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Working on flexibility in play - anyone else working on this? How far off the 4.1 norm is DS2 on this?

(8 Posts)
linglette Fri 02-Oct-09 09:43:54

DS2 (4.1) will now sometimes take an engaged verbal role in non-physical play with peers but if it is unstructured (eg two boys with trains on the same train track) he can be controlling. He doesn't hit but will try to persuade the other child to do it his way by issuing commands. Often he can "see" patterns on the track that the other child can't; also he finds the idea of the trains actually crashing unpredictably into each other distressing.

He never hits but he screeches and cries until the other child gives up/gives way/does it DS2's way/wanders off.

His brother now knows to ignore the screeching until DS2 sees that DS1 has come up with a better configuration/game, etc whereupon he calms down, but I can't expect this of other children. We had an embarrassing playdate a few months ago and I've only just redeemed DS2's reputation with that mum (by going to softplay, where DS2 is a brilliant playmate - no possessions there, you see, and they all want to play it in the same way).

There is good stuff on this in Greenspan and in Talkability but I don't know how far from the norm he is/how much he just needs experience and practice/how much "floortime" I need to put in - all those sorts of things.

Anyone else working on flexibility? Any thoughts on how far behind he is?

It's quite painful challenging him on this - horrible to make your child cry - and I'm seeking a buddy I suppose!

silverfrog Fri 02-Oct-09 11:47:50

I think the answer might lie in how much the play (ie trains) means to your ds2.

you say that there is no problem at softplay as they all want to play it the same way - obv this is good, but (imo) it may be that this is so because it does not mean so much to your ds2? dd1 used ot be a nightmare at softplay (and actually, dd2 is now too) because it was the only place where she tried to order stuff. all the balls had to be in the ball pit, and she screeched at children who threw them out. all the blocks had to be in a corner (not necessarily piled up) and couldn't be used for any other purpose than building etc. it was endless.

she even thought children had to go down the slide in the right order (ie the order she first slotted into) which of course caused endless pile ups... <sigh> funnily enough, she was ok with flexible play at home hmm

anyway, what I am trying to get at is - is it just trains that your ds2 is inflexible with? are they particularly valuable to him?

what about with farm sets/pirate ships/whatever 4 yr old boys play with?

it is is just trains, then I'd be inclined to work on it very slowly with you/ds1 but not on playdates. sounds like your ds2 is doing brilliantly at flexibility in other areas - maybe he needs to hold on to this one area of control for now?

notfromaroundhere Fri 02-Oct-09 14:17:53

Have you got enough track so that your DS1 and his friends could have their own individual tracks with a view of creating a neutral connection in the middle? So they are working towards a shared goal but have their own bits to control? this worked really well for DS1 and his friend. We did guide them a bit - "oh look could that bit fit there and then reach x's bit" etc,

FWIW DS1 is now mr social at preschool (initating play, answering group questions first, washing his hands without a protest) shock but as a result of that he is getting into some "argy-bargy" as the preschool called it. Last term he would let another child just take a toy from him without a whimper but this term he is hanging on to it and demanding others share with him and getting shouty and demanding if they don't play his way. Along with some random pushing when playing outside!

linglette Fri 02-Oct-09 17:30:59

Thank you both for those thoughtful responses.

Notfromaroundhere - that sounds very positive about your DS1 - sounds like he is now engaging with the other children - just needs to keep learning. The trouble with your train idea is that DS2 would want to allocate the trains between him and friend (probably reasonably fairly) and then for them to each go round their own tracks giggling when they went past each other. But the friend would then say "let's swap tracks" or "let's swap trains" and that's where trouble would start.

Silverfrog - thanks for that very thoughtful response. I think you have hit the nail on the head. Yes, trains mean an awful lot to him, as does getting to have certain boards in board games, certain colour counters, that kind of thing. The only outside thing he covets is the swing - finds it hard to take turns on it. I'm going to get the timer out for that one.

I will keep thinking about it. Maybe I should post in behaviour to get a feel from some parents of NT children.

Interestingly, a non-blood relative of ours recently said, with a sigh, "oh yes, trains, do you remember how you loved trains as a boy? It was the one thing you could control". DH and I looked at each other blankly but I suspect DS2 would understand!

notfromaroundhere Fri 02-Oct-09 21:05:26

Have you tried the Greenspan "playful obstruction" with getting him more used to trains crashing? Gently chipping away at his play to get him to change it slightly?

Although as has been said there is that line of how far too go. I had my mum staying for a few days and whilst she was here she helped with washing up and put things in a different place to where I normally put them. Of course in the scheme of things it didn't really matter but since she's gone home I have moved them back to where I like them to be. And don't ask me to share my weekly chocolate bar cos it ain't gonna happen grin

Scottie22 Fri 02-Oct-09 21:24:32

My nt ds has just turned 5 and has spent most of his time playing with trains for the last few years. It's very hard to compare situations - on the whole ds is quite bossy with other children but will go with the flow if a child is more commanding than he is. He absolutely loves trains crashing and this will be a large part of his play. He's always been quite good at sharing but many of his friends still have HUGE issues with this. We had a terrible playdate a few weeks ago when he and his friend fell out big time over sharing their cars - we just came home in the end...

Not sure if that is any help to you??

UniS Fri 02-Oct-09 23:06:43

not "shareing nicely" a tarin track is not far off the 4yr old norm. B (3.8) and F (4.8 )( both presumed NT)find it very hard to give over control of part of the track to each other, so 2 tracks works better. B finds it hard to "share" a track at toddlers or preschool too. Frankly he finds it hard to share most small world things. Music stuff or listening to books he likes to share tho.

linglette Sat 03-Oct-09 11:29:01

Yes - I do try the playful obstruction as does his brother (instinctively - that kid is a wonder). But just like you say - how far do you go?

So it's really helpful to get Scottie and Unis's responses - thanks both of you. When you've been told your child is "different" and all this dehumanising vocabulary is used about him it can be hard not to pathologise every aspect of his behaviour IYSWIM.

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