Posted: Oct 15, 2012 1:07 AM
Your child's afternoon playdate has turned into a battle. Should you end the visit and call it quits or try to make peace?

Play date conflicts are common. Children have different playing styles, they haven't mastered the art of sharing, they can't agree on an activity or they're just not kind to one another. Whatever the reason for the kids' battle, it's up to you to help bring it to an end.

Playing peacemaker

"A parent should be able to step in to help the children solve the problem together," says clinical psychologist Donna Housman, founder and executive director of Beginnings Child Development Center in Weston, Massachusetts.

We should model the language our children need to use in order to learn how to play together.

"By listening and asking each child to share what happened, the parent can point out the reasons for feeling upset and ask how together we can make the child who is upset feel better."

Educator and children's party expert Dylan Glanzer agrees. "It is the parent's job to help young children negotiate problems. We should model the language our children need to use in order to learn how to play together."

First, let them attempt to work things out. "Intervene if they can't seem to find a way to agree," says Glanzer. "Listen to what they say to each other and then offer options."

An example

Glanzer uses one of the most common conflicts -- refusing to share -- as an example. "When your child doesn't share with a friend, it can be frustrating and embarrassing for you," says Glanzer.

"Young children do not always have the capacity to understand how to share," Glanzer reminds parents. "This is not to say that you shouldn't teach sharing concepts at an early age, but know that it's not necessarily the child's fault."

When both children want the same toy, say something like this: "I see you both want to play with this. Let's take turns! I will turn the timer to 3 minutes and when it goes off, you get to switch. Here is another toy for you to take turns with."

Expert Tip^Before another child comes to play, put away the toys your child loves the most. ~Dylan Glanzer

Whose responsibility is it?

If your child's friend misbehaves at your house, whose job is it to intervene? With preschool playdates, it's common for both moms to be present. When that is the case, it's appropriate for each parent to address her own child's manners or behavior. But what if you are the only parent present?

When someone is in my house, and in order to keep everyone safe, I make it clear that kids play by my rules.

"When someone is in my house -- and in order to keep everyone safe -- I make it clear that kids play by my rules," says The Mommy Master Ellie Hirsch, mother of three boys under the age of 6. "I never discipline someone else's child, but I calmly sit at their level and explain my rules."

It doesn't always work. "If the child behaves very badly, I will call the mom and let her know it's time to pick up her child. He may have different rules in his house, but if he's hitting or doing something that puts my child in danger or makes him feel uncomfortable, I call the other mom and let her handle it."

A life lesson

When parents act as facilitators, we teach our kids how to express what the problem is, how to listen to each other and how to work together to come up with a solution. "The parent's responsibility is not to fix the problem for their child," says Dr. Houseman, "but rather to help their child learn how to resolve their own problems."

Your child will feel empowered and will be on the way to developing independence, resilience and confidence in conflict resolution.

More helpful parenting and preschooler reads

Solving common playtime battles
Teaching independence through play
Should you schedule your preschooler?