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248: The Playdate Boss

By July 25, 2023November 6th, 2023Mastermind Parenting Podcast

Have you ever been the parent whose kiddo was bossing other kids around during a playdate? I have, and so has the mom who was on a recent Mastermind call. She’s here to share a story I call “Goldfishgate,” that’s so funny and so relatable. You’ll recognize how it feels to watch your kid push their friends around, and how Mastermind skills can help you recognize and address underlying causes of challenging behavior.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  1. What can make a normally reasonable kid turn into a little tyrant when they’re playing with their friends.
  2. Why micromanaging and redirection might minimize the fallout, but won’t help them grow out of the behavior.
  3. When and how to address the underlying causes, and help your kiddo recognize when they’re starting to cross the line.

And much more! 

As always, thanks for listening. Head over to Facebook, where you can join my free group Mastermind Parenting Community. We post tips and tools and do pop-up Live conversations where I do extra teaching and coaching to support you in helping your strong-willed children so that they can FEEL better and DO better. If you enjoyed this episode and think that others could benefit from listening, please share it!

About Randi Rubenstein

Randi Rubenstein helps parents with a strong-willed kiddo become a happier family and enjoy the simple things again like bike rides and beach vacays.

She’s the founder of Mastermind Parenting, host of the Mastermind Parenting podcast, and author of The Parent Gap. Randi works with parents across the U.S.

At Mastermind Parenting, we believe every human deserves to have a family that gets along.

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Randi Rubenstein: [00:00:00] My name is Randi Rubenstein, and welcome to the Mastermind Parenting Podcast. At Mastermind Parenting, we’re on a mission to support strong-willed kids and the families that love them. 

​Hi, podcast listeners. How are you guys this week? I have a fun episode. Well, the topic isn’t that fun. If you resonate with this topic, you know, it’s not that fun. And, I have a fun way of helping you through this with the story that I’m going to share, which I’m calling Goldfish Gate. 

So this is what made me come up with the topic of today, which is when your kid acts like the playdate boss. When your kid is just being bossy with friends, let’s say you’re, you’re hosting a playdate, you know, your kid maybe has some social issues, whatever they are, whether it’s that your kid has a hard time making friends, or they never want to

[00:01:00] really invite friends over, or they come home and they tell you that no one played with them at school. Or maybe it’s that you are always doing the inviting and your kid doesn’t really get invited to other kids houses. You know, if you worry about your kid socially, right? I relate to this. 

And so finally your kid is hosting a play date and it’s a lot of work on you. It has been a lot of work on you. And this mom had told me a story about how her son, who’s now 13, he had two friends over. He hasn’t been very social since pre COVID, and these two best friends of his, they’re kind of – all his friends are in this friend basket with these two kids. These two kids have lots of other friends, according to mom. 

So now mom’s

[00:02:00] hosting a play date and she said, she comes and she says, so it was going really well, a lot better than it went when they were little. And, then, this thing happened and so now I’ve called it Goldfish Gate. 

So I was planning to share that story because the playdate boss topic was coming up with several people, especially with several people who had middle school kids. I don’t know if there was any coincidence, but it was, seemed like it was happening, with middle school boys. 

So it’s these boys who have been strong-willed kids and they’ve had a couple of close friends and, you know, long friendships. And now all of a sudden these boys are in middle school and the other kids are either getting fed up or you’re starting to see like this really bossy behavior that is,

[00:03:00] you’re just like, okay, you’re not five anymore, right? Like, you’re not five anymore and like you can’t behave this way. Like, you’re now a tween and nobody likes the bossy person, right? Nobody likes the bossy, like you can’t be that kid. 

So, this topic was coming up, uh, it came up several times and I thought I’m going to share Goldfishgate. I think that was a really good story. Well, I happened to be leading a coaching call today, with my private membership community, and the mom of Goldfish Gate was on the call. So I said, hey, I was going to record a podcast and I wanted to share Goldfishgate. And why don’t you share the story and then we’ll talk about it?

So that’s why I think it’s fun because finally you’re going to have an episode where you hear the story directly from the mom and we discuss it. I really think that the way

[00:04:00] we unpacked it, I think if you struggle with this issue, you’re going to relate and you’re going to find it really helpful, or at least that’s my hope.

So enjoy.

