Friendship revisited...

I got a very good comment on this post from the other day and thought that, rather try and explain it in the comment section, I'd make another post out of it. So, here goes:

In a nutshell, the question is, "Okay, I understand that we aren't all friends, but what do I do when my child still cries over it?" ; that and "how do I facilitate respect in a three year old?" So, let's take the first part first:

The quote she used was perfect: "I'm not your friend, I'm [his] friend." Children can't be "friends" with more than one person at a time; they haven't figured that out yet. In a situation like that, I approach the duo with child number 3 and have child number 3 say, "Can I play, too?" (If they are doing something like building a roadway in the block area, I get them more specific, "Can I help you make the road? I could...") The idea is to get the other children to realize that more than two people can be friends at one time. Nine times out of ten, this works.

What do you do about that one time? Well, again, have child number 3 do the talking. "Why can't I play with you?" The response may be, "because I'm playing with him"; and that's okay. Or the response may be, "because when you played with us you didn't listen and made the road wrong." In response 2, that's when we go into conflict resolution and figure out a way for them to play together (conflict resolution is coming next post, I promise!).

In response 2 (I'm playing with him), I will, as the adult, say, "Well, is it something that only you two can do, or can three play?" Sometimes, they will say that three can play. Other times, they will say only two. I do two things at this point. First, I have child number 3 say, "when you are done, can we do something together?" (fill in the something with a specific activity if possible: do puzzles, build a zoo, etc...). Second, I take child number 3 a little distance away and, eye to eye, say, "Well, he's busy right now, would you like to do something with me? Read a book? Play a game? Or would you like me to help you find another child to play with? Junior is doing a floor puzzle over there, it looks like he might need some help, want to try?"

Oh, one more thing I forgot, in response 2, if the child came to me upset because "he said I'm not his friend", I will tell him, "he can still be your friend, he's just playing with Johnny now." (that's only when they specifically use the word friend; since we got them in the habit of using that word, we need to go with it when it comes up. The other thing I will tell him is, "see, he does still like to play with you, when he's done with Johnny he said he would do something with you, what do you want to do while you wait?"

In all of these scenarios you are giving several messages:
  1. It's okay to only want to play with one person, if that is where your ability is, that's okay.
  2. People still like you even when they don't want to play with you right this second
  3. Situations with hurt feelings may just be a miscommunication, ask and find out
  4. Move on! If one person doesn't want to play with you, someone else does; it's not the end of the world and you someone else will benefit from your presence

There are more, can you think of them?

Now, let's look at facilitating respect in a three year old:

The MOST important thing to do is MODEL RESPECT. There is no better way than to make sure that you are modeling respect in front of the three year old. Show respect for everyone in the environment (adults and children alike) and you will go far.

Second, don't expect them to be respectful. You (as an adult) respect others because you can understand from another persons perspective. What you do is ask the child, when he's not being respectful, how he thinks the other person feels about this; then explain what that person is feeling.

You ask first not really to get them thinking, but to get you to understand where he's coming from. This will give you a better idea on how to approach.

Here's the thing, in order to respect others, you need to be able to be sympathetic to others. A child of three CANNOT do this!

What you are actually teaching a child at this age is behaviors. It's really equal to teaching them how to brush their teeth, get dressed, go to bed. You are teaching a behavior, not a value. Really, values follow the behavior.

Did I confuse you? Did it help? Do you need clarification? Let me know!

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