You’re Not My Best Friend
Possibly the most gut wrenching words to be said by a four year old. Kids can be so cruel. Are they being cruel? Or are they calling on their small repertoire of words and life experience to tell someone that they’re feeling angry, or hurt, or frustrated.
Parten’s Theory of Play Progression
Parten’s theory of play progression indicates that children cycle through stages of play in a progressive order as they get older, have more interactions and gain more social skills. More recent research indicates that this skill development is more complex and varies from child to child. Nevertheless, these are common stages that we see children flow through during the first 5 years of life:
- Unoccupied play – this stage play seems scattered and children are often still. This stage is the foundation for the following 5 stages.
- Solitary play – children are engaged with play independently without any regards of who is around them.
- Onlooker play – children can watch others play and seek enjoyment from this observation but do not seek connection from others
- Parallel play – this occurs when children play beside each other but they do not really interact with each other
- Associative play – this is where children really begin to consider the other participants in play.
- Cooperative play – here children share roles, set tasks, discuss rules and share objectives in their play.
Just like adults, children come with their own personalities, preferences and dispositions. Making friends and learning to socialise can come easily to some and extremely difficult and complex for others. Typically, children don’t identify who their friends are until 3-4 years old, prior to that, everyone is just a co-inhabitant in their world. That’s how egocentrism works! Though this can present social issues when Billy goes for the truck you’ve been eyeing off on the shelf. That’s your truck and if you snatch, scream or hit enough you’re bound to get it back. Though these methods aren’t exactly socially acceptable, they are effective and age appropriate. It’s up to us to facilitate opportunities for our children to build these skills to navigate such conflicts in a way that is more acceptable.
As children get older their relationships become much more complex and difficult to navigate. You’ve gone into the kitchen area to play and you’re desperate to be the Mum today but Sarah wants to be Mum and so does Moktika. How can we make this work? Children can often navigate these conversations or problems independently which is fantastic in building resilience and agency. However, we will occasionally be called in or required to step in if the situation escalates or remains unresolved. To build the resilient and autonomous children we want to create, sometimes this means not having the answers, but rather, having the questions. We can pose questions to children such as “Do all families have one Mum?” or “Hmmm, how can we make this fair for everyone?” and children can often demonstrate conflict resolution skills that perhaps we didn’t even realised they possessed. Sometimes they just need a platform.
Encouraging children to interact and engage with peers is paramount in fostering a sense of empathy. Without exposure, children may never understand another person’s perspective.