Q&A: Playdate trouble
I've noticed on playdates and at the park that my son (28 months) happily allows ther children to grab his toys out of his hands. Why does he do this?

Robyn-leigh Smith (child psychologist) answers:

Playing is like the 2-year-old’s work. When playing the toddler is working out things – it is a way for them to think, to explore the world and start to separate out what is real and fantasy. There are therefore many factors that will influence how a toddler manages playdates and why they may let others take their toys away from them.

PARALLEL PLAY Two-year-olds tend to play next to or near each other. Mutual play can only happen once they realise that the other child is a separate person with their own feelings.

TEMPERAMENT A child’s temperament infl uences how he interacts. A child who naturally wants to please others may not mind when their toys are taken away.

ASSERTIVENESS AND AGGRESSION Being able to be assertive is a sign of character and strength – it enables a child to move forward confi dently into the world. A child who lets their toy taken from them may possibly be lacking in assertiveness.

FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS Children learn relationship dynamics from their families. Sibling relationships or being an only child will play an important role in laying a foundation for relationships
with peers. These different dynamics teach them about compromise, sharing, assertiveness, confl ict and forgiveness.

Ask yourself, “Why is it that I am worried about my child being a pushover?” Taking time to refl ect on your own anxieties can prevent you from being overprotective, in turn not allowing your child to negotiate interactions independently. Toddlers learn more about other people’s behaviour and feelings when parents allow them to work certain situations out themselves. The playdate is a safe context in which this can take place.

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