“We don’t want to play with you!”; Teach kids to include others
Kids don’t learn to settle in society by their own: if we won’t give them the right tools, every attempt to integrate in other’s game might reach physical and verbal violence and with a strong feeling of rejection. Teach them the next 5 rules for embracing an extra kid to an activity:
Do everyone have to be social creatures? Opposed to what might be the common way of thinking, only a few kids are born with social skills, and with most of them these are skills that are learnt in a process that you can definitely can influence and make easier.
Developing social skills is a very important matter that you shouldn’t take lightly. More than once I see extreme cases of violent kids, kids without friends or kids that deal with a shunning. I a conversation with the parents we can see that the signs were already seen in kindergarten, but they thought that “that’s how it is with boys”, or “she will get along”, “it will pass” and even “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.
You need to understand that in these cases the time that goes by without addressing the signs doesn’t contribute to the kid, the opposite. The kid will be tagged by the others as a “troubled” kid and the distance will only get bigger, without even talking about the damage to his social and self-confidence. He might toughen up and grow to say sentences like “I don’t need anyone”, but the truth is that humans are social creatures by our nature and we all need it.
If we don’t ignore the first distress calls, we can use them to learn the difficulty that the kids are dealing with and this way we can give them simple tools that will serve them their entire lives.
In most cases, violence between kids is a result of social frustration, that can be stopped by proper early treatment. Here are some examples for common situations between kids in kindergarten. These preliminary interactions are exactly the right place to give the children social tools that will serve them along the way:
How do you respond to violence?
There are parents who teach their kids that when someone hits them, they should run and ask for help from an adult. There are parents who teach to hit back, and others stand by the “tell him it makes you unpleasant” system.
I want to offer a simple rule: “generally you shouldn’t hit others, unless you are in danger”. There is no doubt that a kid that his toy got pulled away from him by force is angry and frustrated, but he is not in danger. From my experience, even impulsive kids with violent reactions can control them with this instruction in mind - suddenly not every hit is terrifying and requires extreme measures.
A kid that is pushed by another kid while running won’t always know if the action was taken on purpose or by mistake, but he’ll surely know that he wasn’t in danger, so he could respond differently, in a nonviolent way.
Likewise, it’s as important to teach the one who accidently pushed while running to immediately say “I am sorry, that wasn’t on purpose”, and even stop running and help the other kid to get up.
How to make children cooperate in a joint game?
Dan, Ariel and Ron are playing blocks. Roy is looking beyond his shoulder, joins and adds a block, but the kids are yelling at him “why are you placing a block here? You’re not supposed to play with us!”. Roy is offended and hurts back - kicks the blocks tower and ruins all they built diligently. The children look at anger: “Roy kicked our tower and ruined it!”.
Our response will not take long, and the result would be probably a punishment to Roy, “so he learns you don’t ruin something that someone else has built”. His behavior was aggressive, and we don’t want it to happen again, but would he learn something by being sent away? And if we add “think about what you did”, will he know to analyze the situation and get to a realization that would prevent him from doing that again?
We now understand it doesn’t make sense. Therefore, if we want to teach Roy anything, we have to give the tools to help him fit in the game. How do we do that?
First, we reach out to the group of kids and ask what happened. The big picture would be clear: Roy wanted to play with them, but the way he did it hurt them and him at the end.
Give them other options that would make it easier to get the wanted final result. The first most important tool is to ask. “Roy, if you’d like to play blocks just ask to join along”, say. You need to also guide Dan, Ariel and Ron: “Roy wanted to play with you. Instead of yelling at him for not placing the block correctly, tell him where he could place it. Explain what you’re building and how he can join along and help”.
I believe that if a child wants to play alone he shouldn’t be forced to adding a friend, it’s their choice. If two are concentrated in a game, I wouldn’t force them to add a third kid too. In both cases I would leave it up to the kids to decide and only ask them to communicate it to the kid who wanted to join in: “I want to play alone right now” (Now is an important word, that indicates on a given time and opens up the option to play together in the future).
Similarly, a couple needs to communicate that too: “Dan and I want to play alone right now”. That’s much less insulting to hear someone wants to play alone rather being rejected personally, assuming they don’t want to play with you. It’s easier to accept it and move forward to play with someone else.
