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Playing problems

(9 Posts)
Verytiredmum Fri 10-Jun-05 12:22:44

My five year old (boy) has me completely flummoxed at the moment. He absolutely loves playing with other children and when he goes to friends houses, or to an organised club after school, he is fine - happy, co-operative, friendly – a bit bossy - involved. The problem focuses on when friends come around to play at our house after school.

He is not good at inventing games (he never, never plays on his own, despite lots of encouragement from us and yes, we used to play with him lots when he was little) and I have a twentytwo month old, who is just too young to play with the five and six year olds and join in with them, so they tend to be left to their own devices a lot. However invariably, within 20 minutes of a friend arriving, he is being horribly bossy and either sulks or starts crying, because they won't do what he wants, or because they have won a game! If I try to talk to him/calm him down/give him time out, things rapidly spiral out of control and we get tantrums/anger/aggression, in a way that he wouldn’t dream of behaving when we are together as a family. This now happens EVERY TIME someone comes to play.

I feel that I am not handling things well, knowing that I am under the somewhat astonished gaze of the visiting five or six year old. Perhaps I should leave them to play/fight/sort it out themselves as they are left at lunchtimes at school, and only intervene if things become too noisy/violent, but my line is that selfish or rude behaviour – snatching things, constantly criticizing the other child, being rude to me – is not acceptable, and I don’t want to start ignoring behaviour that I wouldn’t ordinarily accept. I have tried planning with him in advance what he wants to play, but he tends not to be able to follow through and make those suggestions work for the other children. I have tried stars and rewards systems, which normally work with him, but in this case, I am containing the situation and not making any progress at helping him to improve his behaviour at all. He can be calm and sensible, talking about it after the friends have gone, but as soon as we collect the next one from school, I can feel the excitement/anarchy rising. He is always excited/on a high after school, and needs organised activities rather than freetime. And he is physically strong, loves outdoor activities. But surely he needs to be able to play with friends at home too? And if I only provide him with organised things will he ever learn to play? And can I find organised activities five nights a week?! I currently fill four nights a week for him, with activities: swimming, iceskating, a craft club and a trip to the library, but am getting almost scared of having him at home, on that fifth evening. 3 hours can be such a long time!

Any suggestions gratefully received. PS He has no female friends and has vehemently resisted making any. Sadly we have no family friends with kids the same age – they are all much older and indulgent of him, or babies, with whom he is very gentle and good – so that this behaviour only happens after school at home, when I am on my own with the kids.

hunkermunker Fri 10-Jun-05 12:25:58

VTM, it sounds like he may be tired. He packs a lot into his week with all those activities - do you have a friend over every week on that spare night?

Can you try not having friends over after school for a little while and getting him a couple of new things to play with on those nights?

zebraZ Fri 10-Jun-05 12:29:08

I think it's partly the age, my DS is similar character (adores people) & he's also 5yo. In fact, DS ignores any afternoon guests after about 20 minutes, the children are just tired after school but too excited to sit & eat something to recharge their batteries.

Could you ply them with some biscuits on the way home, might recharge them for the afternoon?

If he can't play at home I think that's not the end of the world if you keep to him going to other houses, or outside-of the-house activities, he'll change as he gets older, anyway.

I'm amazed you have your boy doing activities 4 nights/week, DS does 1/2 hour swimming on a Weds afternoon, and we go skating every other weekend, but that's the limit of what my DS has can focus his energy for outside of school.

Verytiredmum Fri 10-Jun-05 15:45:09

Many thanks for your prompt replies, ladies, especially ZebraZ – it’s always so reassuring to find someone else who is similar. I never thought that I would do so much after school, but my ds has so much energy to use up. Even after swimming or skating and then tea, he will be out in the garden playing football or skipping (his latest thing) or building a den. Winter and staying indoors is a nightmare! What does your little one do for three or four hours each evening?

I think you are right that he is tired by 3.30, but the answer is a meal rather than biscuits, as the sugar tends to make him worse. I’ll try feeding him tea before they go out to play. And I will try to insist that he plays at home occasionally, although I can’t imagine how we will fill up all that time before Dad gets home. Life will be so easy, once he can snuggle up with a book, or play board games or when we get the inevitable gameboy!

Thanks too for the suggestions Hunkermunker. We do try to have a friend to visit once a week, if we can. It is just the normal practice at school for you to take someone home with you and keep them for a couple of hours at least, rather than just for a little while.

I do like the idea of getting a couple of new things to play with when a friend is coming around, but would still be struggling to get him to play nicely with them rather than get frustrated. I think that I need to put little brother in with the childminder for an extra session and spend some quality time playing with ds and his friend.

By the way, this is my first posting, so many thanks for your help. I think that I will be around again – great website (though I’ll try to find a more cheerful nickname. I tried dozens before finding one that wasn’t already in use!)

zebraZ Sat 11-Jun-05 15:51:03

Re nicknames : there is a plan to auction off unused names, keep your eyes out for announcments re that.

3-4 hours after school... DS watches movies, plays computer games, plays with his toys, or plays with his sister (3.5yo) & even the baby (1yo). Mostly the kids drive me crazy for those 3-4 hours . We have a trampolene & a big house, these things help (and I know not options for everyone).

The childminder idea sounds good. I send DS to afterschool holiday club one afternoon/week just so he can play with other kids... I'm jealous you have such easy opportunities for afterschool playdates!! I've found them almost impossible to arrange for my boy (other parents usually ignore my invites, and my DS doesn't get invited to other kids' houses, either).

vess Sat 11-Jun-05 20:52:43

Verytired, is it possible to take your ds plus friend to some playground or something for one of those 3 hours? Like pick them up and take them to a park, then home to feed them?
I have a similar ds, and I don't like the way he gets tired from school - it's not physical tiredness, he's sort of tense and needs to run around a bit and feel free.
Ds loves having friends round, he's even been seen to tidy up his room in preparation, but if he's in one of his moods and they don't play his games his way, then it's hell.
And he's got a birthday party tomorrow - at home! Just hoping it won't be too bad...

Verytiredmum Tue 14-Jun-05 10:00:51

Great news! We had a good play time with a friend last night, after a disaster on Friday when DS was so rude to his visitor and to me (luckily as the other child was leaving) that I sent him to his room for a whole hour, until bath time! Dad was home to support me and it made a huge impression on ds. He has talked about it a lot, and was very keen to be nice (if a bit bossy) last night. He is not a bad boy, but when he gets so excited he is like a bad hairdo on a windy day. It's exhausting! However, it's hard when they are so grown up in some ways to remember how small five is in others - he just needs a lot of supervising and support.

Exactly Vess! It's not a nice sort of tiredness at all. Hope the birthday party went well. (Ds struggles at his own birthdays, of course, as he gets excited and just he can't work out what to do with himself - and as for going on holiday . . . .!) But going to the park is a good idea - we've got out of the habit a bit with such awful weather this spring.

Thanks again ladies


Verytiredmum Tue 14-Jun-05 13:54:54

PS Sorry to hear about those other mums ZebraZ. We did have similar problems for a while. Have you tried encouraging your ds to invite friends back? If his friends go to their mums saying that they want to go and play with him, maybe the mums will be less likely to ignore the requests?

Thanks again for your help. I feel much better this week!

WigWamBam Tue 14-Jun-05 14:17:41

Just out of interest - you say life will be so easy when he can just snuggle up with a book or play board games ... can't you do that with him now, if you think he would enjoy it? You can sit with him and read to him, he's old enough to play games like Beetle, Ludo and Snakes and Ladders (although believe me, they'll bore you rigid) - it doesn't always have to be physical activity that you get him doing in the evenings.

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