Problems during playdate

Gigi - posted on 11/09/2012 ( 6 moms have responded )

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I have a question on how to deal and what to do with issues I have been having at our playdate.

I have an almost 3 year old girl and she is very social. From the time she could walk, other children (all ages) interested her. She would look at them from afar, and if she had opportunity would immediately go to them and observe and copy their play. She now spends 1 full day a week at the kind of small private nursery (with other toddlers) and 3 half days at playgroup (again with 2-4 age group) and enjoys it very much.



Now, what I have issue with is one of our playdates - it happens once a week with 1 other mother and her daughter who is about 20months old. we have been meeting up for about half a year now. At the beginning I just thought she has to get used to us and that maybe she is very shy, but now I don't really know how to understand it and how to act.

This is how our playdate goes - the first half an hour little girl will just stand in one place and if my daughter comes near her she will run away (which makes my daughter think she wants to play catch). After she will mostly cling to her mother. She will occasionaly take toys from my daughter (never directly, but as soon as she gets distracted) and then run to her mother (when my daughter wants to retrieve them) so she can hold them. Her mother in return tells my daughter that she can not have the toy (she doesn't always notice what happens). All this results in my daughter to become more "agressive" towards the end (not hitting) and snatch toys from little girl and overall to be agitated and not like her normal self.

Little girl also shows no interest into my daughter (as far as looking at what she does or coming close to her), the only interest she shows is to know where my daughter is so she can withdraw to other side of the room. During the playdates she will have about 5-10 tantrums and occasionally go into full panic attack where she can barely breathe for minor reasons -such as her mother not pickiing her up immediately or my daughter standing close to her.



I know that usually this story is from other perspective, but I just don't know anymore what to do. Every time we have playdate, my daughter is told not to touch her (she pets her hair), to let her alone, she is told not to take toys from her (while she is rarely told that), and in the end of the playdate she is confused and agitated and the rest of the day she is more difficult and unhappy.

I feel like this is influencing her in a negative way and somewhat gives her the idea of double standard. I don't want to tell her not to touch her or not to interact with her, while if I don't little girl will start one of her tantrums.

I know that they are different age groups, and I understand that some kids are more "shy" than others and I understand that they need different assurances. But my daughter is not even 3 years old, she is small child as well and I don't think she should/can "understand" or be different around her.



What should I do?

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Starr - posted on 11/09/2012

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Honestly, if the playdate is not enjoyable for your daughter and yourself I would find someone else to have a playdate with.

Ariana - posted on 11/09/2012

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Your daughter is 16 months older then this little girl, so there will be a big difference in how they play. At 20 months the child is not even close to being able to share or interact with other kids properly (especially depending on the child).



With these toys that are being used are they different toys? The other child should not take the toys from your daughter but if your daughter puts the toy down and walks away from it, and the 20 month old comes to steal it, that is probably how the 20 month old is choosing to interact right now. If the child comes to take something right from your 3 year old you should tell your three year old to see if she can find a toy for the little girl to play with other then what she has, and not allow the toy to be taken. If she has put the toy down and walked away from it then she lost interest in the toy and regained interest once the other child used it. In which case she needs to go find another toy (just like if your daughter has a toy that the 20 month old wants she shouldn't be forced to give it up). Your child cannot 'hold' a toy once it has been put down or she has walked away/lost interest in it. That being said the other girl also can't go to her mom and 'safe keep' something if she isn't playing with it.



You might want to loudly say, oh if you let a toy go then it might not be there for you to play with later. That way your daughter knows she can't put a toy down and expect it later, but if the other mom does it you can even say, oh hun if you let toys go it means you aren't playing with them right? Once a toy is let go of it's kind of up for grabs.



If the other child goes to take your childs toy from her while she has it you can go over and say (to the other child), no sweetie, she's playing with this (then to your daughter) can you find another toy for so and so to play with? (If she has a doll, another doll, if she has a train, another train etc.). You do not have to allow her to take your daughters toys, it is your daughter.



Is this a playdate at your house or in one of these playgroup settings? If it is at your house make sure to only have toys out that there are multiples of. That way if your daughter has a train the other girl wants she can give her a different train.



Is there some sort of little activity you can get both of them to do? At 20 months the little girl might be better at a parallel play situation rather then something very interactive. So maybe you can get both of them to colour together, or sing a song near them. It sounds like the girl is very sensitive.



Also your daughter IS at the age where she can understand differences and she really should learn that some children don't like to be touched or patted. The other child is a little person not a pet. You can always tell your daughter to ask the other girl if she wants a hug, or wants a kiss or something, but if the other girl doesn't like it then your daughter shouldn't touch her. Teach your daughter other ways to interact with her, maybe by giving her a toy to play with, or showing her a book. If the other girl is scared of her maybe have your daughter ask, do you want to see this toy/book/my shirt etc, and see if the other girl ever gets interested.



I think you should revamp how the playdate goes and try to get your daughter to interact with her in friendly (non touching) ways. Have her ask if she wants to see a book and things etc. Your daughter can absolutely understand that she needs to be different around certain people, and that not everyone wants to be touched or handled all the time. This girl also might grow out of it when she gets to be two years old as right now she's only a little over 1 1/2.



Either stop the other girl from taking your daughters toy or tell your daughter that if she puts a toy down it's up for anyone to play with. Try to make sure there is more than one toy of the same type available.



Your the mom and so you can step-in if you believe something unfair with your daughter is happening, but you can't expect a 20 month old to behave like your 3 year old does. It's really up to you if you choose to stay or not but I would try to make some of these changes and see what happens before you decides to just stop the play-dates.