Even so, beyond two children it’s already a group. And a group cannot decide to play alone and not let other kids join. What would they say? “I want to play alone with Dan, Ron, Diana, Michelle right now?”, it’s clear that “I want to play with anyone but you!”.
An exception would be if it is separated by gender, “It’s a game for girls only”, then a boy would understand they cannot tag along since he’s a boy. There’s no personal rejection here. Note that gender differentiation happens at around age 4, so if 3 years old girls play “house” don’t conclude it’s because they’re a group of girls and put words in their mouths when a boy wants to join the game. Don’t worry, if that would be a problem they would say it instantly, but at the age of 3 they reason would probably be circumstantial, and they won’t have a reason to exclude a friend - they would need to think about an appropriate role.
Then so, in order to prevent a distress, teach children about sharing:
A child that wants to join into a game should first ask.
The group would explain the game and how would they fit in it. It’s recommended to give at least two options: “We’re playing house. You can either be the big brother or the neighbor that came to play with us”.
The child can choose either they want to join or not under those conditions and may suggest their own thoughts too: “Can I be the Pizza delivery guy?”.
The group can agree or not. If the group agrees - the game starts. If there’s no agreement, the joiner can suggest another idea or join by the group’s offer.
If a kid joins, they must understand they fit into an existing game with rules that were already set by the group. They can suggest changes, but not make rulings.
How to Encourage openness towards others and accepting differences?
teaching to collaborate with other children in a game is a good start to openness and acceptance. each one of us is different, and we all have different as well as similar wants and passions. It’s essential that children understand that does not make them any better nor worse - just different.
Being different, at any age, is very often perceived as intimidating, and the common human response to it is distance, or worst: bullying and violence. Therefore, it is possible, and recommended, to teach children at a young age that those who are different than you are human beings with emotions and neutralize the threat of the unknown by simply knowing. For example, encourage learning about different cultures, religions, disabilities, habits, skills and more.
Parents and kindergarten teachers with such awareness, often do that through stories. It’s a great start, but if we don’t connect it to children’s reality they will not necessarily make the connection between a Chinese child within a story, to a Chinese child next to them that recently joined their kindergarten, and they have the chance to get to know them. Help children at a young age make those connections, since only by being closely familiar to it they could find the similarities and learn from those who are different.
To conclude, giving children the tools to resolve social struggles at the beginning of their journey, no matter how easy they are, and tools to cope with their first struggles when communicating with other children, could prevent graver social issues later on. It doesn’t mean they will not have struggles, but they have some tools to cope with such struggles.
5. How would you make your children's’ dreams come true?
During the holiday season we ask our children to make wishes for the new year to come. And the requests are many: Doing well in school, a dog, or sometime even wish for their parents to be together again. In the next article, we will explain how you would teach them to make dreams a reality - and face what could not be fulfilled.
Don’t fulfill for them - provide them with the tools into making it on their own: A new year has started, and as every year, the first month brings with its countless opportunities to wishing and caring - we say, “Happy New Year!” and add health and success of all its kinds, and a whole lot of love to our card. It’s an important and a beautiful custom, however those wishes won’t happen on their own - you need to do something in order to help it get to you.
The earlier you realize it, the higher ae the chances to reach self-satisfaction and sense of fulfillment sooner. This year you can get your children and your wishes to come true. You are the only ones that can make it happen. This article will provide you with tools to enable you to do so.
First, think - what would you wish for yourselves? That spontaneous wish probably holds more within, and if you look into it a bit more it will help you in making in come true. For example, if you had “Happiness” in your minds, what does make you happy? What excites you? What are you missing right now in order to feel it? Answers to these questions will be the beginning of your resolution.
Similarly, make this conversation with your children. What do they wish for themselves for this year? What would they want to make different than the year that has passed? Please take every answer seriously, even if it sounds impossible (for example, wishing for their parents to be together again, or getting a dog after you spent a year ignoring similar requests). Every such wish could a great conversation piece to start helping them plan and set goals. Encourage your children to come up on their own with thoughts on what they should do to make their dreams come true. What could they do, and what they need your help with.
