Don't let kids make rivalries

Q. At my 5-year-old daughter's preschool, several girls, including my daughter, have been competing with one another for one specific girl's friendship. It recently escalated into hysterical crying by one little girl because the popular girl hugged another friend. The moms involved were not expecting this sort of rivalry until middle school, and we need some advice.
A. Yes, hurtful rivalries of this sort are the stuff of yesterday's middle school, but this is the age of "Survivor" and "The Apprentice" and other equally vicious "reality" programs which I'm convinced are having a "trickle down" effect on child culture. What's that you say? Most children don't watch those programs? Right, but "most" is the operative word. Like bad apples, all it takes is a few.
If all the moms are concerned about life at preschool imitating reality TV, then all the moms ought to sit down with the girls and read them the riot act, and it wouldn't hurt if all the dads were in on it as well. This meeting should take the form of an intervention rather than an opportunity for the girls to express their feelings about one another or offer individual explanations as to what's going on. In fact, I'd recommend that the girls not even be given permission to speak.
The parents should make it perfectly clear that the girls will not be allowed to be selfish, nasty and mean to one another; rather, each of them is expected to be a friend to everyone else, and equally so.
The meeting should end with "DO YOU UNDERSTAND?" at which point, if the shock-and-awe has been effective, all the girls, wide-eyed, will nod their heads.
"Good," a parent should say, as all the parents get up and begin filing out of the room. "We are going to leave you alone to apologize to one another. Be forewarned, we don't want to ever hear this sort of stuff again."
Q. I am the mother of a 5-year-old son. Because our neighborhood has very few children, he has attended part-time preschool since he was 3 years old. We are concerned that he is not getting enough playtime with children his own age and that we should move to a more traditional neighborhood with more children. How much "kid time" is necessary for a normal development?
A. Researchers at LesPartee University and Bar and Grill have determined that the relationship between normal development and playtime with other children is mostly a matter of climate. A summary of their conclusions:
1.During those months when the mean temperature is above 70 degrees, 8.9876 hours of playtime per week with children within 11.454 months of said child's birthday is considered optimal.
2.During months when the mean temperature is below 70, but above 40, optimal play time drops to 5.398 hours per week, but the birthday parameter drops to children within 9.87 months of said child's birthday.
3.During months where the mean temperature is below 40, the numbers are 7.6565 hours per week, and 8.9 months on either side of said child's birthday. The researchers cannot explain the paradoxical nature of these relationships, by the way.
4.Months in which there are hurricanes, tornados, thunderstorms or drought do not count.
Meanwhile, working in my top-secret parenting laboratory deep beneath the earth's surface, I have discovered that mothers who ask questions of this sort are thinking about their children entirely too much. They desperately need "hobby" therapy or "job outside the home" therapy or something along those lines.
XJohn Rosemond is a family psychologist. Questions of general interest may be sent to him at Affirmative Parenting, 1020 East 86th Street, Suite 26B, Indianapolis, IN 46240 and at his Web site:

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