Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Playtime Intervention

Written by Esmé’s Mommy.

I love watching Esmé play with other kids. She gets right in the mix, passing toys back and forth, checking out what others are doing, and inventing her own games too.

Occasionally a “situation” will develop when two kids want the same toy, and if I see the other kid becoming unhappy, I’ll step in and encourage Esmé to give the toy back or to share, offering her another toy in its stead. She’s always quite content to acquiesce.

Quite frequently, when there are older kids (2-3 years old) in the mix, one of them decides Esmé shouldn’t have any toys. He (she) will take away any toy she picks up, rebuking her sternly with a “No,” and stockpile the toys in his arms or under his legs. It’s a different kid every time, and he (she) does it only with Esmé, not the other kids (generally bigger) that are playing.

So far she has taken things in stride and just keeps moving on to the next toy, sometimes even bringing that next toy to the other kid to inspect (just to have it grabbed away with a “No”).

Can someone explain this to me? I could understand if the other kid wanted the toy, but that’s not the case. The best idea I have is in some situations, the kid is trying to “parent” Esmé and is role playing his parents’ constant “Nos.” But in other situations, he just seems plain mean.

What’s also interesting is the parent of the other child never intervenes. Just an observation, not a judgment. I’m not there yet, and for all I know, the parent feels as long as the child isn’t murdering someone, he’s doing pretty well for his “terrible two” state of affairs.

So I have a question for any parents out there: When is it appropriate to intervene? As long as no one is getting hurt or upset, I’ve tried to stay out of the picture. But today at mother’s group, Esmé was looking quite bewildered as she searched for an "acceptable" toy to play with. And I hate watching someone be mean to her. Even more importantly, I don’t want her to think that type of behavior is acceptable and has no consequences.