I can hear hear the screams from the basement. “Don’t touch my stuff!” “You are a crybaby!” “I want my mommy!”
I reluctantly put down my coffee,paper and investigate. And there sits my daughter, grabbing every toy in sight and piling them up around her. Her friend is standing there, hands over her face crying. My daughter gives her the evil eye and calls her a crybaby once more.
This isn’t going as I had envisioned it. Sometimes playdates go so well that I don’t have to be involved, in fact my involvement bursts the bubble of child-centred fantasy that makes playdates so magical. But not today, right now my involvement is necessary but also ineffective as no matter what I do, I am making one child unhappy. And while I stand there I remember what my friend told me about having a girl after two boys. “Don't let her become a brat.”
This advice often makes me anxious when in the middle of a situation where my daughter is obviously in the wrong. Is she becoming a brat? A mean girl? Is she going to be the girl throwing slushies at kids lower than her in the social pecking order? How do I create a positive playdate so she grows up to be a good person?
Here are my choices when a playdate goes wrong:
Choice A: Ignore it
Choice B: End it
Choice C: Be ineffective
Choice D: Be a dictator
Choice E: Turn on TV
I generally choose a combo of A to C, but today I opt for the electronic babysitter for a cooling off period and ponder how to handle the next move. Because it is bad enough when your kid is fighting with her friend, but it makes it worse when you have to phone the mother and admit that you have failed. Luckily, I have my batphone and can call a parenting expert! (It’s good to be me).
First off Doone Estey (of Parenting Network) shows empathy for my daughter, reminding me that sharing is a learned skill, and does not come naturally to lots of kids. I have never liked the parents that ripped a toy out of their kids' hands and then passed it to another under the guise of teaching them to share but that sentiment has gotten me into trouble in the past so I thought maybe I should do something more active this time around. Jenna probably does not see defending her toys as an aggressive move, she is merely defending the natural order of things. Since she is still at the stage where the world revolved around her, she is maybe trying the best she can and can’t understand why her friend is crying.
So Doone’s advice is to pre-plan before a friend comes over. I should sit down with Jenna and ask her what toys she is willing to share and which toys are her special toys that we can put away. And stress that she cannot play with the non-sharing toys by herself while her friend is over. This will give her a sense of control, and often that is enough to improve her attitude towards sharing in general.
Some kids like to stay at home and are great hosts, and some kids like to go out and play with other kids toys, says Doone. And sometimes they don’t want to do either. So when Jenna said to me before her friend came over “I don’t want Robyn to come over, I don’t want to play today.” I guess I should have listened!