I am sure if you read my blog, you will see numerous posts that are titled, “Encouraging Positive Behavior” because it is truly the most important aspect in your parenting to avoid meltdowns and to give your children the tools they need to be successful in life. Remember, as a parent, you are your child’s coach; you’re coaching them thru life and helping them make good choices and avoid bad ones.
This last weekend we were at the park. I bring cars, buckets, bubbles and basically any highly desired toy and lay them all out in the sand where we are sitting. I do this to encourage kids to come over to my children and play. I am essentially forcing social interaction to help my kids to interact with other kids and promote positive play.
While I was sitting and playing with a bunch of kids, I am watching this little boy running around the playground with his mom following him around. She was catering to his every need and anytime something didn’t go his way, he started throwing a fit. His mom would then let him do whatever he wanted, so he would stop crying. At one point, he tried to steal a kids toy and when the kid started crying, he hit the boy. The mother looked horrified, however she didn’t force the child to apologize and there was no consequence for his behavior. She apologized to the child and parent and moved on.
A few minutes later the little boy came running over to our group and wanted to play. The mom looked overwhelmed and I offered the boy a seat next to me. We started talking and she was voicing her frustrating with her child’s behavior. I told her that my son has Autism and I have been trained in ABA therapy and would she mind if I used some of my methods to see what happens. She agreed and we started playing.
A couple of basic tools/rules that I used included the following:
- If you want to borrow a toy from someone else, you need to ask permission and say please. The other child can say yes or no, however if they say no, they have 5 minutes to play with that toy and then they give the toy to the child who asked to borrow it. By doing this, you are giving each child a choice, and the 5 minutes is consistent for every child so now they have an expectation of when they are getting the toy.
- Every time a child agrees to share a toy or gives up the toy at the 5 minute mark, you high five them and say, “I like that you shared your toy, what a great choice.” This is encouraging positive behavior and children love praise. They will repeat the behavior over and over to get positive praise from a parent.
- If a child doesn’t want to share or doesn’t give the toy up at the 5 minute mark, you simply tell the child, “What a bummer that you didn’t give the toy to Billy, hopefully you will make a better choice next time” and take the toy away. This will teach the child that by sharing their toy they get rewarded and by not sharing their toys, they do not get rewarded.
After about ten minutes we had 6 children all playing with the toys together and sharing with one another. We even had one child offer to share his car before anyone asked to borrow it, because he wanted positive praise.
I then told all the kids we had to go home and it was time to help us clean up. The mom started panicking and trying to calm him down before he had any reaction. She nervously said, “he will have a meltdown because he wants to take a car home.” I responded that he was going to have a meltdown because you just gave him permission to. I knew that this sounded a bit harsh, but I really wanted to help her, and she was asking for my help, so I felt that being straight forward and honest was the best way I could help her.
I distracted the child and told all of the kids it was time to cleanup and to please pick up the cars and put in my bag. As soon as the first child put a car in the bag, I loudly said, “what a great choice you made by putting the car in the bag, thank you” and gave a big high five. Like clockwork, the kids started lining up eagerly trying to put the cars in the bag, even her son. Soon we were all cleaned up, nobody was crying, and everyone had fun.
At the end of the day, she was very appreciative of the new tools she had learned and was excited to use them with her son. As parents, there isn’t a class on how to deal with our children’s different behaviors or personalities. We kind of fly by the seat of our pants, do a lot of research online, talk to our mom friends, and do the best job we can. I was so happy that I could share what I had learned and now she saw first hand that her son is capable of playing nicely with other children, she just needed the right tools as his coach to show him how to do it.