Playdates teach social skills, and are rarely “Me” time spent chatting with your friend. They require plenty of patience, calm, and conscientiousness to run smoothly. Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting believes in fostering life skills through positive reinforcement. Today, we discuss snatching.
When your preschooler child snatches a toy from his playmate, you must resist the urge to lecture, take the toy away, give him a time out, or send his visitor home. Negative approaches might curb the behavior (for the moment), but since you’re doing all the thinking and the enforcing, your little guy learns nothing about how to get along in the future. And, if all he hears is reprimands, he’ll tune you out. Instead, take a calmer, more positive approach, one that encourages him to think for himself and sets the stage for problem solving in the future.
- Prepare for Success, by using Think Throughs, several days before the playdate, complete with the consequence of what will happen if he doesn’t follow the rules. At a neutral time, ask what the playdate will be like. What are the rules? Listen to the child’s response. Descriptively Praise every right answer. This encourages the child to think about and visualize themselves sharing and taking turns. This Think Through tool gets children thinking about the right thing to do, before they’ve done it, while they still actually have a chance to influence their own behavior for the best.
- Use Descriptive Praise when he takes turns or resists his impulsive urges to yank the toy away. It is especially important to Descriptively Praise if your child is having a difficult time and you are working on changing behavior. Notice even small steps in the right direction. Descriptively Praising to another adult (the other parent at dinner, for instance) is particularly powerful.
- Use Reflective Listening if he is crying or lashing out. “I wonder if that is your favorite toy? You might not want to share!” You, also, might want to take the opportunity to increase emotional intelligence and take steps to prevent potential bulling, in the future, by asking him, “Do you think that makes Jake feel happy or sad?” The goal, of course, is for him to refrain from lashing out, not because he’s afraid of getting in trouble, but because he understands that it causes another pain. This may, also, help your child acknowledge his playmate’s feelings and encourages a growing sense of empathy. Be sure to keep your words short and your patience long.
- Use Descriptive Praise, again, when he gets it right, even if he gives back the toy, begrudgingly. Tell him why it was a good thing, “You are taking turns and that makes Johnny want to play with you, again. Sharing makes you a good friend.”
- Enforce the rule if the child if the child is too emotional to cooperate. If you have been good about Preparing for Success, Descriptively Praising, and Reflective Listening, you have a good chance at cooperation. However, if your child is not able to be cooperative, follow through with the consequence.
Descriptive Praise is the number one motivator for children. Consequences should be the last resort. Taking your child out of teachable moments because he is an impulsive toddler isn’t the way to parent positively. Children want to hear your happy voice, singing their praises. Use this to your advantage: notice them getting it right, every time – especially if you are having difficulty with impulsive behavior.
Amanda draws upon formal counseling theory and education, on the job training and personal life experience. She is skilled in structural family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and Christian counseling. After earning her graduate degree from The College of William & Mary, she starting using the techniques she teaches parents in her own home. Parent after parent that she has worked with say the methods changed their lives. These methods WORK!