Social skills don’t come naturally to young kids. Some are really shy and withdrawn, and others become a little bit too rough and pushy. Maybe they grab toys or insists on setting the rules (causing, of course, the shy kids to withdraw even more).
Pushy or aggressive kids aren’t bullies. They’re just learning how to deal with others and to balance their own need for control and independence with the art of ‘playing nice.’ However, if they are allowed to do this, their playful aggression can eventually lead to more destructive behavior like kicking, biting, hitting, etc They aren’t intrinsically mean but they just don’t know any better! Here’s how to help.
Allow a little roughhousing
Boys will be boys and a little rowdiness is par for the course. Just keep an eye out between spirited play (a fun sword fight, arm wrestling, etc) and intentionally hurtful behavior. Also provide toys and games that won’t inadvertedly hurt a friend. For example, play sword should have rounded ends or ideally made of soft rubber.
Call attention to bad behavior
Listen in on what your kids say and pull them aside when they say something a little off. ‘You’ve hurt Karen’s feelings and she might not want to be your friend anymore.’ Don’t reprimand in front of the friend, though, because it will embarrass your child and push her on the defensive.
Also, setting ground rules for playdates minimizes the power struggles. For example you can say ‘Hitting is never okay’ and ‘Take turns with a toy or we will take it away so no one can play with it.’ (Read tips on teaching your child how to share.)
Watch for triggers
Some situations may seem to bring out your child’s most aggressive behavior. For example if your child is overcompetitive and tends to act up when he’s about to win or lose a game, then sign him up for a group sport like soccer where he will have to work with others.
Teach problem solving
Don’t just berate your child for bad behavior. Talk about what he can do next time: ‘what’s a nicer way to get your turn at a toy?’ or ‘What’s a friendly way to tell your friend not to grab your book?’
Also distinguish between emotions and inappropriate responses. ‘it’s okay to be angry at Jimmy for tearing your book, but it’s not okay to bite him.’ Help him identify emotions like disappointment, frustration and jealousy so he can express them without violence or aggression.
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