Playdate Troubles

Dear yayas,

I have an ongoing problem. I have 3 kids. My brother has 1. My oldest and his are 6 months apart. We get together quite often because we are family. But when we go over to his house, his kid is super rude to my kids. Honestly the kid acts entitled and is very selfish. They are even downright mean to my younger kids and refuse to let them play any games or be included. It’s like they only want to play with other kids their own age. Doesn’t want my kids to touch anything of theirs. Doesn’t want them moving anything. Doesn’t want to play, just walks around and cries, telling them to stop touching everything and that everything is special to them. I’m so over it. It’s not fun. My kids feel unwelcome. It’s no fun for me. My brother says nothing to his kid and basically comes up with a solution that still gives his kid what they want. The apologies aren’t genuine and I just want to stop going over there and there is always an “excuse of the day” for why junior is acting poorly or talking rudely. We can’t just avoid them, we’re family. I really don’t know what to do, but I know this can’t go on. It is stressing me and my kids out. What about you yayas? How many kids do you have? Do you make your kids share when other kids come over? What would you do in this situation (if it was your kid or mine)? My brother coddles his kid so much I just want to scream, but I know I can’t! Help! 

– Siblings in Sedona

Giiiiiiirrrrrl, I’m going to say you have to talk to your brother and tell him what’s up! I know that is super tough and you’ll want to be tactful and thoughtful about it; however, he needs to know that it stresses you out to spend time with them. I have two kids and when we have friends over, I tell my kids if there is something they don’t want others to play with, they need to put it away. I don’t make them share, but encourage them to be kind to their friends. My nephews did break two butterfly nets when they were over and my kids were upset about it so we had a long chat about how we should speak up when we see something being mishandled so that I can step in and hopefully prevent things from bring broken in the future. I’m not getting that mistreating toys is the issue y’all are having though. I would strongly suggest just being up front with your brother about how stressful it is and explain that you’d rather meet them out or host in your home if that’s how it’s going to be. Be careful not to place blame, just state your feelings and your observations. It’s quite possible he hasn’t even noticed the friction. Hard conversations are just that—tough! It’s worth it to save some stress and make the relationships stronger though. You can do this-good luck! – Cortney

Ah, the family struggles are a real thing. I was so excited to have my daughter and my brother in-law’s daughter play as they are two months apart. But unfortunately his daughter was very mean to my daughter and even scratched her several times. My daughter is such a sweetheart that she didn’t even say anything and we noticed after they left. You most certainly need to have a discussion with your brother one to one without the kids around. Maybe even schedule a time to meet at a neutral location. It is not ok for his kids to treat your kids that way and I would encourage you to stress how important it is that your kids all get along. Then once you can hopefully get on the same page I would plan for a family discussion, with the kids, on how play dates need to be peaceful moving forward. If this doesn’t help or your brother refuses to have a discussion limit or stop your play dates for now and try again in the future. – Nadia

That is clearly super frustrating! The only cousins who live near us come to our house, and are for the most part are several years older than my kids, so I don’t really have your issue, but we have experienced something similar on a smaller scale going to a friends’ homes. My kids do have cousins younger than them who come into town and other younger children who come visit, and we encourage our children to keep anything they consider special or have worked hard on in their bedrooms to avoid any “catastrophes”…like the giant Lego sets my kids will spend several days building. There are a couple of things you could do in your situation I think, as it sounds like you’d like your kids to have a relationship with your nephew, and I think it will be beneficial to him in the long run. Your kids could bring some of their own toys to play with that are age appropriate for each of them. A board game to play together, or often in our family we will throw a soccer ball, yard games, a frisbee, bubbles, etc. in our car when going to someone else’s home. I don’t know, but maybe it would help if your children modeled “taking turns” with your nephew with some of these things they may bring with them. Also, I think the not sharing thing may be a difficult thing for an only child to learn. And as I was explaining to a friend of mine recently, who was embarrassed that her daughter was adamant about not sharing something with one of my children, often times taking turns works much better than asking a child to share. In that case we redirected my son to some other activity, and when her daughter was able to calm down, we asked her is my son could “have a turn for x number of minutes” with the toy. This worked well in that situation. My other thought is, as soon as you get there maybe you can ask your nephew in a friendly “big cousin” kinda way if he has any toys, even if they are old ones, that he thinks your younger children would enjoy playing with and that he’s ok with them using. I’m getting the impression he has a combination of fearing little kids breaking his stuff as well as not having experience in needing to share or take turns related to him being an only child. As frustrating as it is, and assuming you plan to keep going over to your brother’s home, I hope at least one of these strategies might help! – Lorelei

That’s a really tough situation. I have three small children and have noticed a difference when we play with families who only have one child vs. multiple children. It’s circumstantial: siblings have the chance to play with others all the time and are used to being around others, sharing, working through things, etc. and only children do not. I don’t think it’s judge-y to state this, it’s simply how things are. When you are used to quiet and every thing in the house is “yours,” others coming in can feel overwhelming and invasive. I feel it’s up to the parents to guide children on how to handle situations like that. I like to use the phrase, “when we’re all together, we all play together” to help encourage less conflict. I’m not a fan of stepping in and parenting other people’s kids (in fact, I loathe it), but I also don’t stand around and let others make my children feel bad with shame, guilt, name calling, etc. So I will speak up and say something in situations where other adults either aren’t there or aren’t saying anything, but not in an accusatory way. I use general ideas like the one above, but also phrases that set a clear boundary, such as, “I won’t let you be mean to my girls” or “I can’t let you be rude to my girls.” I also talk with the other parent calmly and tell them what I said and why. Someone has to set the healthy standard for how interactions. Sounds like you all might need a break from your brother for a while…and that’s okay. Breaks are temporary and healthy. Sometimes time apart helps emotions calm and situations pass. Best of luck! – Lori Beth

That does sound like a difficult situation. It sounds like a chronic kind of problem that, unless you directly discuss your concerns with your brother, isn’t likely to change on its own. If it were me, I think I’d try to control as many of the variables as possible in these situations; i.e. if I can’t change them, I’ll adjust to make it better for us. For example, host at your own house or a neutral location as much as possible, or have your kids bring preferred toys to your brother’s house so they’re less likely to touch their cousin’s toys, or sit nearby during play to facilitate problems/rude behavior when it arises (if needed). I do think it’s natural for kids of the same age to gravitate towards each other, though kindness is always required and expected no matter the age. I would hope that showing kindness and safe behavior consistently when around your brother and nephew would be a positive influence on them. – Diana

Relationships are dynamic. Add more humans to any given relationship and the dynamics will change/ become more complex. Gently bring up the concerns you are having with your brother and see if you are able to talk them out. I have two children and don’t believe in forced sharing. However, I do think children should be taught how to be flexible and communicate with an understanding of their tone of voice. This is taught through modeling how to handle situations and role play. I too, have found some friend/sibling relationships to be more difficult from time to time due to our children not getting along or demanding all of our time during visits to aid in conflict resolution. With time, your children and your nephew may become closer. In the mean time, try getting together at a park or play space where personal belongings are not located. This way the children can practice interacting without sharing what is theirs. – Bernie

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