yes, we should probably start playing with other friends. I like having lots of kids over as long as that is the understanding with the parents (not just that I will babysit any kid that comes over). Yes, it's not my house, so it's not my rules, which kids are there, etc. - but theirs. Yes, if I want to avoid this, I should just host future ones at my house.

To me, this is an issue about common courtesy and respect. I realize my daughter has to deal with life and being with more than one friend - but if you took the time to arrange a playdate/activity with another mom understanding it's just your two children - wouldn't you find it odd that other kid's start to appear? Or in an adult's perspective - say you planned to go to lunch with a friend, thinking it was just the two of you to visit and catch up. All of a sudden a friend of her's showed up and she said, "Oh sorry, I forgot to tell you I invited so-and-so to join us." Wouldn't that bother you? Maybe I am strange in my thinking about this. I will go get the book Queen Bees and Wanna Bees, that has been on my list to read (thanks for the reminder!) I have a lot to learn with my 8 year old - from friends, to school, to life - so maybe that will help. Seems so different with girls these days. Thank you everyone.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Hard to know the reasons theses moms have for inviting more than one child at a time. I know I often have the approach "the more the merrier" with social situations. I understand though that three girls at this age can have a hard time including each other unless they all are really close friends. I know it stinks when our children have a tough social encounter. What does your daughter say? Is she usually the one that feels left out around the other two? Maybe help her think of how she can expand her social circle.

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answers from Washington DC on

We generally didn't put in stone that there needed to be x or y child at our home. If there was trouble, then we broke it up and sent kids home. They generally learned to manage their own social circles (SD was particularly good at this) so that visits went well. However, the invitation or number of children that ended up in my home would be up to ME, not the other kids' parents. The child could certainly elect to go home and if it was a big problem with a younger kid, we could talk about it. At 8, your DD can call you and ask to come home if it's gone south. Even BFFs sometimes have bad days.

If my DD visits her friend and the girl next door comes over...that's between the girl next door's parents and the mutual friend's mom. Not me. I'd only get involved if my DD had big problems with the girl in general (like was being bullied). The other moms may also figure since both girls have visited your home, they get along together. If this is a big problem for your daughter (not just you) then she can ask her friend, "Is it just you and me or you, me and Jane?"

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