Can "Playing House" Sound Too Much Like Real Life?

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Life is complicated. Thank goodness there are experts to help us untangle some of the vexing issues that, well, vex us on a daily basis. The Mouthy Housewives are here to help, three times a week. Today, the Housewives answer an exclusive BlogHerMoms question!

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Dear Mouthy Housewives,

My children have a friend that we see quite regularly. Recently, though, I have noticed that on EVERY occasion the pretend play revolves around playing house. Normally, this would be fine, however, the "couple" (sometimes a princess dating a race car or a regular family with baby doll children) seem to be rather whiny and fussy towards one another. I feel that I might be hearing private conversations from this child's house. The children range in age from 4 to 7. Am I being overly concerned about this area of imaginary play? Should I just leave them alone? I’m just worried that the neighbor child, who is rather young, is overly concerned with boy/girl relationships. Or is that normal?

Signed,

Worried that Playing House is Becoming a Reality Show

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Barbie house

Credit Image:Staphylococcus via Flickr

Dear Worried that Playing House is Becoming a Reality Show,

My son recently went through a phase where all of his stuffed animals were in a constant state of time-out. I was worried that this plush prison was a result of sometimes sending our kid to time out when he was disruptive or disrespectful. And that now we had damaged him forever and doomed him to the life of a repeat offender since he was now desensitized to incarceration. What I found (through research and many discussions with various folks in the penal system) was that, in fact, he was just working through certain situations with exaggerated and imaginative play.  He has now moved on, released all his animals back into the wild, and taken to following me around and asking “why” 500,000 times a day. (Lucky me.)

What I am trying to say here is that it’s difficult to know what part of this child’s play is exaggerated and imagined. Although if he/she likes to play “house” by throwing tables across the room and calling invited dinner guests “whore” then I would say this is most likely a result of watching certain television programs.  And if he/she does this I would recommend sending the child to New Jersey stat! Otherwise, the majority of the play is most likely a mix of exaggeration, imagination and vacillating mood swings that happen as children grow.

For example, at about 4½, children are more likely to fluctuate between extreme happiness and being very upset. This is very normal behavior and in no way indicates a Britney Spears-in-training. Another thing to keep in mind is that children begin to explore their sexuality and that of others from an early age. It’s important for parents to dictate what is and is not appropriate behavior. If this child is showing inappropriate sexual behavior (I can’t really tell from your question) I would suggest: 1) having the child follow your rules of conduct when in your house and 2) discussing this with his mother/father.

I would also suggest that if this “whiny” and “fussiness” continues to bother you or affect your children negatively, you should step in and perhaps direct the play into something more constructive. Maybe they would rather all do a craft project together? Or play a game? Or, instead of house, maybe they could play grocery store? But just not the one with a happenin’ singles scene.

Good Luck,

Tonya, TMH

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