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Jennifer, School Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 397
Experience:  Collaborative parent consultation on everything from modifying behavior to child development.
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My seven year old son and his cousin, six months older, are

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My seven year old son and his cousin, six months older, are in Boy Scouts together. They see each other weekly, and at family events and summer camp through the year. When they are together they become very excited and silly. This has led to family conflict because my brother claims that being together escalates the behaviour of his son, he is uncomfortable with this, and wants to keep the boys apart. I feel that the boys are behaving the way they do because they do not see each other in unstructured play time enough, and need to see each other to play more. Both boys love each other, and enjoy each others company. Two years ago they did not invite my son to his cousin's birthday party - even when they played on the same hockey team and attended Boy Scouts and Sunday School together, and other boys they knew in common were invited. It devastated my son. The reason given was that my son was to attend a family event. They did not claim it was about negative behaviour.
Hello and thanks for using!

I'm sorry to hear about this family conflict. It must be disappointing for you and your son when they are unable to spend time together. I'd like to help. What specifically is your question?
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
How can I approach this with my brother? I want to be responsible for my parenting choices, and listen to his opinion, but I feel that he is unfairly blaming my son - who I admit is not perfect.

My gut instinct is that the boys need to be together, but he strongly feels uncomfortable with the excitement levels. We have different expectations. I feel that, yes, they need to not hit each other and they need to listen to group rules etc., but that they need some freedom. I feel that he is overreacting, and his discomfort is making them even more anxious.

Most recently, his son was asked not to attend a Boy Scout event because he left the group and the trail during a night hike. My son was with another parent at the time, and was not with his cousin when the Leaders intervened. We actually left early because my son and his cousin had been shoving each other earlier, and I separated them. He was consequenced at home with early bed, but none of the Leaders spoke to him.

When we first arrived at the event, my son ran to his cousin, yelling his name, and wanted to hug him - which resulted in the shoving match, which I spoke of earlier.

My brother claims that because my son ran to his cousin initially, that set the tone for elevated excitement, and that is why his son was making poor choices later on and consequenced by the group.

It sounds as though you are taking on a problem that will require some teaching. I'd agree that the boys can spend time together, but only with strict guidelines set beforehand for what is and is nor acceptable behavior. Perhaps they can be allowed to earn a reward of some kind for interacting positively and conversely will lose a privilege of some kind (the logical one would be the ability to play with one another that day) if things don't go well. All of this would need to be laid out in advance so there are no surprises to the children or parents. Start with a small time period and work your way up. Likewise, begin with a slightly loose structure and play environment and increase that by degrees as well (based upon success).

Of course this is something your brother needs to agree to trying. Try an open, honest conversation about why you think it's important for them to have a relationship and what they could learn from this together. I wish you the best of luck!
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