Playdates gone wrong!
a continuation of 'Now We Are 6'
Peer relations with the 6 to 61/2 year old may appear to be impossible. The very nature of the 6 year old is that they can not see the other persons perspective. They assert only their own. "6 is by nature combative and aggressively quarrelsom. When differences of opinion arise in his play with friends, he is prone to "fight it out" (2)
"Other children mean a lot to a six year old but again the very nature of 6 makes it hard for him to get on well with others. Three playing together tend to make trouble. But much of any playtime tends to be rather stormy. Children at this age tend to be very agressive both verbally and physically. The are also quarrelsome, belligerent, boisterous, argumentative, excitable, emotional." (1)
"Grudges and memories tend to be short, and friendships are often resumed a day following tremendous complaint and conflict." (2)
For all the conflict that can occur, it can truly be said of the typical 6 year old that he has trouble living with his friends, but that he definitely can't live without them." (2)
"Piaget- The child is coming to the end of the pre operational stage of thinking in which he still is the center of the world and anything that moves is alive. His approaching Piaget's stage 3 Concrete Operations in which children recognize the views of others. Yet, he is quite incapable of taking the view of someone else at this stage." (1)
Children may see what other children or adults are doing wrong but will not be able to turn their learned gaze upon themselves. You may get a long list of what their playmates have done wrong. When you ask what they may have done to make them act out that way, they will have no recollection. Even if you catch them red- handed, they will be unable to take the perspective outside their protective egotistical stance. Perhaps, this is mother natures way of protecting the ego while teaching social convention.
"Certain pairs of children from five to eight years of age prove to be incompatible in play. They seem to find no common ground except arguing and fighting. These very same pairs may become bosom friends at the age of eight or nine. Thrusting them together too often before they are socially ready does them no more good than to give them complicated reading material before they are ready." (1)
We are well to be reminded of the emotional fatigability of the five year old. Just as 20 minutes is a long time for a five year old, 30 minutes of indoor collaborative play for the 5.5 to 6.5 year old may be the max. More time may be bought with outdoor parallel imaginative play. "He is most organized when he loses himself in a make -believe role."(1)
"In view of 6's multiple difficulties in interpersonal relationships, one may not expect him to be too much at ease with people or willing to meet them. The blank look, the inability to say "Hello," the unknowing impoliteness, are all part of his callow nature. In another year he will be able to give a better account of himself- so why make excessive demands upon him a year too soon?"(1) So give the little ones a break, they are not little adults, don't ask them to say hello and small talk.
Nervous Energy Habits
All the nervous energy presents itself in what Gessell et al call, "Tensional Outlets" The 6 year old "will grind teeth, chew fingernails, pick nose; hands and mouths are always busy; facial grimaces; many make numerous irritating throaty noises and throat clearing. In some there is an increase in, or a return to stuttering or sudden clumsiness. These things might be a clue that demands at home or school are too much for the child." (1)
In some children these are pronounced dramatic "tells". Try not to call attention to them by asking them publicly to take their fingers out of their nose, for example. Knowing the intensity of your child's temperment, displays of their nervous outlets may help you err on the side of caution. They may inform you to leave early or provide a comforting hug.
"In some children these outlets are less marked- a sigh, bringing fingers to mouth, or hands to hair. With some, tensional escape is verbal or expletive - "Hell", "Damn", "Ugh", "Hum".(1) If the nervous reaction is not overwhelming, it is best to let it pass and perhaps use the information to bolster the little ones nervous system with protein and/or praise!
So, if this is the worst of times, it is also the best of times. Enjoy this time of irrational exuberance! The egocentric, expansive, imaginative, energetic creativity is the 6 year olds gift to/from us. Their psychological inheritance demands that they create and communicate. They are newly rejoicing in the gift of being human! When the transitional stage slows down, this joyful stance remains until the 7 year old begins to turn more inward to worry. So, enjoy this joyful stance while it remains so unguarded and exposed!
"The 6 year olds share a big eyed enthusiasm, the eagerness for new experiences and new info warm expressions of affection, delight in shared experiences." (3) "But it is difficult to create in a vacuum. Rich experiences in living, are, in most instances, necessary if a child of any age is to develop his or her creative talents to their fullest. "(3)
Seek out adults who are living their creative talents. Go to see musicians, actors, dancers, painters in action. Allow your 6 year old to observe or interview them! Mine your social network for parents who engage in creative pursuits and ask for a studio visit or to watch them perform! Host a jam session! These experiences will be the inspiration for many splendors yet to come.
These are the best of times and the worst of times. Wait out the shadow and bask in the sunshine! And I will write the post about the NY Times, middle childhood article when we get to the end of our rollercoaster ride and pull in to the station to begin the age of reason.
1."The Child from 5 to 10, by Gessell, Ilg & Ames, (Harper Books, 1977)
2."Your Six-Year-Old, Loving and Defiant, Ames & Ilg, (Gesell Institute of Human Development, 1979)
3."Varieties of Temperment.", Sheldon, William H., (Hafner, NY, 1970)