At one time or another, every parent has been embarrassed by their child’s behavior. Children learn from their mistakes as we redirect, correct and teach them. Parents learn from their mistakes as well. Things usually don’t get better on their own, as little ones need structure, direction and boundaries in order to function well. For your next play date, set your daughter up for success. Here are some guidelines.
Dear Diana: Once a year my college roommate and I get together. We look forward to catching up while our 4-year-old daughters have an opportunity to play. I drove nearly two hours for our annual visit, and my daughter was eager and well behaved in the car.
Once we settled in, we told the girls to go play while we tried to visit. Within minutes, my daughter returned, complaining that her new friend wouldn’t share her dolls. I explained that some things are special, and to find something else to play with.
Throughout our visit I continually had to correct or redirect my daughter, who was a total embarrassment. She pushed and grabbed like a 2-year-old. At one point, I overheard her say that she didn’t like the little girl at all, and that they were not friends.
We probably stayed longer than we should have, but I kept thinking that things would get better. I have never seen her behave this way, and I was completely horrified. I was so angry that I couldn’t even speak to my daughter during our long drive home from this disastrously embarrassing visit. I don’t know why she behaved like that, and I don’t know how to fix it for the next time. — Horrified and humiliated.
Dear Horrified: At one time or another, every parent has been embarrassed by their child’s behavior. Children learn from their mistakes as we redirect, correct and teach them. Parents learn from their mistakes as well. Things usually don’t get better on their own, as little ones need structure, direction and boundaries in order to function well. For your next play date, set your daughter up for success. Here are some guidelines:
• Reinforce the idea that friends share. Tell your daughter that when she plays with a friend, she will need to share her toys. If there are specific toys that are very special, they should be removed ahead of time. Tell her that her friend will have the first chance to choose the games they play, and then she will have an opportunity.
• Be available to solve problems. Tell your daughter that if she becomes upset, she should come to you, quietly, and you will help her. Grabbing, hitting, yelling and pushing are never acceptable. Let her know that she will have some time alone from her friend, if she forgets.
• Provide structured and unstructured play times. Break the entire play date down into multiple 30-minute increments. Designate a time for unstructured play, allowing the guest to choose the first activity. Monitor their play every 10 minutes to minimize disputes and encourage fair play. At the end of 30 minutes, assist with cleanup by singing songs and helping to put everything back in its home. After unstructured play, provide structure with a craft or cooking activity. Return to unstructured play, allowing your daughter to choose the activity. Remember to monitor often. Clean up after 30 minutes, and offer a snack. Follow this structured and unstructured routine for the remainder of their time together.
The biggest mistake a parent can make with a play date is to simply expect little ones to know how to share toys, take turns or resolve conflicts. When structure, expectations, guidance and monitoring are provided, everyone has a good time.
Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting educator. Send your child-rearing questions to FamilyMatters@cantonrep.com or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton, OH 44702. Find additional parenting resources at her website, www.yourperfectchild.com.