Social Question

Supacase's avatar

Is this an appropriate thing to say to a child?

Asked by Supacase (14563points) December 14th, 2010

“Emma” is five and “Amber” is six.

Emma is a shy child and she tends to stand and watch things to get a feel for them before she joins in. She does this almost every time she visits Amber’s house. Amber’s reaction is to pout, throw a tantrum, whine or cry loudly.

After about ten minutes, Emma will loosen up and be tentatively open to playing. Now the tables are turned because Amber is mad at Emma and won’t play with her.

Emma’s mom thinks this is all fine – the kids will work it out.

Amber’s mom tells Emma, “She doesn’t want to play with you now because you hurt her feelings.” This upsets Emma because she thinks she has done something bad when she didn’t mean to.

This is where Emma’s mom has a problem. First, she thinks that Amber should be able to handle someone not playing with her without having a meltdown. No, it isn’t fun, but she thinks Amber’s reaction is out of proportion to what is happening. Second, she does not like that Emma is being blamed for Amber’s feelings or that OR that Amber’s mom, an adult, is telling her that she has done something wrong/mean. Since Emma doesn’t intend to do it but is being told that she is anyway, her mom thinks she will start to feel like a bad person.

I am friends with both of these women and am sort of caught in the middle. It is uncomfortable when I witness this and when they each privately complain about each other to me.

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29 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Wow, if it was me, I would support Emma’s Mom and suggest that she not have play dates with Amber.

I would also take Emma aside and let her know that she has done nothing wrong.

Seelix's avatar

I agree with @marinelife. There’s no reason to subject these kids to this! Amber does need to learn about how other kids react differently in different situations, but Emma shouldn’t have to be the guinea pig. Poor thing.

flutherother's avatar

You can’t blame a child for being shy. Amber sounds too used to getting her own way. She is probably spoiled by her mother. If Emma is to be faced with this every time she visits Amber she will lose confidence and become even more shy. Difficult one to deal with but my sympathies are with Emma.

CaptainHarley's avatar

The children should work their play out on their own. Amber’s mom is dead wrong to say that to Emma.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

This is the natural order of things. One kid even though younger has learned that caution and observation equal controlling a situation and making it safe for her. The other kid is an instant gratification kind and is going to keep getting her chain yanked all her life if she doesn’t slow down and look at her environment more carefully.

I don’t think the younger girl is doing anything wrong or rude. The older girl isn’t doing anything wrong but her trantrums in an attempt to control the play are rude. The moms can either explain the difference in behaviors and approaches to play with both girls or choose to not have them play at all.

The one mom is right in that these things will settle out in time but Amber might find more satisfaction in play friends if her mom addresses her tantrums and inpatience with other kids, how it puts her at disadvantage.

Supacase's avatar

@CaptainHarley Amber is six. It is in the first line.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Personally, I don’t feel that Amber’s mother is handling the situation properly. Shouldn’t a child who throws a temper-tantrum and doesn’t treat a ‘guest’ hospitably be put in a time out? I don’t have children, but I was one once, and that is what my mother and the mothers’ of friends would do.

As for what you should do, not that you asked, is to stop the friends from venting to you. They need to work it out themselves. Maybe it is just me, but it is rare that any advice I give to friends/co-workers about how to get along with others works…unless it is to talk to the source of their frustration. For those that do, it seems to work out rather well.

Seaofclouds's avatar

How does Emma respond when she is ready to play but Amber is not because she is upset? Does this upset Emma as well or does Emma not care? I personally don’t think it’s wrong to explain to a child that another child doesn’t want to play with her because her feelings were hurt. I don’t see that as placing blame on the other child (Emma), just explaining why one (Amber) no longer wants to play with the other (Emma). Though I do think it should have been Emma’s mom telling her that instead of Amber’s mom. I also think that they way it’s said matters as well (as far as attitude, tone, etc).

I think that Amber needs to learn better ways to deal with her emotions, but she isn’t wrong for being upset that Emma wouldn’t play with her. She could be spoiled and use to getting her way, or she could genuinely be upset because her friend won’t play with her.

Honestly, it sounds like both parents could handle the situation better. To me, just because Emma is told that Amber’s feelings are hurt, it doesn’t mean they are saying Emma did something wrong, instead they are explaining why Amber is upset and not playing with her at that time. At the beginning, they could equally explain to Amber that Emma needs a few minutes to adjust before she is ready to play. That way both girls understand each other’s feelings.

If this happens often, it’s only going to continue until either the parents let the girls work it out on their own (which would really be ideal) or until they both get use to how the other one is.

deliasdancemom's avatar

I try to keep my friends and my childs friends seperate, the older they get the easier this becomes I imagine

CaptainHarley's avatar


Yes, I saw that and changed my answer accordingly.

Supacase's avatar

@Seaofclouds I agree both could handle it a little better. I generally just listen and offer no advice.

When Amber is mad and won’t play, Emma seems confused for a couple of minutes like she isn’t sure how she should react, but she eventually starts playing on her own. She will try to get Amber to play once or twice, but she doesn’t push it.

It isn’t letting Emma know that Amber’s feelings are hurt, it is the way it is phrased, “You hurt her feelings.” Emma’s mom wouldn’t mind so much if it was more like “Her feelings are hurt.” It is the direct placement of blame.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Supacase I understand what you are saying and I agree the way it is said matters. I personally don’t think it’s wrong to explain to a child that their actions or inactions hurt another person’s feelings though, but perhaps it should be Emma’s mom explaining that Amber’s feelings were hurt when Emma wasn’t playing with her. It doesn’t mean Emma has to play with her, it just explains why Amber was upset about it so that Emma can understand what’s going on. I think it all really depends on how it’s done. There’s a difference between “you hurt Amber’s feelings by not playing with her” and “Amber isn’t playing because she feels hurt because she was playing alone”.

