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Vihaan’s brother is his best friend, but sometimes he acts wild. How can Vihaan handle this?
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Adults, please use your smartphone's memo function or an audio app to record your child's question. Hold the phone close to your child's mouth to make sure the recording is clear. Have your child state:
their FIRST NAME (or another first name),
their AGE, and
a BRIEF QUESTION or concern about friendship. (Please do not include any friends' names.)
Submit the audio file at https://DrFriendtastic.com/submit. I’ll answer as many questions as I can. (Obviously, this is not psychotherapy, and it’s not for emergency situations.)
Think About It Questions to discuss with your child
Have you been around a friend or sibling who acts wild? What do you think helps or doesn’t help in that situation?
Has anyone told you that you were acting too wild? What feelings were behind your wild behavior? (In other words, how were you feeling at that time?)
Dr. Friendtastic explained that there are a bunch of different reasons why someone might be acting wild, including being overexcited, not wanting the fun to end, feeling lonely or bored, or feeling frustrated. Why do you think it’s important to figure out why smeone is acting wild?
When should you try to handle a friend or sibling’s misbehavior by yourself, and when should you get a grown-up involved?
What does Dr. Friendtastic mean when she says, “Winning and losing only last about two seconds”? Why is that an important thing to understand?
Welcome! I’m Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, also known as Dr. Friendtastic. I’m an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ.
Let’s listen to today’s question.
Hi, Dr. Friendtastic. My name is Vihaan, and I'm 6-years old. My brother is my best friend, and we play all the time, but sometimes he gets wild around me. What can I do?
Hi, Vihaan. Thanks for sending in your question. How wonderful that your brother is your best friend! And I’m glad to hear that you play together all the time! Doing fun things together is a great way to deepen your friendship with your brother–or with anyone!
So, what can you do when your brother acts wild?
First, we need to be curious about why he’s acting wild. Think about some recent times when he got wild. How do you think he was feeling? If we can imagine his point of view, that makes it easier to figure out how you should respond.
Sometimes, kids get wild because they’re overexcited. They get so carried away with silliness that they don’t think, and they start doing things that could hurt someone or break something. That can really wreck the fun!
If that’s the pattern with your brother, you may want to agree ahead of time on a word or phrase that’s a signal for both of you to stop, take two steps back away from each other, and catch your breath. Your word could be “Break!” or something silly like “Bananas!” You might even want to practice with your brother saying the word, then taking those two steps back so he’s ready to do it when needed. This can keep the game fun and safe.
But what if your brother doesn’t want to use a take-a-break word or doesn’t listen when you say it? Give him a warning by saying, “This isn’t fun for me.” If he doesn’t listen, tell him a second time, “I mean it. I don’t like this. Please stop.” If he still doesn’t listen after you’ve asked twice, he’s probably not going to listen, so your best bet might be to walk away. You can try playing with him again later, when he’s calmed down.
Sometimes kids act wild because they don’t want the fun to end. Maybe your brother feels disappointed because you’ve moved on from the pillow fight or whatever it was, but he still wants to play, so he does something wild–like whacking you with a pillow when you’re quietly reading–to try to get you to come back to the game.
It might make it easier for your brother to change activities if you help him do his last thing. For instance, you could warn him, “Let’s do it one more time, then I want to do something else.”
Sometimes kids act wild because they’re feeling lonely or bored. They want to play, but they’re not so good at inviting people to play. They may do something annoying to try to get attention.
If that sounds like your brother, instead of getting involved in the argument he’s trying to start, you could suggest a fun activity or two to help him move in a happier direction. For instance, you could say, “Do you want to play outside or build with Legos?” You’ll also be teaching him better ways to invite someone to play.
There’s one more possibility I can think of for why your brother might be acting wild: Sometimes kids act wild because they’re feeling angry or frustrated. If that seems like your brother, you may want to think about what games or situations tend to be upsetting for him and change the activity so it’s easier for him or suggest playing something else.
For instance, lots of young kids have trouble being a good sport about winning and losing. When he’s older, your brother will understand that winning and losing only last about two seconds. But maybe right now, things will go more smoothly if you stick to playing games with him that don’t have winners or losers.
This has been Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic. If you have a question about making and keeping friends that you’d like me to answer, go to DrFriendtastic.com, and click on the podcast tab to see how to submit your question.
And be sure to check out my funny and practical books for kids about friendship: Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends, and my new book, Growing Feelings: A Kids’ Guide to Dealing with Emotions About Friends and Other Kids. They’re available through your library or wherever you buy books.
The Dr. Friendtastic newsletter and the Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic podcast are for educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation. I trust you to use your judgment about what’s right for your child and your family.