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Keri - posted on 11/11/2012

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This doesn't sound like a play date at all. Have you talked to the other mom about it? Maybe it's time to move on, the little girl obviously really don't want to play WITH your daughter, which is what a play date is about in the first place (getting kids together so they can play together), and it's really affecting your daughter. Kids this age don't need to be in that sort of environment.

Gigi - posted on 11/11/2012

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Thank you for detailed answer! I will try to work on "the fairness" with toy taking (and on enduring tantrums on my side) and on explaining to my daughter not to touch her. Great tips!

We already tried once giving them activity to do, they did some painting and that worked ok, but for some reason we haven't done it since. It is a great idea to try to incorporate some organised activity into playdate, even with different ages it should occupy them for a while.

I don't want to stop with playdate, especially since two of them have different personalities (I also think its good for my daughter to learn that everyone is not the same). I will make the changes and hope for the better!

Ariana - posted on 11/10/2012

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I would probably still tell the other girl she can't go and take your daughters toy. I know I've been at my friends house, who has two daughters one a year older and one a year younger, and the older girl used to grab his stuff from him (not even while distracted), I would just go up to her and say, he was playing with that, please go give it back. I know if the other mom doesn't see it can feel pretty uncomfortable, but you can say it nicely and usually most moms will go 'oh I didn't realize she'd taken it' etc. Be nice about it since she's so young, just in a nice tone say oh honey (your daughters name) was playing with that and then get your daughter to bring her over a toy of the same kind and 'switch'.



I know I was doing that at my friends house and it was really funny because the older girl (after I'd done this a couple times) went over to my son, grabbed his toy, and replaced it with another one. I was ready to go get it but the switch went fine and no one was crying so she'd actually managed to trade (if not somewhat agressively) in a very effective manner. The little one probably won't get it, and she probably will throw a tantrum, but if I gave in for every time my kid threw a tantrum from trying to take something he shouldn't he'd be a little monster... Some kids don't like being told what to do and although it's obviously not fun to see a tantrum go on (and uncomfortable to feel as if you're the cause of someone elses child throwing a fit, even if that isn't true) it's actually good for her to learn that she can't get her way.



In essence I wouldn't be embarrased about the other girl having a tantrum if she's in trouble for doing the wrong thing, and I bet your daughter would feel better with a level of fairness.



I would try to maybe have your daughter ask the girl to interact with her somehow, want to play with these blocks? or something but it sounds like it wouldn't be very effective. Maybe when she's at your house you can try to put some sort of activity they can both be near/doing together. I'm not sure what's good for both ages but painting or drawing something, most kids love that at any age. That way the little girl might be 'near' your daughter without actually interacting or being forced to play somehow. You might have to teach your daughter to ask and then do. Like she can ask if she wants a toy, or (if the moms ok with her kid getting food) she could offer her a cookie/cracker or something when she gets there.



I do think a lot of kids will get less shy/sensitive as they get older. My son used to CRY all the time, over everything. He was also the kid who threw a tantrum every time we were in a playgroup setting, recreational activity (sometimes restaurants), you'd think all I did was let him watch tv and eat sugarcandies the way he acted out. BUT now he's 3 since about 4 months ago he's a totally different kid. Not to say he never acts out but he's definitely a lot calmer and if he throws a tantrum there's usually some sort of reason rather than an every day occurance. Plus he used to hide when other kids where around and now he practically runs away from me to get to see them.



Anyway, the little girl probably won't lose her general nature, sensitive and shy, but as she gets older and especially since she'll probably be used to you and your daughter by then, she'll probably start being more comfortable around you guys.



Like I said, I would be more bold in making sure she didn't steal things from your child. I know it's probably embarrassing with the other girl there but if you just do it the other mother will probably follow suit. I would definitely try to make some changes and see if it gets better. If it doesn't work after a couple months and nothing you're doing seems to help you might want to discontinue the playdate but I would try to see if some of the other things work first. Once the other girls a bit older you'll be able to make activities for them more, like helping 'bake' something or playing with playdo or some activity with a little more substance. You might be able to draw her in better.



I don't know, I think it's good to be around kids that are different since in the real world your daughter will probably come across many kids in school who are unusual. Obviously she shouldn't be around kids if they hit her or things but I think the toytaking situation can be solved.



I hope everything works out though. Good luck!

Gigi - posted on 11/10/2012

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Ariana, thanks for the answer. Yes, the playdate is at our houses, we take turns, each week at other house. I will try to organise only multiple of toys to be out and to employ "no safe-keeping" advice as well.



I know they are far apart in their development, its not that them not playing "together" got my attention (my daughter has only recently started playing "with" as opposed to "next to" other children). Its that the little girl seem only comfortable if my daughter is at the other side of the room.



When I said that the other girl takes toys when my daughter gets "distracted", I didn't mean that my daughter actually walks away from the toy, but more like turns her head toward me if I am telling her something and the little girl takes the toy at that moment and runs to her mother. Her mother usually only notices "running towards her" so she "protects the toy". I tried correcting her, but then the tantrum happens so i kind of gave up.



I don't think that my daughter at 2 years 9 months has capacity to understand "the other side", empathy is developed after the age of 3. She sees the difference, thats true and behaves less "lively" and interactive when we are all together, but in the end of the day I think she just feels rejected - not because the little girl doesn't play "interactively" but because every reaction is negative one - pushing away, running away, crying if she comes close.



She will pet her on her hair if the little girl cries, in a "it's ok" gesture, I can work on explaining that she shouldn't do that.



As for "sensitivity" of the little girl - do you think that will change for the better? I have been around children and this is not really just being "shy" but more like being scared of my daughter. And yes, little girl behaves like that with all other children (baby and toddler size) that she comes into contact.

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