Ep. 63 – Rosie, Age 5 3/4: Friend wants all her attention

Using “and” instead of “but” to expand beyond one friend.

Rosie wonders why her friend doesn’t want her to play with anyone else, and what she can do about it.

Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic
Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic
Ep. 63 – Rosie, Age 5 3/4: Friend wants all her attention


Think About It Questions

  • Why do you think kids sometimes have trouble sharing a friend with other friends?
  • Have you ever been in a situation like Rosie’s, either as the friend who didn’t want to share a friend or the friend who wanted to play with other kids? What happened? How did you handle it?
  • Why is it a good idea to try to imagine why a friend might be doing what they’re doing, especially when we don’t like what they’re doing? (Hint: How are you likely to feel and act toward the friend when you can understand their perspective?)
  • Would you respond differently to hearing “I like you, AND I want to play with other friends” versus “I like you, BUT I want to play with other friends”? Why or why not?


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 hear today’s question:

Hi, my name is Rosie. I'm 3/4 years old. I have a question: Why does my friend keep on trying to get all my attention and not making me play with any of my other friends?

Hi, Rosie! Thanks for sending in your question! I bet you’re feeling frustrated and annoyed that your friend is trying to keep you all to herself and not let you play with anyone else! 

Your question is very important because instead of just deciding, “She’s bad!” when your friend does something you don’t like, you wonder, “Why is she doing that?” This is a kind and generous thing to do! If we can understand why your friend is doing what she’s doing, it’s easier to figure out how to respond.

So, let’s try to imagine some reasons why your friend might want all your attention. 

One possibility is she just likes you so, so much that she wants to spend all her time with you. It’s possible that she might like you more than you like her. That happens sometimes in friendships. 

Another possibility is that she doesn’t have anyone else to play with, so she’s afraid that, if you play with someone else, she’ll be left all alone.

Still another possibility is that she feels jealous. Jealousy happens when we believe another person might hurt or even break up our close friendship. 

Maybe you’ve given her reason to feel jealous. If you keep telling you friend, “I want to play with her instead of you…” Well, who could blame her for believing that that other person is pulling you away from her?!

Now, notice that none of these reasons are about her wanting to control you and cut you off from everyone else, just to make you suffer! You said she’s your friend, so I don’t think she’s trying to be mean. At the same time, I’m sure it doesn’t feel good to you to have her try to tell you who you get to play with! 

So, what can you do that balances her wanting to be with you–and maybe being afraid of losing you–with your wish to play with other kids?

You could start by reassuring her that you like her and like playing with her AND, at the same time, you also want to play with other kids. Use the word “and” rather than “but” when you’re talking about two things that are both true. The word “but” can sound like the second thing erases the first thing. 

Listen to the difference between these sentences: “I like you AND I want to play with other kids” versus “I like you BUT I want to play with other kids.” Hmmm… The “but” version kind of erases the “I like you,” and makes it sound like you’re dumping her!

So, after you tell her “I like you, AND I want to play with other kids,” then what? Well, you might suggest that she join you in playing with the other kids. That would be the simplest solution. 

Friendship threesomes can be complicated, so try to join more than one other kid, so you have a group of four or more.

But what if she says she hates that game, or she doesn’t want to play with those kids? You could try to convince her to join you by telling her that you really want her to play, too, but it’s her choice. You can’t make her play with other kids any more than she can prevent you from doing so. 

A kind thing to do would be to tell her when you’ll next get together. So, you could say something like, “I’m going to play soccer today. I’d really like you to play, too, but if you don’t want to, I’ll go on the swings with you tomorrow” or “I’ll sit next to you in music class this afternoon.” You could also invite her to get together outside of school, where it will be just the two of you. Making plans to be together helps your friend see that you care about her, even if you’re not always with her!

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. 

You can learn even more about friendship through my funny and practical books for kids: Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends and 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.

OR find them on your favorite podcast platform!