Make it clear that they can control dream aspirations that are dependent on them more then dream aspirations which depend on others. That way, for example, talking to another they have had a fight with and reconcile - the child can be responsible for its own part and try and communicate, but they cannot make someone make peace and be friends again, nor control how others react.
Here are some popular reasonable wishes. Making it come true is dependent on the child’s openness to change and willingness to do so. They can get help from others, but change is only subject to their own willingness.
1. Doing well in school:
If their wish is to do well in school, the way to making this wish come true could be, for example, checking the school bag and making sure to take all the required equipment to every school day, setting up a specific time for doing homework, and actually doing it, of course. If it’s in line with the child’s wish all the responsibility is removed from your backs (or most, at least) and transferred to your child’s back. As soon as they realize their success is dependent on their ability to get their school bag organized and doing homework it all gets an entirely different perspective. Things will be done willingly and not forcefully.
If there is a specific class where your child is struggling, talk to the teacher, you might be able to get some help through the school, but if you won’t - check educational enrichment outside of school hours. Such aid requires great patience. If a parent doesn’t have the required patience, it’s better to get help in a different way, rather than having this being another cause for tension between a parent and a child.
2. “Having (more) friends”
I’ve put “more” in brackets because some kids will do just fine with one good friend. If the child’s wish is related to friends I would take this opportunity to speak about friendship: who is considered a good friend? What makes one a better friend than all the others? Emphasize the essence of reciprocity and the ability to communicate, even if there are different opinions in which are natural between friends.
After you’ve defined who is a good friend check who from those around you have the potential of being such friend. If not in class, then maybe in another class, group or neighborhood. Next, plan a nice activity and invite that kid/s over to join. Prepare the child to the fact that one can accept or reject the offer, but that rejection can incur from different reasons such as time or date. Teach your child to not be frightened from getting a “no”. If it’s important to them, they can ask if another time would suit better, or perhaps a different activity. If the answer is still no, let it go and call someone else. Whoever is not interested cannot be a good friend for them anyway and it’s better to invest time with those who can.
In most cases, with just a little guidance and focus children will find a way to make it in that area. Still, there are who face with difficult phenomenon’s in which are hard to face on their own. encourage them to talk about it with you and with the educational staff for finding solution. In cases whereas children face this for a long period of time, or repeatedly in different times, it is advised to consult with a professional.
3. To have XXX (or anything I want to have)
It is, of course, a material wishful thinking. Every item your child wishes to have has some monetary value. Encourage them to discover what that value is and think how they can reach such amount of money. If you’re still not giving allowance, maybe it’s a good time to start. It will allow your children to learn the value of money and also plan and think ahead. Financial management at its first steps.
Allowance only would probably not be enough in order to reach the amount of money required for the item, even if they save for a long time. Now they will have to think what else can be done. For example, asking the family to give money instead of getting a present for your birthday, or check what type of small paid jobs they can do (note that those jobs cannot include home chores, which are supposed to be a joint effort to maintain the standards of living rather for monetary compensation).
Depending on the child and its skills, you can suggest babysitting in the neighborhood, helping others with homework, dog walking and more. They can also cooperate with a sibling to join forces and acquire together. In that case, they will have to take in account that the item will be shared too, and it should be planned - who is using it and when? And if they fight? Really think about those scenarios and plan ahead the right remedies for any case.
Not everything is possible
There are, obviously, many popular wishes which cannot be fulfilled. Those wishes are usually dependent on other parties, therefore have between low chance to no chance at all to be fulfilled (similar to the passing grandfather example). Even so, those wishes should be seriously treated too, whereas you should be understanding. You should check together what your child can do to get as closest as one can get to making their wish come true.
1. “That you and Daddy to be back together again”
Every child within a family in which parents have divorced shares that wish. The aspiration to completeness - a home with two parents - a strong wish, sometimes utopian, and that completeness is far from being perfect. There’s no reason to focus on that but to simply say it as is and focus on the wish. The parents might not be together again, but that choice is theirs, and that choice is not dependent on the child. However, despite the break up from each other, they did not break up from their child and love their children very much. The child can ask the parents not to say bad things about one another because that hurts. And the child can also make the most of the time with both parents and most importantly - know that they’re loved in both homes.
