I am homeschooling my five year old daughter who spends most of her time playing outside but still wants to spend time with her friends from time to time. About once a week, we get together with my friend's four year old son who doesn't want to share his toys and can be aggressive towards my daughter. What usually happens is that my daughter lets him do what he wants for some time until she reaches a point where she cannot endure it anymore and comes to us adults for guidance. My friend and I would like guidance one what to do. I don't want the boy to feel forced to share so I usually encourage her to find peace doing something else and validating her when she feels frustrated. Do you have any practical advice for us?


Dear Parent,

You daughter is wise; she can let the boy be and then asks for guidance rather than grab or hit. You are also doing well when you empower her to accept reality. Now it is your turn to accept the reality that she cannot play with this boy for the whole duration of the visit. You can empower her, but you can also plan with her needs in mind.

What helps children accept reality with ease is a forecast of what is going to happen and responsiveness to their needs. I suggest that you talk to your daughter in advance about how she would like to spend the time with her friend. "We are getting together with your friend today. He will most likely not let you play with his toys. What would like to do when you get tired of playing with him?" She may want to bring her own toys, she may choose to leave, she may want you to read her a book, or she may have some other idea that you and I cannot even conceive of. Knowing in advance and making plans makes reality easier to enjoy. (And it doesn't mean that the plan can't change.)

Forecasting the future is helpful, but it is not instead of meeting needs. Your daughter may need an older friend, a shorter time with this boy, or adult participation in their play. Make sure your daughter doesn't think that she must spend time with the boy, or that she must play with him a certain amount of time. 

Sometimes we want children to play together so we, the mothers, can visit with each other. This is not a good "baby sitting" strategy. If the children want to play with each other and are a good fit, that's wonderful for as long as it lasts. Be prepared to be your daughter companion when she had enough with the boy, or come with your husband or another helping adult or teen who could be with the children.

You empower your daughter to accept reality; give yourself the same lesson. Accept the fact that these two children are not able to play together for very long. This is the reality you need to respond to. 

Warmly,  Naomi Aldort, www.AuthenticParent.com