Aryn L.: So Simon, who has, as you know, been very reluctant to be social for a while. Um, decided one nice warm day that he didn’t have school that he wanted to have his two good friends over. And I said, sure. And they came over and they were here for several hours. I fed them lunch. They went and they did water guns.

It was the first time in a long time that I didn’t feel like I needed to micromanage every second of the play date. A, because they were older, they’re 13 and they’re just more mature. I wasn’t as concerned that there was going to be a lot of controlling on the scene by Simon, because when Simon used to have friends over, he was

[00:05:00] very controlling. We can do this, or we can do that, or this is mine and you can’t touch it. And he, he just wasn’t showing any of that behavior. It had also been a very long time since he had people over and they wanted – 

Randi Rubenstein: Let me pause you. So when he used to be Mr. Bossy like that, how did you handle it? 

Aryn L.: So it was really pre Mastermind and I was just involved. Like, I was just very close all the time, and I was constantly trying to redirect him and say like, no son, when we have friends over, you know, the friend gets a turn on the video games or the friend gets to decide what you’re doing. You can’t control everything. Um, it was a lot of, constant management.

Randi Rubenstein: And did it usually work out how, you know, 

Aryn L.: The kids did generally have a good time. It was very stressful for me. I definitely needed a nap and a glass of wine. That was back when I was drinking, but it was very stressful. It was exhausting for me. 

Randi Rubenstein: So you could

[00:06:00] micromanage it and the kids for the most part would do okay. It was way exhausting for you. 

Aryn L.: Horrible. 

Randi Rubenstein: Right. So now he’s taken a break for a long time and we had COVID and he’s been at home and he hasn’t really wanted to be social, and you’ve gone through Mastermind now. So, right. Like, so you have some new tools, um, and he’s in a totally different place. He’s older. He’s also, for the most part. Out of defense zone. 

Aryn L.: Yes. 

Randi Rubenstein: He was aggressive. He had some volatility going on before. And, um, I’ve heard you describe him for everyone else who isn’t on your different group threads. Like you’ve described him recently as delicious. I never heard you describing him as delicious before. 

Aryn L.: He is. He can be super sweet, super cuddly, helpful. He, he’s a totally different kid. Yeah. 

Randi Rubenstein: Okay.

[00:07:00] so he has some friends over, go now, carry on. 

Aryn L.: He has some friends over, and I actually think that I had just left a message on my accountability group and I had said like how nice it was. I wasn’t micromanaging. They were working things out. They were figuring it out. And um, they want snacks. And I have a whole box of like grab and go snacks and, like they knock on the door and I’m like, yeah, they want water. They want snacks. 

So I bring the box out. And in the box there are bags of goldfish, which I had only recently bought for Simon because they have artificial colors in them and I’m like, or no, maybe they have like genetic, whatever they GMOs in them or something, they have something that I was like, we’re not buying goldfish, but he wasn’t eating anything. And he’s like, I’ll eat goldfish if you send them in my lunch. And I’m like, okay, fine. 

So there was little bags of goldfish. And, the friends had a snack and that was fine. And then they wanted another, and another, and he was like, well, you can’t have my goldfish.

[00:08:00] And I was like, of course they can have your goldfish. No, they can’t have my goldfish. They’re my only goldfish. You’re not going to buy more goldfish. They can have anything, but they can’t have the goldfish. 

And I mean, he did, he did share the goldfish, but it was, it was a thing. And then he would, like, leave the friends outside and he would come in and he’d be like, Bryson’s going to eat all my goldfish. They’re eating all my goldfish. 

And I’m like, Simon, it’s okay. Like, I can go to the store tomorrow and buy new goldfish. When friends are here, you let your friend eat the snack that they want. Like, this isn’t a big deal. Like, we, we can get more goldfish, but he became very agitated about the goldfish. 

Randi Rubenstein: And what were you the most worried about from that whole exchange?

Aryn L.: Well, I think, you know, first of all, it put me back into – it put me, I feel like, back into defense zone where I was like, oh, my God, I can’t believe that we’re back here like this was going so well. I have to

[00:09:00] get involved, I have to micromanage, and my brain started racing. And then I was, you know, 

I definitely had a concern that your two best friends, the only two people who you actually like to socialize with outside of school, aren’t going to want to go back to your house again because you’re not sharing your goldfish.

Randi Rubenstein: So you’re like, the kids are old enough now that you can’t act like a little baby bitch about the goldfish. 

