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Dealing With Neighborhood Kids

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Question
I have a 6-year-old son who loves to play with some kids in the neighborhood (5-year-old boy and 4-year-old boy). They all fight constantly and cannot agree on what to play, who is on what team, etc. and it drives me crazy! My husband tells me to let it go and let them work it out, which would probably be okay, but when I'm out there with my two-year old I do not want to have to listen to it. I guess what I need is advice from you guys on what to do. Am I being too uptight? - Kim

Answer
Your frustration is understandable! However, I think it's important that kids that age can learn how to resolve their own conflicts as long as they're not beating each other up. How bad does the fighting get? Is there a park or playground nearby you can take your kids to just to get away from it once in a while? What about bringing a radio outside to help distract you from the kids' fighting? - Marcia

We had this problem last summer. I just told the boy that some days he had to stay at his house and play and that my kids had to stay home to play. Your house, your yard, your rules. Especially when the other parent is a not-so-involved one. Couple of times of sending the other kid home, or sending your kids inside when they can't resolve their issues should be enough for them to get the hint. - Chris

Since I have a 6 year old, a 4 year old and a year old myself, let me tell you how I handled it. My boys seem to WANT me involved in their bickering. The less involved I am, the sooner it stops. I make simple declarations like "Work it out", "If you cannot get along, we will go inside" or my personal close-to-the-end-of-my-rope favorite "I will only get involved if there's blood!". They know that they are not going to get any help from me UNLESS they can state their problem in a clear sentence or two, and ask me a simple question. If they can't get along, I make them stop playing whatever they were playing and do something like sweep the porch or pick weeds. It works for me.

As far as the child who won't leave? Give him a specific time. As in: "No Mikey, we cannot play right now, come back at 12:30 and we'll play for an hour, ok?" "No, Joey cannot play today, you'll have to come back tomrrow" "You boys are not getting along well today, so we are taking a break, we will play again tomorrow". If he begs and pleads, tell him that it will be even longer before you can all get together to play again. - Jill

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