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I have an almost four-year-old dd. We are just encountering meanness as an everyday event.

We've been talking about how you don't always have to play with everyone, but you do have to be civil (in our case, whenever dd has a playmate over, she disses the neighbour boy, telling him that he can't come over, which is true, but impolite). When she is mean, I try to give her a more polite way to express the legitimate feelings behind her actions -- this can sometimes take me days of thinking (I might explain that she can nod at the neighbour boy and say that she would see him later). In your case, could you teach your son to say, "I'd like to play alone." instead of "You can't play"? He's not necessarily going to like every kid at playgroup. He needs to find a way to co-exist peacefully with them.

At playgroup, is the focus on sharing? For some reason, young kids find turn-taking a more palatable concept. Tell your son that it's his turn with toy X, and that little boy Y would like a turn when he's done. Kids can really get into turn taking. It can become the game in itself - your turn, my turn, his turn, now.
 
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