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4-year-old withdrawing? passive aggressive?
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4-year-old withdrawing? passive aggressive?

My daughter is just over 4 years old, and we're trying to help her get a handle on compromise with other kids. I know that's a big concept that takes us all a lifetime to master, but here's the story. My daughter has friends that she sees at school, but she has only one friend that she sees on a regular basis outside of school. They have known each other since they were nearly 2 years old. The friend is about six months older, and her longtime way of dealing with strife is screaming and fake crying. She is a very sweet little girl that resorts to histrionics when she doesn't get what she wants -- your basic preschooler stuff. My daughter's way of dealing with strife seems less basic and normal to me. When she's unhappy with another child, she withdraws into another room saying she's sleepy and/or says things like, "I just need to be alone." This happens regularly. Just as often she says passive-aggressive things in the "offending" child's earshot -- things like "I don't really like when other kids want to be the same place I want to be. Isn't it time for so-and-so to go home?" Sometimes she's a little less delicate and flat out says things like, "I don't want her near me." I will add here that the friend can be a bit smothering, always wanting to be right where my daughter is and doing whatever she's doing -- very in her space -- and having enormous temper tantrums when my daughter doesn't reciprocate the love. My daughter, on the other hand, has long had a tendency for getting sort of overloaded, and wanting to take breaks from the general chaos that groups of children always bring. We used to think it was just loud noises, but it's probably more than that.

Second, my daughter seems to hold grudges for a long time, rehashing incidents long after they're past. I think she's quite sensitive and has trouble processing the emotional turmoil of conflicts, which I assume is par for the course at this age, but I feel like I'm failing her in helping her deal with those strong emotions.She can't seem to move on or come to terms with things, no matter what we do.

It's been hard to help her deal with the often dramatic conflicts with this other little friend, partly because it's often the friend's screaming fits that send my daughter running. She clearly gets unnerved by the screaming, appearing as though she's afraid she's going to get in trouble, even though I have made it a sort of policy never to respond to (reward) the friend's fits in that way. It's also been hard because I don't know what to do when my daughter asks to be alone at these times. I can empathize with her, because the screaming fits get overwhelming. And I feel like she needs to be allowed to go and regroup when she's overwhelmed, but after allowing her to do that for some time, I worry that I'm at the same time giving her license to snub guests when things aren't going as she'd like them to go. She has definitely begun to abuse the "need to be alone" thing. How do I nurture the equanimity without feeding the selfishness? I also know that my daughter sees a lack of fairness when she's playing with this child. By that, I mean that if I see my daughter doing anything blatantly unkind or unfair or just plain naughty, I give a practical consequence such as taking her out of play for a bit, helping her figure out how to make reparations (and make them), or taking away some pleasant thing she was going to get or do later in the day. Her friend's parents do a lot of talking and admonishing and threatening, but she gets very few tangible consequences. I always have my daughter clean up her messes after playing, while this friend typically pitches a fit when asked to help (and gets away with not helping clean). That sort of thing. I believe this plays a part in the jealousy I see my daughter experiencing -- she's become extremely competitive with this friend and has even asked us sometimes if we love her friend as much as we love her. It seems a logical question for a four-year-old to have when she sees her friend being allowed so much more latitude.

At the same time, I see the behaviors my daughter is exhibiting with this friend, beginning to seep into her general interactions with other kids. It's a defeatist sort of approach to socializing. It's like she doesn't know how to deal, so she withdraws.

Is this abnormal behavior? Can you direct us toward any advice -- books, articles, your own words of wisdom -- that could help us help her process her big feelings without sacrificing friends. After a rough incident with the friend today, and after repeated conversations about the incident in which my daughter rehashed the injustices she felt had befallen her (and couldn't recognize her own wrongdoings), I just got out of gas. "Maybe you're not old enough to have friends to the house for a while," I said. "If you're not able to do things like share or forgive." Her eyes lit up. "Okay!" she said. "I will be so happy just being with you and Daddy. It will be fun!" Then she laid a big kiss on me and rolled over and happily fell asleep. Oops?
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13167_tn?1327197724
I think you're expecting an awful lot of maturity out of such a tiny child!  Her reaction of retreating and pretending to need to nap when her friend is screaming and crying at her seems exceptionally mature,  actually.  Adults don't even know how to gracefully deal with a situation where the guest is obnoxious and won't leave.  That's what she's facing - an obnoxious demanding friend who is still there and she can't escape.  