Either way, Amber’s mom needs to work on how Amber deals with and expresses her feelings.

YARNLADY's avatar

Too many people have the impression that no one is in charge of their own feelings. When they get mad, it’s because someone or something made them mad. When they feel bad, it’s because someone made them feel bad.

This is completely wrong, but unfortunately it is so wide spread that there is little that we can do about it.

Emma has to learn to deal with disappointment and feeling upset, so she needs all the support she can get. Amber needs help to learn a more effective to deal with her feelings.

SuperMouse's avatar

If I was Amber’s mom I would remind her prior to the playdate, that Emma takes a while to warm up then help Amber come up with a plan or some ideas to help her be patient during that time. It is incumbent upon Amber’s mom to help her child deal with a situation that is out of her control, she should absolutely not be calling Emma out for her shyness. Some children are slow warmers, this is a perfect teaching moment to help Amber understand that everyone is different, help her gain a bit of self-control and head off a problem at the pass.

downtide's avatar

I think Amber’s mum is out of line saying that to Emma, and if Emma were my daughter I would cancel the play-dates and not have anything further to do with either of them. If Amber were my daughter, she would be grounded and banned from having friends round for a week for a tantrum like that and I would be apologising to Emma, not blaming her.

Judi's avatar

I haven’t read all the answers yet, but I can tell by the way you wrote the question that you already have the right answer in your heart.

cak's avatar

My son is the slow to warm up child. He’s like me, he watches, then joins. This has caused some problems with some play dates, when he was a bit younger. One child used to pick on him. I had a choice, keep taking him or cut it out. Eventually, I did stop allowing them to play together because of the actions of the other parent. They never disciplined the other child for rude behavior, yet I never once told the other child he was rude. That’s not my place. I have control of my child.

Amber’s mother is wrong for telling Emma that she hurt Amber’s feelings. Amber needs to be taught not to throw tantrums when things don’t exactly go her way. Amber, though young, needs to be taught that things aren’t always perfect, but it’s what you make of the situation that counts.

My son is now 7(he just said, “at least 7½,”) and he has a friend that comes over and wanders around for 30 minutes before he really engages. It used to confound my son and he started bordering on rudeness. I pulled him aside, immediately, and reminded him that he used to be the same way. Now this child comes over, they play separately for 15–30 mins and then get along famously. Children must be taught how to handle situations, not how to assess blame for a situation. Just my opinion. Also waiting for @Judi, she’s great at this parenting stuff!

Judi's avatar

@cak, thanks, but I didn’t give any advice except to listen to her heart!

cak's avatar

@Judi I know. I always wait to see if you are sharing some wonderful advice.

Zaku's avatar

It’s not a truly terrible thing to say, but it can tend to lead to more hurt feelings, as you’ve seen. All four people could learn to cope with such situations better.

I suggest explaining your perspective to both moms, and listening and acknowledging their experience without “siding with them” about their complaints, if you know what I mean.

john65pennington's avatar

Its hell being a referee. you should try resolving a domestic disturbance in a police uniform. no difference, just that the children are not children, but adults. i would wash my hands of being placed in the middle and i would teach this to each parent. friends are not going to put you in this position of being a moderator for themselves and their children. good friends do not act this way. you know what the problem is, but you hang in there for their supposedly friendship. this is not friendship. this is a tag team match and you are the referee.

I say buy yourself a bottle of hand sanitizer and rid yourself of both parties. these are not your friends.

Berserker's avatar

I fuckin hate it when grown ups expect children to be able to understand and rationalize the way the adult brain does. I don’t think it’s appropriate at all.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Whoa. If Amber’s mom knows that Emma is shy, why isn’t she starting the playdate out with some sort of structured activity for the two of them to do together? How does Emma act when Amber comes to her house to play?

Do either mom ask their daughters if they want to play together, or have the moms decided that the girls should play together because they’re the same age? Maybe they have nothing in common and playing together isn’t fun for either one.

Kardamom's avatar

Both of these parents should find other children that more readily “match” their child’s personality and call it a day. Amber’s mom needs therapy. She has no empathy.

mattbrowne's avatar

I am right and you are wrong because you are too young.

Doesn’t convince any child.

We need to be smarter to get our message across.

angelique_1's avatar

its not the childrens fault, they dont know. its the grownups who fill their childrens heads with thoughts and ideas that are right and wrong. just like children dont know the difference between boys and girls or black and white until its pointed out to them, and by whom? the grown ups.

Tay122's avatar

Amber and Emma shouldn’t play together anymore,
and neither should their mothers…

poopnest's avatar

Maybe the adults should step back let Emma and Amber’s play date fiasco resolve itself in order to keep an intact relationship between the girls and parents. However, if the situation does not improve then perhaps separation is necessary. I think both mothers should observe the children without intervention before deciding to separate the girls.
It may help Amber develop to be given the chance to become acclimated on her own terms with a play mate without the adults interfering in any way.
Since Emma seems to have no problem with adjusting over a short period to Amber, maybe Amber needs the same benefit in order to become more social and friendly to her peer, Emma.

likipie's avatar

If the children aren’t getting along, why are they still having play dates? If it’s because the mom’s want to get together so they just have the kids hang out while they do, then they need to not involve the kids in their get togethers. I understand that it’s more convenient to just bring your children together for a play date and hang out then, but there has to be some way around this.

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