It is common for children to have disagreements and fall out while playing – most children struggle with turn-taking and sharing to start with and it is a skill which they need to develop.
Problems arise when children do not learn how to problem solve and that can lead to aggressive behaviour frequently occurring while playing.
We've come up with some simple steps to teach your child to play cooperatively.
Explain the rules
Decide on two or three simple rules for playing with others and remind your child of these before playing, for example keep hands and feet to yourself and share and take turns.
Remember rules should act as a reminder for the behaviour you want to encourage – not what you want to avoid.
Encourage positive behaviour
Offer lots of praise when your child is playing well with others – “You two are playing really nicely together, well done John ”.
If playing with others is a particularly difficult thing for your child you may also want to reinforce positive play with a reward at the end.
Choose activities to encourage positive play
Some activities promote sharing and turn-taking, such as board games and ball games, which can be a great start to teach children how to share and play nicely.
More structured play will help your child remember the rules as free play can sometimes be chaotic, particularly if your child struggles with sharing/ playing nicely.
Step in before it escalates
Often aggressive behaviour is triggered by children becoming frustrated over not getting what they want or their own way.
Children can also struggle to articulate what they want and the idea is to help children to problem solve before the behaviour escalates.
For example give them some words to use: “Tom, say ‘Isaac you’ve had your turn – it’s now my turn’.”
Remember to praise children afterwards to encourage the positive play behaviour to happen again.
What to do if it escalates
Tell your child what you want them stop doing and what behaviour you want to see instead.
You may also want to remind them of the rules and remember to act as soon as you see it happening.
If they do not do as you have asked give a logical consequence, such as removing the item they are fighting over for a set time, or take your child for time out.
Time out of the situation will give your child a chance to calm down.
Return your child to the activity once time out is over or return the item after the set time of removing it.
Praise your child as soon as you see them playing nicely again and this will encourage it to continue.
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