It sounds like you're doing a lot of micromanaging her friendship.  What would  happen if you busied yourself in the next room and didn't attend every spat?  Just allow your daughter to be rude once in a while,  and the other girl to scream once in a while,  and as long as there's no physical fighting or the verbal abuse doesn't get extreme,  they can work it out.

And your daughter needs to have a way to escape this girl's company whenever whe wants to.  Maybe a signal code word to you,  and then you say we have lots to do this afternoon,  how about you play another 10 minutes then I'll run you home?

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Avatar_f_tn
Why is there such an issue that the two of them have to play together?  Maybe it is time to take a break from the friend.  It seems to me that your daughter is trying to give you all of the signals that she doesn't want this friend anymore.  If you don't like dealing with this friend, and you can empathize how she feels, why torment her over it?  I wouldn't focus so hard on her leaving the room.  She obviously feels that this is the only way to deal with the situation, and honestly I think it is a very grown up thing to do.  Is she an only child?  I have two boys, and I agree with RockRose, let them play alone.  If you feel the need to continue the relationship, give your daughter room, and the friend room, to actually express themselves without mommy always there.  All children are abrupt.  They will say things like"That person needs to brush their teeth", or " I dont like her".  They don't know how to be tactful yet.  But, atleast she is expressing herself and not holding it in.  
Have you ever tried inviting different children from her school over for a playdate?  Sometimes even offering to pick them up and drop them off, just to see if your daughter reacts the same way to everyone, or just this girl in particular.  We teach our children to hopefully make good judgment calls in their friends...listen to what your daughter is telling you.
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Avatar_f_tn
I can see how it sounds like micromanaging, but the two girls are actually given a lot of space to play freely. The other mom and I sit and talk in one room and basically let them run about the house playing as they will. BUT, the other child tends to bring her troubles to her mom, who is usually sitting with me -- or she screams just as she would if she were horribly injured. This starts a whole whodunit thing, and it's awkward for me to just sit there staring off while the other mom tries to get to the bottom of the apparent heartbreak -- though that's what I mostly do (because the fits are so frequent and manipulative). When my daughter cries, that's when I intervene. She is just not much of a crier, so when tears are rolling, I know she's truly distressed and could use a little help. And by help, I mean I hug her, see what's wrong, and try to help her calm down. I definitely do not expect an extraordinary level of maturity from her, but I do want to help her deal with strong feelings of hurt and anger. Closeting herself in her bedroom 15 minutes into a play date that she asked to have, well, it's hard to know what to do as the parent. Do we just let her little guest play alone the rest of the play date? My daughter has the endurance to voluntarily stay cloistered for that long, if she makes up her mind.

I posted yesterday because we also had a play date with a different friend from school, which started out well but ended with my daughter saying she wanted to take a nap -- when my daughter didn't get something the way she wanted it. And my husband noticed our daughter doing some of controlling stuff this past weekend, treating the above-described friend fairly rudely (refusing to be in the same room) when the friend got a cup my daughter wanted, used a toy my daughter likes, etc. I know kids at this age are routinely rude to each other, but when the parents are sitting right there and bearing witness to it, I don't think it's appropriate to just let it play out.

The reason we can't just cut off the play dates is that this girl's mother is my next-door neighbor's best friend, and continually drops by for impromptu and uninvited visits. She has been doing this for a couple of years, and while I've grown to be friends with her myself, and while my daughter now asks to play with her daughter all the time (yes, the same one that drives her batty), I have periodically had to talk to them about limiting the play dates to shorter times, calling first, or not having play dates at all -- for a breather. Eventually, my daughter gets around to asking to play with this other little girl again. And the friend's mother calls often saying her daughter is asking to play with my daughter. Very often. Again, I empathize with my daughter feeling smothered, and I have already reduced the frequency and length of play dates as a result.

