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Additional Tips for Special Playtime

Family playing a board game together
Be enthusiastic.

Show your child you are excited to play with him. You can do this by smiling, giving high-fives, or raising the volume of your voice. If you are unsure how to show enthusiasm, think about how your child reacts when he gets a new toy that he really likes. You want to act that way. Enthusiasm lets your child know you are enjoying your time with him. When you have fun, he’ll have fun too.

Reflect your child’s words and emotions.

Reflect or repeat back what your child says. Watch her behavior and reflect what you think she is feeling. When you reflect your child’s words and feelings, you show her you are actively listening and help her understand and deal with her feelings. Click here for more information on active listening.

Limit questions during special playtime.

When you ask your child something and expect a response, you are asking a question. Your child is asked many questions throughout his day like, “How was school, how old are you, and what are you doing over there?” In fact, about 75% of our communication with our children is made up of questions. When we ask questions, we lead the conversation. Our questions may also suggest that we are not really paying attention or that we disagree with what our child is doing. For example, asking, “Wouldn’t you rather play with the blocks?” suggests you do not want to play with the toy your child has chosen. Asking “Why are you doing that?” suggests that your child is doing something wrong.

Limit directions during special playtime.

Directions tell your child what to do or guide her activities. Directions can be obvious requests such as “hand me that crayon” or less obvious requests such as “how about using the pink now?” Directions take the lead away from your child. Remember, the child should be in the lead during special playtime. If the child does what you tell her to do, she is not making the decisions about the special playtime activity. And if the child disobeys, conflict may occur. We want special playtime to be positive for the parent and the child.

Limit criticisms during special playtime.

Criticisms show you do not approve of something your child is doing. Criticisms often include words like “No,” “Don’t,” “Stop,” “Quit,” and “Not.” For example, you might say to your child, who is using a blue crayon and describes it as purple: “That’s not blue. You are using a purple crayon.” Criticism can also be much more obvious: “That was a dumb thing to do” or “You sure sound ugly when you whine like that.” If children are criticized often, it can cause self-esteem problems. Criticism does not help to reduce problem behaviors. There are many times during the day when you need to use the words, “Stop,” “No,” and “Don’t.” This is okay. Avoiding these words during special playtime, helps you and your child have time to focus more on the positive.

Ignore minor misbehaviors during special playtime.

Ignore minor challenging behaviors like whining that happen during special playtime. If your child is doing something dangerous or destructive, stop the behavior immediately and use a consequence like distraction or removal of a privilege. Click here for information on Using Discipline and Consequences. Remember that giving attention after any behavior will cause that behavior to happen more often. When you limit the attention you give to your child after misbehaviors, you can decrease the chance it will happen again.