2. “That Grandpa will live”
Another wish that is shared with almost every child who went through the death of someone close. After you hug and share natural and understandable memories and longings, sit with your child and explain to them that grandpa would probably not come back to life, but will always remain in their hearts, therefore will always be with them. They can imagine grandpa - what would grandpa say in such situation? They can’t write their grandpa whatever they want to say to him, draw something or him, and more.
3. “To have another brother”
The wish to have a brother, younger or older, is also very common, but such decision obviously lays in the parents hands and they might have many considerations on top of the child’s want to simply have a sibling. In the meanwhile, the child can enjoy the company of a good neighbor, helping another kid in the kindergarten etc. It is not the same, but at least twice a week they child will have a close connection.
4. “To return to the old house”
Returning back to an old house is probably dependent on many factors. There were reasons that led into that transition, and most chances are that there’s no chance to make that wish would come true. At least not at that point of time. Talk to your child about the longings to the place, to the people. Perhaps you can pay a visit, invite or keep in touch in different ways. Check with the child what can be done in order to make the current place nice and make it a wish for the upcoming year. Now count the steps into making it come true.
5. “To get a dog”
There are complex wishes, ones that making them come true is dependent on the child itself but also impacts on other people lives’, therefore cannot be fulfilled without their consent. Such wishes involve pets, especially dogs and cats.
Many children put a lot of pressure on their parents to let them bring in a dog. In some houses the answer “no” is definitive and there’s no chance that the child would get a pet until they grow and move to their own home, with their own rules. In most houses a positive response would be conditioned with taking responsibility. “We won’t bring any dog in here until they kids will be responsible and would take care of food and walking the dog!”.
Kids promise of course, but parents are suspicious. If that’s the case, they want kids to decide on tasks and goals to prove their maturity and perseverance, such as watering the plants or doing chores. Similarly, to house chores that contribute to all house resident’s welfare, also taking care of a dog is a joint effort. Decide on a meaningful time frame that the children can prove their capabilities. Even if they have proven to be capable enough, and even if they did not, let them know, and make sure to have a backup, as it seems they can be trusted to make their wishes come true.
A moment before you take that step, stop and consider what type of dog would fit your family (A puppy? A grown-up dog? Energetic? Calm?). Children need to know what to expect (For example, A puppy is very cute, but it’s important to know to which size would the god grow into, big/medium/small, and also take in account the care around the clock - more feeding and walking, and training. A grown dog - it’s important to know its character and its history). Do your homework and set expectations, that way you raise the chances for success.
Just sometimes - dreams come true… Isn’t it lovely to know we have the power to make it happen? That we don’t need to wait and hope, but can make decisions and actions to make it happen? I wish your children and you a successful new year for your and for them, thanks to yourselves!
6. Kids, stop fighting: Making it through play dates
Afternoon play dates can be a lot of fun or a huge nightmare. How do we help them play nice, what to do when there’s a conflict, and how would you cope with a violent friend?
Some kids socialize quickly: they make friends, they invite and being invited. For other kids this might be more difficult, and they tend to avoid social interactions. If your child is within the first group, or if he better fits the second group, it’s important you help them in socially evolving by setting afternoon meetups with school or kindergarten friends. Those private meetups create better opportunities to get to know each other and strengthening friendship in an intimate, non-intimidating environment.
In order to aid you and them to successfully pass those meetups, we’ve set a quick step by step guide for you to encourage a fruitful meetup.
It’s always best to start with your own child. Ask them who they would want to invite and take their wishes in account. A child’s choice is of essence since they are the ones who would use those connections tomorrow in the kindergarten. It’s interesting to know who they choose: Do they resemble? Or completely different? Intuitively, children at kindergarten age make choices we, the parents, don’t understand, but it makes sense to them and these choices are realized later on to be good for them.
Consult with the kindergarten teacher too, she might be able to provide you with important information about your child. Kindergarten walls have a lot of information on your child you might not know, since some things they deal with within those walls are different than what they deal with at home. Ask the teacher how they are, and who they play with. Do other kids collaborate them when they play? Does your child interact? How do they react to others and to frustrations? Using those answers, you will get a broader picture to where the struggle lays, and if it’s personal or social.
Now, when the picture is clearer, consult with the teacher and see who would be best to connect your child with. Who does your child interact best with and might have similar interests or energy. Suggest it to your child as if it was your idea - “what do you think about inviting Ron over? He seems really nice”.
