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I had a difficult talk with my daughter the first time she called her friend a “villain”

Our eldest daughter is on the cusp of her seventh birthday. She possesses a multitude of admirable traits, such as compassion, a sense of fun, creativity, and more. However, she has always been extraordinarily sensitive to various stimuli, ranging from sounds and flavors to novel experiences. She harbors fears of seemingly innocuous things like insects and towering slides, and she undeniably favors the familiarity of her comfort zone.

In the past fortnight, during each of the three social gatherings she attended, she exhibited some form of emotional outburst that left us perplexed. I’m seeking to understand if this behavior is an anomaly or a standard phase for a child of her age. It’s worth noting that despite her heightened sensitivities, she does not fall on the autism spectrum and has no known medical or neurological conditions.

To provide additional context, these social gatherings were with friends whose company she genuinely enjoys. She was eagerly anticipating all three events.

The first episode occurred when a friend visited our home, bringing along a younger sibling. They all engaged in play quite amicably for approximately thirty minutes until our daughter expressed a desire to venture outdoors. Regrettably, it was lightly raining, and we explained that unless our visitors had brought their rain gear, we couldn’t proceed outside. Our guests hadn’t, and this didn’t sit well with her. She became fixated on her desire to go outside, escalating into a tantrum that lasted roughly a quarter of an hour, during which she deliberately attempted to disrupt the fun of others, resorting to kicking and screaming. I had to escort her to her room to defuse the situation, but it took an additional quarter of an hour (and some snacks) to restore balance.

The second episode transpired at the residence of another friend. Upon our arrival, our daughter’s countenance fell, and she audibly expressed her dislike for the house. She then refused to participate or play for about ten minutes, rebuffing every attempt by her friend to engage or entertain. Eventually, the mother introduced an activity that our daughter is particularly fond of, which successfully drew her out of her shell. Things proceeded smoothly thereafter.

The third episode unfolded at a public water feature with her closest friend. They both enjoyed ice cream together. Our daughter didn’t wish to enter the water; her friend, however, was eager to play, making goofy faces and lingering nearby. Misinterpreting her friend’s playful behavior as teasing, our daughter began shouting “stay away.” She ultimately refrained from playing altogether, and as we were preparing to depart, she shouted at her friend, labeling him a “villain” and telling him to “never visit.” From our perspective, her friend hadn’t done anything wrong and was merely being playful.

In all three instances, not long after the incidents, our daughter behaved as if nothing had transpired. However, we did have a stern conversation following the third episode, which resulted in her forfeiting dessert for the day. To her credit, she is typically very considerate, and after we explained how her actions could have hurt her friend’s feelings, she took the initiative to create an apology gift, dedicating about twenty minutes to the task.

I’m aware that young children won’t always play harmoniously, and I don’t expect them to. Most social gatherings proceed without incident. However, these episodes feel like significant emotional overreactions, even if the initial triggers seem reasonable (desire to play outside, unfamiliar surroundings, need for personal space). We’re beginning to dread organizing playdates because we don’t observe other children exhibiting this type of behavior.

The only additional context I can provide is that she’s been attending kindergarten for roughly two years and doesn’t have any disciplinary issues there. However, she often becomes overwhelmed and occasionally cries or screams at school due to this. So, it doesn’t seem to be strictly related to playdates but rather appears to be a part of her highly sensitive personality overall. We have also started seeing a therapist (CSW), but we’re still in the early stages of this process.

I appreciate any insights you may have on this matter!

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