Aryn L.: Yes. Correct. 

Randi Rubenstein: Like, you’re a 13 year old boy And these are your two besties and the kids are old enough now where they’re going to be like, yeah, that was ridiculous.

Aryn L.: We’re not going there again. 

Randi Rubenstein: Yeah. He’s selfish. And so your brain got triggered and you were like, I am worried. Like, none of us want our kids to experience social isolation. And so it’s like, oh, just when I was thinking this is going so well, just when I was

[00:10:00] realizing I didn’t need to micromanage, and here I’m having to, like, talk them off a ledge about hoarding the goldfish. So, where did you get to afterwards? 

Aryn L.: So, he shared and it was fine, and then the friends were supposed to leave and then he asked if they could stay and they all wanted to stay, and they stayed for, like, another hour and a half, and it all ended up fine. You know, they had, like, little squabbles nothing I needed to get involved in.

And when they left, I said to him, you know, Simon, like, I’m so glad you had friends over. That was so, so much fun. You did all of these things. You were so self sufficient. You were allowed, you played water guns. And I was like, but when your friends are over, like, you have to share. It’s just a snack. It’s not a big deal. 

And they were going to eat them, then I’ll buy you more goldfish. Like, you can’t not have friends over because you’re concerned that people are going to eat your food.

[00:11:00] Like, part of having friends over is being mature enough to share your food, to share your toys like whatever it is. And if there’s something, you know, like maybe it was – 

I don’t want to say it was my fault, but like maybe I should have like prepared him earlier. I, it didn’t even occur to me. Like we’re going to share our food. We’re going to share. 

Randi Rubenstein: How could you have thought you can’t – 

Aryn L.: Right, like I used to do that. Like I used to have to say to him, you know, so and so is coming over, is there anything that you don’t want him to touch? We should move it. I would have never thought to do it with food, but there were toys that we had to put away. And like, It was a whole thing. 

Randi Rubenstein: Well, right, but with little kids, I used to do the same thing. Is there one thing that’s just, off limits and we’re not even going to talk about it. We’re not even going to bring it up during the play date, but if there’s one special thing, I’m just going to take it out and it won’t even be an option. Everything else, you know, from the time he was really little, everything else, your friend comes over, they play with your things and everything stays here.

[00:12:00] So while they’re here. We share everything, except for if you have one thing that is just too special, then we’re just going to put it away, and the friend won’t even know it’s here. And while they’re here, they play with things. And then when they leave all the toys stay here. 

And I mean, I remember talking about that with Alec from the time he was like three. But when they’re 13, you cannot think, oh, my kid might decide to hoard the brand new snacks.

So the time to talk about it is afterwards, exactly like you did, you know. Like, when we see something that’s a problem and then we’re not scared to go back in because we also have a good relationship with our kid and they feel safe and they know they can trust us. They, he knows he can trust you when you say, if all the snacks, all of your favorite snacks get eaten, I promise you, I am committed that I will replenish those snacks.

[00:13:00] ASAP. it is a priority. Like, do you believe me? Do you trust me? 

Like, giving them that reassurance afterwards about like, and this might sound ridiculous and crazy, but it’s the same control. It’s just like an older, you know, an older version of the same control that he used to have about, who can play the video game and you, I go first and you can’t do this. Like all that. 

It was probably towards the, you know, they’ve been playing for a long time. Maybe he was feeling a little amped up, a little dysregulated. 

Aryn L.: Well, I was just going to say that I was, I was thinking as we were just talking about it, like, it had been a while. I was feeling a little bit dysregulated like, now the water guns are coming out and now they’re using the hose, and like I was dysregulated and I was thinking like, I bet he was also dysregulated and had done a really good job up until that point of like keeping it all together. And maybe he just felt like he just needed something to control to release some of that

[00:14:00] anxiety that he was feeling. 

Randi Rubenstein: Yes, he went back to, and this is all happening. I mean, this is. This, this is subconscious. His old strategy for when he was a little overstimulated or dysregulated during a play date was to control other people. And so it does make sense that his body naturally was like, oh, when we feel out of control on the out on the inside, we control things on the outside. And right now, the thing on the outside that’s relevant is goldfish and snacks. And so he just went and tried to control it.

