Sharmila has a four year old daughter Nisha, who is an outgoing and lively child. However the only child in the neighbourhood closest to Nisha's age is a ten year old boy. Sharmila does not know whether to encourage their playing together. What should she do?
This is a situation encountered by most mothers today. In an urban culture, most of us are constrained by a lack of space and child's activities. Many of us live in neighbourhoods or buildings where our children may not have playmates and friends of their age, but we don't really give this much thought and often look the other way. This is not the most practical solution, to say the least. The importance of making sure our children cultivate the right friends cannot be underestimated.
One does not want to deny our children their playtime, but yet there are so many practical issues to consider. Should we let our four-year-old child play with a ten-year-old? While this is not the most desirable solution, one may let the two play together, but preferably on an irregular basis and under surveillance.
He would probably be going through a curious stage, and try out his newly acquired knowledge on all acquiescing innocent younger children while playing games like "Doctor". One can deal with matters like this by prohibiting your daughter to go to his place, and discouraging indoor pretend play or games like darkroom. Outdoor games like throwball or indoor skill games like carom are harmless. The character of friends is very important, and this is only up to you to judge. After all, it is possible that the boy may be a very nice and gentle lad who treats Nisha like a younger sister. This could be the development of a lifelong deep friendship, so it wouldn't be wise to nip it in the bud.
Children are not the same; some are more aggressive and play rougher than others. Where your child's playmates are such bundles of terror, it is a misguided notion that speaking to that child's mother would help. Rather, it is bound to cause the other mother's prickly porcupine needles to stand up straight. "How dare she say this about my innocent little Cheekoo?" Thus it is best not to go complaining to other mothers about their children. Instead, when other children are in your house, they are your responsibility and if they misbehave you have to be firm and set them straight. Neither is it right to punish the other child. It is preferable to be verbal, as in "Hey, this is not fair play, why don't we do it this way?"
Minimize interaction between your child and such playmates. Dealing with regular tears or black eyes, and restraining oneself from yelling at an aggressive child can all be very taxing. And if you try and stop your child from meeting a friend, she may not take your 'no' very easily and martyr-like she may still prefer to play with that boy and get roughened up. If one cannot avoid interaction between the two, try to involve other older or mature children in the play to avoid any untoward incidents. Also, look at the plus point. Maybe your child starts learning how to stand up for herself and gain some street-smartness. A hint of aggression is not bad.
When your child's playmates come over to play, very often when playtime is over the whole place looks like it's been struck by a tornado. No matter how often one asks the children to help clean up before leaving, they just make for the door as soon as 'mom' or 'bai' shows up at the door. It can be very tiring for parents to crawl around the floor trying to sort hundreds of blocks from puzzle pieces and crayons. Also, one can't always take the child to task. So make sure that before playtime ends, the children help straighten up. Each child could be assigned some specific tasks, and you could also give them a helping hand. It ensures a certain playtime discipline, as children are very sharp and respect a show of authority. We must also not lose our perspective, and insist on a spotless room.
If a parent comes to pick up her child and disapproves that her little one is helping clear up, it would be pointless telling such unreasonable parents that it could work both ways. Just engage her in a conversation till such time that the children have cleared up. At the most, the parent will stop sending her child over, which means less of a mess! And you don't want your children hanging out with spoiled brats anyway.
Often parents get into squabbles over their children, which is petty and awkward. It is best not to interfere. Irrespective of who is right, or who has broken whose toy, parents should try as far as possible not to butt in or lodge any complaints, however token, to any parent. Children are basically very forgiving; they will be at each other's throat one minute, and be best friends the next. It is probably their way of learning life and part of the growing up process. If any playmate is particularly destructive, encourage your child to play with other children or change his activities or outings for a while without bringing it to your child's attention, or she may rebel.
Children will be children, and it is not right to deny them this carefree period of life. They will be messy, dirty, and keep getting into fights. Let them be, they are just being themselves. However, we also have to do our bit and guide them, as environmental factors play an important role in shaping up a child's overall personality.