Friday, June 17, 2011

Tools for the Toolbox: Social Scripts

I'm always hesitant to post parenting stuff because I don't want it to seem like I think I'm World's Best Mom. I have issues with my kids, we all do. And I definitely have moments where I feel like I've failed as a parent. However, after working as a preschool teacher of a couple hundred 3-and-4-year olds, and now having my own as well, there are definitely some helpful tips I've learned along the way.

First off, teaching your kids "social scripts." We've all heard this exchange.... "Mom, I want that Polly Pocket and she won't give it to me!" What do we do? Option A, head in and figure out the nitty-gritty details of exactly whose turn it is with the odd miniature plastic doll, or Option B, tell the kids to solve their own problems.

I tend to lean naturally toward Option B. I feel that allowing your kids the opportunity to solve their own problems gives them the skills to interact with others, share, compromise, and experience unfairness. However, I think that oftentimes as moms, we don't teach them how we want them to solve a problem.

In my experience, you have to lay the groundwork. Teach them how you want them to solve problems, and exactly what to say. In our house, it might go something like this:
Audrey: "Mom, Jessica has the Mermaid Barbie and won't give me a turn!"
Mom: "Okay. It looks like you both want to play with the Mermaid Barbie. Audrey, first ask Jessica how many more minutes she wants to play with it."
Audrey: "Jessica, how many more minutes do you want to play with it?"
Jessica: "All day!"
Mom: "Jessica, you need to share, and you need to pick a number that's less than 10 minutes. Tell Audrey how many more minutes you want to play with the Mermaid Barbie."
Jessica: "Three."
Mom: "Okay, Audrey. In three minutes, Jessica is going to give you a turn with Mermaid Barbie."

The expectation for sharing in our house is that if you want a toy someone else has, you first tell them you'd like to play with it. Then, you ask them when they'll be done. The other child has to pick a number that's under 10 minutes. In some cases, we actually get out the timer. Most of the time, this interaction solves the problem and the kids just share after a while.

We also need to teach them to say things like, "I don't like it when you talk to me in that voice. It hurts my feelings." And, "I feel like you're bragging about having more Barbies than me. It makes me feel bad."

At first this takes a lot of coaching. But after a while, your help lessens, and you can just use promptings and reminders.

By teaching your kids the "social scripts" that you expect them to use, you will help them interact with their peers, and lessen the amount of time you have to spend refereeing fights around the house. Just don't be surprised when your daughter asks you how many more minutes you need the computer before she can have a turn at Playhouse Disney.

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Kerry said...

You are indeed a wonderful mom. I love the way you are raising my grandchildren. I only wish I had your ideas when you were growing up.

Andrea said...

These tactics really do work! I've seen them in action and it's so cool to see the kids "solve their own problems." Saves time and stress for everyone! :)