What should I do when my preschooler fights with his friends during playdates?

Another great article from babycenter.com written by Myrna Shure developmental psychologist and educator.

When your youngster grabs a toy, refuses to share, or yells at or hits his friend, ask him, “Do you think that makes Jake feel happy or sad?” (You may need to wait until both children have calmed down before you start this dialogue — and you’ll also need to investigate what started the fracas in the first place.) By helping your preschooler acknowledge his pal’s injured feelings and encouraging his growing sense of empathy, you’ll eventually teach him to choose options with positive consequences for himself andhis friends. 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 others pain.

An older or more verbal preschooler is ready for even more prompting: After you’ve inquired about his friend’s feelings, ask your child, “What do you think will happen next?” The answer you’re looking for isn’t about punishment (“I’ll have to sit in the time-out chair”), but something along the lines of “Jake might not like me,” or “Jake won’t want to come over anymore.” Next ask him, “How would you feel if that happened?” This lets your preschooler know that his feelings are important, too.

Finally, encourage him to do some problem solving by asking, “What can you do or say that’s different from what you’re doing now?” Kids are often eager to come up with solutions on their own, and he might offer to let Jake play with a few of his prized Matchboxcars while he busies himself with the others. When he figures out a workable compromise, tell him “Good thinking” rather than “Good idea,” to reinforce that he thinks, not what he thinks. Preschoolers love to hear praise, so don’t hesitate to pile it on (“Boy! You solved that problem all by yourself!”).

Handle the situation the same way when your visitor does the instigating. Ask him how he thinks your child feels, what he thinks might happen next, how that would make him feel, and what he might do instead. Or encourage the children to put their heads together: “Can you two think of a different way to deal with this?”

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