Playtime and conflict resolution
Overall my 4.5 year old DD is an easy going kid and plays well with others. However, she now spends a lot of time with her cousin who is 5.5 years old. It's like they are sisters and they fight like sisters. I'm feeling a little lost on how to handle it because its feelings getting hurt and not clear "right and wrong" situations. For instance, DD wants to play the Candyland by the rules and the other doesn't want to use the cards or the cousin is petting the dog face with her foot and DD gets upset. I understand why she gets upset but it seems she is continuously upset/crying. Many times she gets so angry she screams LOUD. The cousin is usually in tears a few times a day too. AlsomI dont know whether to address the cousin directly or talk to my SIL each time. Are there any books that cover playtime and conflict resolution?
My answer may not be the best solution but I would try to not have dd and the cousin together as much as I could. they always had some issue or the other and usually it was dd causing the trouble because she is older. this was happening exclusively at grandparent's house as the cousins don't go over to each other's place. also, we are dealing with snooty parents and we don't want any problems afterwards.
I have an only who played a lot with my friend's daughter at that age, and they would sometimes have conflicts. My friend and I would usually try to ignore it and tell them to work it out by themselves. If that didn't work, we coached them through a resolution. It helped that my friend and I are both easygoing and weren't invested in their conflict at all.
In the Candyland example, I would say to my daughter, "Friend doesn't want to play the whole game. Why don't you either play with the pieces however you want, or if it's too frustrating, put the game away and find something you both would like to play."
With the touching the dog with the foot (if you're talking about a real dog), I'd probably say, "DD, you're right, touching the dog with your foot isn't a good idea. Can you tell Friend that in a more polite way?"
I would avoid taking sides at all costs, don't get involved right away, and if necessary dispassionately guide them through how they can handle their conflicts respectfully. I don't see any need to confront SIL. When SIL picked her daughter up, I'm sure I would make some joke about how they fight like sisters and isn't it great that they have each other, but that would just be conversational.
hmmm i too would say try to space out the play for a bit till your dd gets over her transitioning period. kids go through this and we usually back off playing together for a little while.
or we have also been super vigilant. whenever it seems like one child is going over the edge we'd stop the play and i'd convince them to sit and read with me. i'd have to fanagle it, but i did it successfully most of the time, missing cues v. rarely. the main thing is you are diverting their attention elsewhere and helping them calm down a little bit.
if you see the candyland thing happening, why dont you propose another game. either a more energetic game if you think they need to get their willies out, or something calmer if you think they need to calm down.
with the dog talk to the other girl gently.
honestly i dont think your SIL needs to be involved.
no matter which child, whenever there is an age difference - or not - part of my conflict resolution is to guide them to come up with the answers. sometimes i would say - ok no fighting over candyland. both of you sit down and talk about it and tell me which way you both want to play. but discuss it amongst yourselves and no hurt feelings are allowed. you'd be surprised how time and time again they actually can find the solution themselves. sit with them and guide them and reflect back what they said so everyone can hear that including the person who said it.
In whose care are they when they play together? If you are watching them then mnj's reply seems like something I'd do too. However, as I said, in my case it was grandparents. The grandparents were initially, when cousin was a baby, putting dd down. Now, dd dislikes all babies thanks to the grandparents.
initially this work it out is much harder to do than to just go in and diffuse the system. and yes the key is to let THEM come up with the solution - not you. initially what i have done is had them talk it through in front of me. of course if things have escalated and one is unable to hear this does not work. but when i hear raised voices and whining amongst them, i know its time to step in. what i always lay on the table is whose needs matter. they have to come to a solution where both parties feel right with it and no feelings get hurt. sometimes it takes a long time, sometimes not. but it works great. i only offer suggestions when things are not moving forward. i have also done this in group settings, from 5 to 34 kids and you'll be surprised at how well this does work.
the nice thing about this is it becomes a life skill for the kids - almost second nature, which i think is huge. i have a 10, 11 and 12 year old hang out together all the time. this technique has helped take out a lot of cattiness and bossiness that could happen.
I think this is totally normal for this age (I sure hope so, cause I'm dealing with it constantly in my house right now).
What I do is have some "go-to" activities in mind before any other children come over (DD is an only). Also I have DD put out of sight any special things that she doesn't want anyone else playing with before other children come over.
My stock phrases are:
"Sounds like you two are getting upset. I think you can work this out together using quiet voices. I'll be right here if you need me."
"You two are learning to be good friends. Its hard sometimes. You're doing great."
"Hey, would you two like to _______?" (something really tempting, like having the playdoh and tools all set up for them in the other room, when it becomes clear they are really needing a break from whatever they are doing).
and the last resort,
"Hey, DD, can you pick out a good dvd and put it on? And Molly Sue, could you give me a hand with making these muffins?" Usually after a good dose of adult-led interaction and/or some space from each other they're good for a little while by themselves again.
Don't forget also that sometimes if they're stuck in fragile moods their bodies might need protein and complex carbs, so interrupting for a healthy snack might be a good idea.
The 6 and 7 year olds can go long times together with few, if any, conflicts. Boredom sometimes but not conflicts so much. The 4 and 5 year olds, really, ten minutes between conflicts is about average if I'm lucky.