Please Play With Me - My Rules
When my son was three, he became the rule maker, as do many gifted children. He loved creating games with a series of ever-changing rules that he expected his friends to follow. The only problem was that his little friends had, apparently, read the baby books and were still more interested in playing next to each other than with each other. Parallel play was just fine with them. And it was age appropriate. The more my son tried to involve them in his games, the more they resisted, until he did what any red blooded American boy would do under the circumstances – he hit them. Yes, as my mother had been called into school for a parent-teacher conference for her kindergartner, I now was being called into pre-school for a parent-teacher conference for my three-year-old. Somewhere my mother and Darwin were smiling.
Fortunately for us, the pre-school teacher recognized my son’s behavior for what it was – the result of his not reading the baby books. No one had told him that at three he was supposed to be interested in parallel play. No? Of course, what she explained was that he had already progressed from parallel play through simple social play (where he thought his friends were sharing with him when, in reality, he was simply taking their toys and giving them his), straight to cooperative play where he wanted everyone to have a role to play. What’s a mother to do? Of course, doing what any good parents in the late 1980s would do, my husband and I became his playmates for a while, letting him make the rules for games, give us roles, and follow his directions. Soon, he found an older boy in the neighborhood with whom he could play and everyone was happy.
If your child seems argumentative, hits, bites, or otherwise is disruptive with other children, be careful not to immediately go to the “oppositional defiant” diagnosis. Sometimes, he simply needs a friend who is at his stage of social development.