My 4-year-old son attends nursery and many activities to socialise with other children but he often hits, shouts and finds it hard to share with others. I am worried that he is going to be unpopular with other children when he starts school. How can I help him to play nicely with his friends?
It is important to look at the situation from your little ones point of view, this way you will be able to help him and teach him to play ‘nicely’. We are constantly providing activities for our children from swimming to music, play dates to soft play. All are fun and provide much needed stimulation for children sometimes we need to take a step back and realise that what the child really needs is some time at home with Mummy, Daddy, Nanny or Carer. When he has spent the morning at nursery he has had to share, use his manners, cope without Mummy, learn, play and obey school rules. This is tiring for a little one so to then go onto dancing, swimming, music or just a play date with a friend can be too much. Imagine having to go to a class or socialise every night after work how exhausting!
I advise you to cut down activities after nursery and spend as much as time as you can listening, playing or letting your son relax. I am not suggesting stopping all his activities altogether but it’s equally important to have time at home just to play or have time with Mummy or Daddy. Often, when children have finished school or nursery they are reluctant to talk about what they have been doing, often they just want to relax. By leaving them to talk about their morning when they are ready, you will gain more information. Ensure that he has time to go home and relax before the next activity.
When he is on a play date it’s important to keep an eye on him whilst he playing and try to diffuse any troublesome issues before they arise. Don’t expect too much from him, he needs to learn the art of sharing. It’s hard for him to have a friend to play and see his friend play with all of his toys and perhaps, not in the way he expected. When you are encouraging him to share, be honest with him and try to empathise. Rather than telling him it’s fun to share, tell him, “ I know you want to play with that toy and it’s hard to wait when X is playing with it but when he has finished, you can have it”. A timer can be useful in these situations. Often when the timer has finished, the children have moved on to another activity, nevertheless, this teaches the child that he can have it if he waits. Taking turns is hard for toddlers to grasp and they need help whilst understanding the concept. Try to engage both the children in the game. By demonstrating how to share and how to take turns will have a more positive effect than sending him into “time out” for not playing ‘nicely’. In time, you will need to intervene and manage play dates less and less. Keep his behaviour in perspective and your expectations realistic; he is going to be loud, active, and excitable. He will get cross with his friends when they take a toy or don’t play in the way he wants them too. You can manage this by nipping unacceptable behaviour in the bud and teaching him how to manage his emotions. This takes time but consistency is the key, so stick with it, it will work!