So, again, while I recognize the other child is a trigger, I also think my own daughter is learning to use retreat-and-resign as a sort of weapon to get what she wants from friends. Which may be perfectly normal, but I don't feel comfortable allowing her to be rude in that way. Or I guess I'd like to help her figure out how to regroup and recover, so she doesn't keep abandoning friends indefinitely during play time.
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Avatar_f_tn
I can see how it sounds like micromanaging, but the two girls are actually given a lot of space to play freely. The other mom and I sit and talk in one room and basically let them run about the house playing as they will. BUT, the other child tends to bring her troubles to her mom, who is usually sitting with me -- or she screams just as she would if she were horribly injured. This starts a whole whodunit thing, and it's awkward for me to just sit there staring off while the other mom tries to get to the bottom of the apparent heartbreak -- though that's what I mostly do (because the fits are so frequent and manipulative). When my daughter cries, that's when I intervene. She is just not much of a crier, so when tears are rolling, I know she's truly distressed and could use a little help. And by help, I mean I hug her, see what's wrong, and try to help her calm down. I definitely do not expect an extraordinary level of maturity from her, but I do want to help her deal with strong feelings of hurt and anger. Closeting herself in her bedroom 15 minutes into a play date that she asked to have, well, it's hard to know what to do as the parent. Do we just let her little guest play alone the rest of the play date? My daughter has the endurance to voluntarily stay cloistered for that long, if she makes up her mind.

I posted yesterday because we also had a play date with a different friend from school, which started out well but ended with my daughter saying she wanted to take a nap -- when my daughter didn't get something the way she wanted it. And my husband noticed our daughter doing some of controlling stuff this past weekend, treating the above-described friend fairly rudely (refusing to be in the same room) when the friend got a cup my daughter wanted, used a toy my daughter likes, etc. I know kids at this age are routinely rude to each other, but when the parents are sitting right there and bearing witness to it, I don't think it's appropriate to just let it play out.

The reason we can't just cut off the play dates is that this girl's mother is my next-door neighbor's best friend, and continually drops by for impromptu and uninvited visits. She has been doing this for a couple of years, and while I've grown to be friends with her myself, and while my daughter now asks to play with her daughter all the time (yes, the same one that drives her batty), I have periodically had to talk to them about limiting the play dates to shorter times, calling first, or not having play dates at all -- for a breather. Eventually, my daughter gets around to asking to play with this other little girl again. And the friend's mother calls often saying her daughter is asking to play with my daughter. Very often. Again, I empathize with my daughter feeling smothered, and I have already reduced the frequency and length of play dates as a result.

So, again, while I recognize the other child is a trigger, I also think my own daughter is learning to use retreat-and-resign as a sort of weapon to get what she wants from friends. Which may be perfectly normal, but I don't feel comfortable allowing her to be rude in that way. Or I guess I'd like to help her figure out how to regroup and recover, so she doesn't keep abandoning friends indefinitely during play time.
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Avatar_n_tn
your daughter sounds like a typical four year old. One thing that was hard for me was when my kids didn't act like I would have acted when I was a child.
Just love her for who she,
and keep it simple.
: )
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Avatar_f_tn
What do you think would happen if during a play date that your daughter requested (not one where as the neighbors just show up), if she mistreated her guest, after wards you didn't allow play dates to occur the next time or so that she ask. Do you think she would appreciate having friends to play with a little more and may approach the situations that upset her differently? Of course, you would not want to react this way if you see she was right to remove herself from a situation or standing up for herself reasonably. Or have you tried talking to her about if she were treated the way she sometimes treats others how would she feel? I sometimes need to put things in perspective like that for my five year old. On one occasion my son and a playmate were running around locking my three year old out of every room they went into, they were laughing as she chased them around begging them to be her friend. She was crying her heart out. This may sound a little harsh but I had had it after this continued despite my best efforts, I told my son that after their friend left and his Dad came home his sister, myself, and his dad were going to all run up stairs and lock ourselves in a room with out him. I asked "how would that make you feel", he immediately said He was sorry and he would not want to be treated that way. He seemed to then truly understand how he was treating his sister and then asked her to come and play. I hope this may help you.
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