PLAY is the child’s language… so this is a medium we need to relate to. Children sometimes don’t have the ability to articulate what they are thinking or feeling; and their thoughts and feelings are expressed through play.
In play children express what their lives are like now, what their needs are, or how they wish things could be.
Every time your child acts out he is crying out for attention. Special play time is a time you can give your attention. If you take the time to sit with them for just one half hour a week devoting your time and attention by listening and empathising you will find in a few short weeks a change in their behaviour. You have been provided with the modules of listening and noticing and empathy – this is the scenario to practice and apply them.
Allow your child to lead by returning responsibility to your child by responding , “That’s up to you,” “You can decide,” or “That can be whatever you want it to be.”
Allowing the child to lead during the playtime helps you to better understand your child’s world and what your child needs from you. Convey your willingness to follow your child’s lead through your responses: “Show me what you want me to do,” “You want me to put that on ,” “Hmmm…,” or “I wonder….” Use whisper technique (co-conspirators) when child wants you to play a role “What should I say?” or “What happens next?” (Modify responses for older kids: use conspiratorial tone, “What happens now?” “What kind of teacher am I?”etc.)
Join in the child’s play actively, as a follower.
Convey your willingness to follow your child’s lead through your responses and your actions, by actively joining in the play (child is the director, parent is the actor): “So I’m supposed to be the teacher,” “You want me to be the robber, and I’m supposed to wear the black mask,” “Now I’m supposed to pretend I’m locked up in jail, until you say I can get out,” or “You want me to stack these just as high as yours.” Use whisper technique in role-play: “What should I say?” “What happens next?”
Verbally track/notice the child’s play (describe what you see).
Verbally tracking your child’s play is a way of letting your child know that you are paying close attention and that you are interested and involved: “You’re filling that all the way to the top,” “You’ve decided you want to paint next,” or “You’ve got ‘em all lined up just how you want them.”
Reflect the child’s feelings.
Verbally reflecting children’s feelings helps them feel understood and communicates your acceptance of their feelings and needs: “You’re proud of your picture,” “That Kind’a surprised you,” “You really like how that feels on your hands,” “You really wish that we could play longer,” “You don’t like the way that turned out,” or “You sound disappointed .” ( Hint: Look closely at your child’s face to better identify how your child is feeling.)
Set firm and consistent limits.
Consistent limits create a structure for a safe and predictable environment for children. Children should never be permitted to hurt themselves or you. Limit setting provides an opportunity for your child to develop self-control and self-responsibility. Using a calm, patient, yet firm voice, say, “The floor’s not for putting playdough on; you can play with it on the tray” or “I know you’d like to shoot the gun at me, but I’m not for shooting. You can choose to shoot at that”(point to something acceptable).
Salute the child’s power and encourage effort.
Verbally recognizing and encouraging your child’s effort builds self-esteem and confidence and promotes self-motivation: “You worked hard on that!” “You did it!” “You figured it out!” “You’ve got a plan for how you’re gonna set those up,” “You know just how you want that to be,” or “Sounds like you know lots about how to take care of babies.”
Be verbally active.
Being verbally active communicates to your child that you are interested and involved in her play. If you are silent, your child will feel watched. Note: Empathic grunts —“Hmm…”and so forth—also convey interest and involvement, when you are unsure of how to respond.
Never use Special Playtime for a reward or consequenceNO matter the child’s behavior that day!