4yo and friend issues... long

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-01-2007
4yo and friend issues... long
Thu, 03-19-2009 - 4:13pm

Hi, I was on here a few months ago asking for advice on my 4yo foster son, E. Well, we have been having an issue this week that I thought you all might be able to help me out with.
Since Nov. E has been going to full-day preschool and has been doing really well there. He makes friend very very easily and loves to play with other kids. However, he does get offended very easily if kids don't want to play with him.
He seemed to have a group of boys in his class that were all his friends and all seemed well. However, the last couple of days he hasn't wanted to go to school and today he even barricaded himself inside the car, bracing himself against the walls and chairs refusing to get out for school. When I ask him about it, he just wails and I can't understand a thing he says, except something about friends. I don't know.
When I dropped him off today I asked the teacher to look out for any behaviors between him and his friends or classmates that might be triggering this sudden dislike of school.
On top of that, at the in-home day care where I take his baby sister there is a 4yo and 6yo, both boys. They are always there when I pick up the baby and I always have E with me, unless for some reason I get done with work early and have time to pick up the baby first. E really really wants to play with these boys and they generally will play with him. However, in the last 2 months the 6yo has become very very sensitive and defensive, in my words, "his personal bubble is getting bigger." E has no concept of personal space. He has no personal space and doesn't understand that other people might so when I pick up the baby, there is automatic conflict between him and the 6yo. Me and the other parent have been trying to come up with some strategies for keeping them separate or having the 6yo be involved in an activity that would keep them apart. However, the 4yo in the home has started to pick up on the discord between E and his brother and has joined the anti-E brigade. Yesterday he walked up to E and said, "Me and my brother are going to a birthday party and you're not cuz you're not invited." E said, "Why am I not invited?" and looked super sad.
I jumped in and said we didn't know the people having the party and we have other things going on.
I talked to my daycare provider about this and she said she was going to talk to the boys before E is there again today. She didn't hear the exchange.

I'm figuring that this is some sort of stage where kids start to figure out friend relationships and so there are probably some expected bumps in the process. Is there anything else I could do, or look out for in this situation. I'm trying to help E understand personal space and he always had a hard time when people said they didn't want to share a toy with him or didn't want to play with him. He has internalized the phrase, "Respect their no" which he also uses on other people and myself when he says, "Respect my no." He has started to understand that it is ok for other people to say no and its ok for him to say no to not follow the crowd, but that doen't keep him from getting his feelings hurt, and maybe more, since this week he suddenly doesn't want to go to school. (This is a kid who will argue with me all day on Sunday that yes school is open and his teacher and friends are there and he needs to go to school and how can I not understand that!)

Wow, that got long, but I'm just not sure what to do to help him navigate the friend waters.

Thanks, Heidi

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2003
Fri, 03-20-2009 - 12:29pm

Hi Heidi. When you talked to the teachers did they mention noticing how he plays with others? Is it possible that whatever has been bothering the other kids been going on for a while so their reaction is to not want to play with him? Invading personal space or constantly being mean, or getting in trouble will have the kids backing away from him. And to a 4, 5, and 6 year old being mean can range any where from insisting on controlling the play, being bossy, falling apart over every thing, yelling and refusing to share while insisting others have to share. Refusing to listen when someone tells you no is high up on that listen of things that upset kids and make them want to avoid others. You honestly can not force kids to play together or like each other. You can insist that they treat each other respectfully.

What kinds of things have you been doing at home to help him learn about personal space?