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My 4-year-old's hugging and copying irritates her preschool friends.
Q: My 4-year-old daughter likes to makes friends, but she always wants to hug them and copies what they do at preschool. This irritates some of the children. When she's at home, she is very decisive. How can I teach her to feel like she can do her own thing and make her own decisions when she is around other children? I don't know if I should even be concerned, but she starts kindergarten this fall and I don't want her to not be liked by the other children.
A: Unless the other children are complaining, I wouldn’t do anything about it. They may not like to be hugged, but I doubt they mind her copying what they are doing. That sort of imitation in play is very characteristic of 4-year-old children. It is called “parallel play,” meaning that the children don’t truly play together but instead do similar or identical things alongside one another. If your daughter has friends in the group, they will join her activities (it isn’t really accurate to call it copying) as often as she gets into a parallel play routine with them.

I would talk to her teacher about both behaviours that concern you, first about the hugging. Ask her if she has noticed it, if she feels the other children object, etc. If she feels that it isn’t a problem, I wouldn’t do or say anything. If she thinks it is excessive and that the other children don’t like it, then both of you will want to say frequently something like, “Show Kevin you like him by smiling at him.” In other words, help her to develop more acceptable ways of showing her appreciation for her friends. In order to help eliminate the copying, ask her teacher to make special suggestions to your daughter of things to do that will make her less dependent on what the other children are doing.