And so, talking about it afterwards, which is like, hey, listen. Do you believe me that when friends are over and they’re eating your favorite things or using up, let’s say, if we had, like, I don’t know, like, you were playing with your brand new water guns and one of your friends broke one or whatever, do you trust me and believe that all you have to do is tell me

[00:15:00] that we need to replenish this thing and I’m on it? Like it’s going to happen, like within the next day, like we’re going to get it done. Do you believe me about that? Like that reassurance. 

And then remembering, this is not really the issue, the issue is really overstimulation. So then, you know, taking it a step further, especially with an older kid. Maybe it’s not in that moment, productive conversations don’t always have to happen all in one sitting, and waiting… I mean, you could even bring it up now. You could bring it up, you know, at a completely non-relevant time. It’s so much later.

It might be later that day and you’re like, I was just thinking, you know, before Goldfish Gate happened. And he might be like, what’s Goldfish Gate. Remember, because I’m like, you know, I won’t buy the goldfish. And then finally I buy the goldfish. You’re all excited about the goldfish. And then you have the friends over and they’re eating all the goldfish. And you’re like, stop, I’ve waited

[00:16:00] a long time for those bags of goldfish, and they’re all going to be gone, this can’t be happening. And then I had to remind you, I’ll buy you more goldfish. And it was like, okay, everybody can take a deep breath.

You know, I was thinking about it. Right before Goldfish Gate, it was a long play date and there was a lot going on. I was feeling a little exhausted. I was feeling a little dysregulated. Have you ever noticed, or I don’t know, if you think back, like, you know, all that activity, you know, this and then that and then that, do you ever notice when you’re just starting to feel like, I need a little break?

We’ve had a lot of action and now we need to do something a little quieter. Maybe it’s time to like watch a show together, and do something just a little less action oriented. How do you, do you ever notice like that? Like, tell me about that. 

Aryn L.: I think he’d look at me like I’m crazy.

Randi Rubenstein: Yeah. He might 

Aryn L.: I mean, I’d be surprised. I don’t think that Simon is

[00:17:00] in touch with his, like, body that way. Yet. 

Randi Rubenstein: We have to talk about it, right? I think most people will just think the problem is solved if they just talk about the replenishing of the goldfish – 

Aryn L.: It’s probably something I should talk about before camp. 

Randi Rubenstein: Yeah, I’m just thinking about like camp and if this seems crazy, I didn’t learn this till I was 40 something years old. I didn’t even know, like Oh, when I’m feeling exhausted, like at four o’clock, I tend to go to the pantry and eat a bunch of junk food. Like, I didn’t even realize that until a half a second ago. 

So I’m not saying this is easy. I’m just saying, 

I want to put this on your radar. It’s just like something to think about and notice because you’re about to be at summer camp for seven weeks, surrounded with other kids. Like, all the time. And when you find yourself all of a sudden

[00:18:00] like making little deals into big deals or arguing about nonsense, which is really not you, I want you to check in with yourself and start asking yourself, wait a minute, do I just need some downtime for a minute? Have I had enough, right? Like, am I just a little overstimulated?

Like, I want you to start asking because if you could start learning these things at 13 that I didn’t learn until 43, 45, like – 

Aryn L.: 47 

Randi Rubenstein: Or 47, right? Like how amazing would that be? It’s just something I wanted to put on your radar. Might sound crazy. I get it. It might sound nutso, but I don’t know. Just think about it.

Aryn L.: Yeah.

Randi Rubenstein: It’s like, we have to be willing to look like, have them look at us like we’re crazy and we’re just putting it on the radar, putting it on their radar, putting it on their radar.

Thanks for listening today, guys. I hope you picked up some tips, tools, maybe some baby steps for creating more balance and boundaries in your

[00:19:00] life. And I just wanted to let you know, if you want to continue moving the needle forward in creating this for yourself, having a happier household, I want you to go to my website and check out We have three beginning programs, and if you need some accountability and more support then please look for the one that would be a good fit for you.

And, as always, we’re on all the social channels under mastermind parenting, on Instagram it’s mastermind_parenting. And, you know, periodically I do pop up on different Instagram lives, Facebook lives where I give you teaching and coaching and I love engaging with you live to help you help your strong-willed kids so that they can feel better, because when they feel better they do better, and I love, love, love getting to know you guys. 

So thanks for listening. If you

[00:20:00] like this podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe, rate and review. Super super appreciative

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