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Old 01-02-2013, 09:23 AM   #1
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Pretend play conflict between siblings. How do you handle it?

I'm wondering how other mom's handle this. I'm tired of it and at bit of a loss as to how I "should" handle.

My 7 year old son likes to play realistically. He always has. Everything in the game has to be real and go with the storyline. My 5 year old son and daughter (twins) both like to be creative and sometimes unrealistic (as is typical of children, IMO). Example: Today my 7 year old and girl 5 year old were playing with our nativity set (Little People ). They were playing realistically. My 5 year old boy wanted fly his lego space ship in with nice aliens. My 7 year old was having NONE of that because it is not realistic. My 7 year old ended up getting mad and not playing anymore.

I usually tell my 7 year old to let the other kids play or to play side by side instead of together. Sometimes I tell my younger kids they can only play if they play realistically.

I don't really know what the right answer is. I feel like it is unfair to my 7 year old to make him change the way he is playing, but not teaching him to share and compromise if I don't make him let them play. (Not to mention just plain not nice to not let them play.) My 7 year will NOT play if they won't play realistically. So, what happens is he starts happily playing with something then one or more 5 year olds (or 2 year olds ) wants to play too, but with something that doesn't "fit" the game. My 7 year old gets mad because they are "ruining" his game and my 5 year olds get mad because he won't let them play. I always have to intervene, which is annoying, and usually it ends up with the 7 year old leaving.

How do you handle this type of conflict?? They have fun playing together when this doesn't happen, but it's very common around here. I just don't know how to resolve it or how to get them to stop bugging me about it over and over all day long. Help.

Sorry this was long. Thanks for reading!

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Old 01-02-2013, 09:37 AM   #2
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Re: Pretend play conflict between siblings. How do you handle it?

I personally would try not to intervene. My oldest is very much like that. A perfectionist and needs things to be the "right" way. Neither one is wrong but I won't micro-manage their fights all day long. The party line around here is, "work it out". They do need to learn effective conflict resolution and compromise. The rule is no hitting, yelling or rude talk during conflict resolution! I have been surprised many times at what they have come up with all on their own without my direction.
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Old 01-02-2013, 09:51 AM   #3
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Re: Pretend play conflict between siblings. How do you handle it?

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I personally would try not to intervene. My oldest is very much like that. A perfectionist and needs things to be the "right" way. Neither one is wrong but I won't micro-manage their fights all day long. The party line around here is, "work it out". They do need to learn effective conflict resolution and compromise. The rule is no hitting, yelling or rude talk during conflict resolution! I have been surprised many times at what they have come up with all on their own without my direction.
This is what I want to do, make them work it out. But, it always end up with yelling and fighting. I feel like I have no choice but to intervene. Maybe I'm not handling the not intervening correctly. Maybe I should remove the one who starts yelling (almost always my 7 year old). I know he shouldn't be yelling, but it doesn't seem fair that he ends up kicked out of the game he started by himself because they insisted on playing. Although, if he is the one yelling, he should be "in trouble." He brings it on himself by getting so mad.

Is it okay for him to say, "I'm not playing that way" and to ask them not to play with him if they won't play the way he is since he started the game? Should he be allowed to play himself without them? Sometimes I feel like I can understand his frustration. He has 5 siblings and doesn't get a lot of time to play alone with the toys the way he wants to. It's frustrating to always have the game you want to play be changed by your siblings and your mom tell you that you have to let them play. Sometimes he even asks me, "when am I going to get to play this alone?" At the same time, I feel badly telling the youngers they can't play with whatever it is when it could be easily shared (like train tracks with plenty of space).
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Old 01-02-2013, 10:20 AM   #4
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Re: Pretend play conflict between siblings. How do you handle it?

Well I know easier said than done. It's really hard to not jump in especially when they start yelling. I just keep repeating that the rule is work it out without yelling. I may have even thrown in there the fact that if they can't work it out nicely I will do it and my decision will be less favorable.

I do think it's okay and necessary for him to be able to play alone though. As long as it's said respectfully I don't see what's wrong with him telling them he wants to play his way alone. Maybe the rule can be he was playing there first so you have to play his way or move on to something else. Worst case scenario I separate him and let him play in my room or another area so he can do his thing in peace sometimes.
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Old 01-02-2013, 10:56 AM   #5
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Re: Pretend play conflict between siblings. How do you handle it?

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Originally Posted by nonipie View Post
Well I know easier said than done. It's really hard to not jump in especially when they start yelling. I just keep repeating that the rule is work it out without yelling. I may have even thrown in there the fact that if they can't work it out nicely I will do it and my decision will be less favorable.

I do think it's okay and necessary for him to be able to play alone though. As long as it's said respectfully I don't see what's wrong with him telling them he wants to play his way alone. Maybe the rule can be he was playing there first so you have to play his way or move on to something else. Worst case scenario I separate him and let him play in my room or another area so he can do his thing in peace sometimes.
This is what I've been leaning toward lately. I've also given him a set amount of time (usually 20 minutes) to play alone with something. Of course, he usually loses interest before the time is up or asks his siblings to play. Kids are so silly. They don't want the other kids to play, but it isn't as much fun without the other kids. But, as he gets older, I think him wanting alone time is normal and healthy and reasonable. I feel like we are crossing the bridge from little kid to bigger kid. He is changing and my parenting has to also. Charting new territory can be hard for me.

I'm going to work on not getting involved. It will be good for the kids and definitely better for me. Thanks for the encouragement.
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Old 01-02-2013, 02:46 PM   #6
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Re: Pretend play conflict between siblings. How do you handle it?

Good luck! I know I'm having the same problem as well with treating him like a "big kid" and adjusting my parenting style. It's hard especially when I'm still in baby/toddler mode with the younger ones.
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Old 01-02-2013, 03:17 PM   #7
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I like seeing kids resolve things on their own but in this situation I would feel bad for the 7yo who is having his game taken over by the other kids. I would probably give him an option to bring his game to the kitchen table or somewhere he can play by himself, and tell the other kids they can play with him later.
Maybe he'll play better with them if he's also allowed to indulge in his games that don't include them?

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Old 01-02-2013, 06:45 PM   #8
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I don't know if I'm doing it right either, but when one kid tries to butt in on another's game, I don't make the first one share. I intervene only to instruct the first kid to politely decline, and make the second find something else to do. Something like "I'm playing with this now, but you can have it when I'm done." I.might instruct the first one to take the toy to her bedroom, so she can be alone with her playing. I think it's ok to let kids play on their own...not everything has to be including everyone all the time. Sometimes it's nice to get caught up in your own world of play and not be interrupted.
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Old 01-02-2013, 11:19 PM   #9
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Re: Pretend play conflict between siblings. How do you handle it?

Maybe once they start fighting, set the time on the microwave. Whoever was there first gets to play for 5 minutes. Then they switch.

The timer solves a lot of sharing issues at our house.
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Old 01-03-2013, 04:19 AM   #10
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Ugh, I feel ya. We are having a similar problem in our house. My 5 yo is really into board games and got a ton of new ones for Christmas that he's been dying to play. But my 2.5 yo wants to 'play' too. I feel bad not letting her play because I know she's too young to understand the rules to most games, so can't really play the 'right' way. But, I also feel bad making the 5 yo let her play knowing he wants to play by the rules.
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