What if they choose to invite a child that bothers them?
That is indeed an option, that your child would want to invite another child that actually bothers them. Don’t reject it so fast. Remember that home is a safe place to make such change, and you will be there in order to supervise. It’s not uncommon to find that bullying starts from not knowing someone or from non-acceptance. A joint meetup, in which kids get to know each other personally is a positive experience (and a joint game), that can change significantly how your child is being addressed to at the kindergarten and helping in making an enemy - a friend.
If the kids don’t get along and the other kid is violent towards your child in your home court to - end it. It’s important that this kid knows this behavior is unacceptable and if they hurt someone during such meetup they will be sent home immediately. It’s even more important to make the message clear for your own child, that home is safe and you’re standing by their side.
How to prepare your child for a meetup?
A play date can be a happy event and a challenging one at the same time. Since it happens within your “home court” it gives your child confidence, but at the same time makes them deal with subjects like sharing, consider others, set personal boundaries and more. To make it easier, I suggest you prepare your child in advance for that visit. It might sound natural to you to consider a guest, and it sounds clear you need to share toys, but your child, especially in kindergarten age, doesn’t see it clear at all.
In addition, there might be some other obstacles you should prepare to in advance. For example, your child might think they invite their friend to see a new toy, but they might not even imagine they would have to share it. Explain it to your child that when a friend comes over, he would want to play toys and games, and they would be able to play all of it together or take turns.
If there’s a specific toy which is very dear to your child and it’s clear to you there’s no chance they would want to share it (for example, a puppet your child carries to bed or a new toy they find it hard to let go still), define it in advance as a “special” toy and tell him that’s ok to make it clear this toy is not be played with, since it’s special. Put that toy aside, that way it would be easier to separate: this is not to be played with, the others - yes.
Make sure to set expectations. Your child might have in mind that they would play a ball together, but the friend would be interested in Lego. Those small misunderstandings might come to be a very uncomfortable, or even a fight, that could be easily avoided by preparing in advance and simulating through “What if?” questions and thinking about possible solutions.
How could we make it easier for a child that stresses out from such events?
If hosting someone stresses your child, or if they find it hard to cope with such challenge at home, I suggest starting with social gatherings outside home, in a neutral place, for example, the playground. Talk to the mothers of some children you’d like to connect to and try organizing a joint meetup.
By the way, meeting in playgrounds are nice, but it does not replace a playdate at home. Meeting in a playground is less personal therefore can be a base of making social connections but inviting over to your own home would be the meetups would drive deeper connections.
How to react if your child is being invited?
If your child is invited by another prepare them for it. You obviously know every house is different, with different rules and dynamics, but for your child - it’s all new. A new house is a foreign country. Some kids will be intimidated, and they would not want to let go of their parent until they feel comfortable enough. Other kids would want to explore right away, will walk and discover, open doors, and reach out to toys only they feel they had enough of seeing it all.
In order to make it easier for them on the first meeting, prepare them in advance for such change: “Ron’s house is different than our house. He lives on the 3rd floor, and to get to his doorstep we would go up in an elevator”. If you know who will be welcoming you, say: “Ron’s mom won’t be there we get there, since she’s still at work, but Ron’s babysitter would be there with you, and his mom will join later”.
In addition, explain to your child that every house has its own rules, and the residents of the house are the ones to set those rules. “If Ron’s mother says something is forbidden, even if it’s allowed in our home, it’s still is forbidden in their house, since in Ron’s house his parents are the ones to set the rules”.
Prepare them also to what they can do if something is not right for them. “If you need help reach out to Ron’s mother and tell her what bothers you. You can also request to call me, I will leave my phone number”.
Remember that your child takes it all from your tone of voice, if you’re calm or worried. Therefore, tell them all that with a calm smile - so the unfamiliar will be exciting and new, and not intimidating. Add that you’ll stay with them, until they say they’re comfortable enough to be left alone to play, and you will come back to take them. The purpose is, of course, to give them confidence in that new place, so they know you’re there if needed.
It’s not always easy to acquire new friends and maintain them. To do so, they have to make positive social experiences, and therefore you, as parents, have the capabilities to create those opportunities for that.