There is no exact definition of an inappropriate game since boundaries vary by individual. One parent may feel a game of doctor is perfectly innocent while another feels it is the gateway to inappropriate touching. What seems violent or scary to one child may not bother another child at all. But if you catch your child playing a game you deem inappropriate in that specific moment, you can put an end to the game.
Consider whether or not the game is actually inappropriate and if you want to stop the entire game or just a specific action that occurs during the game. For example, if your child is younger than 7 and playing house with a group of kids the same age, and you catch the kids playing mommy and daddy kissing, it's not necessarily as inappropriate as you might think. According to the Advocacy Center for Child Sexual Abuse, kids this age may simply be mimicking what they see in real life. If their parents kiss when greeting each other after work, these children are very likely mimicking the action the same way they are pretending to cook and clean.
Interrupt the game and talk to the kids if you feel that the game has become inappropriate. Maybe wrestling has gotten out of hand or you're not comfortable with quite so much kissing. Be firm, but calm. For example, tell the kids they can continue to play house if they want to, but kissing is not allowed. You can discuss privacy issues and personal space issues if you feel it is appropriate.
Put an end to any inappropriate game entirely by telling your kids they can no longer play it. According to Iowa State University psychologist Craig A. Anderson, you should know what games your kids are playing and what those games are teaching your child. If you are uncomfortable with the message, tell your child it’s time to stop. For example, if you find your child playing a video game you determine is far too mature and violent for him, take the game away. However, you should explain your reasoning to help him understand.
Make sure you keep your words calm and neutral so you don’t send the wrong message to your kids. While you may want to put an end to an inappropriate game, you do not want them to think they are bad or feel ashamed. For example, if your 4 year old is playing doctor with her sister and you catch them taking off their clothes, you don’t want to make them feel ashamed of their bodies or their curiosity about their bodies, you simply want them to know what activities are acceptable in polite company and appropriate personal space boundaries.
- Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images