A simple strategy for helping young children to accept turn taking and sharing
Children Turn Taking and Sharing
Anyone who has spent time with young children will know that turn taking and sharing are not competencies we're usually born with but rather social skills we learn to accept or at least tolerate and hopefully come to appreciate as we get older. Simple sharing strategies and turn taking strategies can be readily introduced to speed up this learning process.
Sharing toys, access to the tv or computer or finishing up your time with a favourite game so someone else can take turns can all frequently be the causes of complaints, disputes and indeed full blown tantrums from young children or children with special needs who can have difficulty understanding or accepting such realities of everyday family life.This strategy also works well if you just want to teach your child to accept limits about how long they can spend at a given activity such as watching tv or playing computer games etc. We all know how difficult that can be :-)
Children Sharing: At least i don't have to share my straw!!
Children Taking Turns and Sharing
When we as parents, guardians or carers are inconsistent about how we respond in these situations we only serve to reinforce the challenging behaviours which tend to follow.
By providing simple strategies that work to help children to see and ultimately accept that, for example, certain external factors are dictating their access to items of contention, we can go a long way to reducing the usual confrontations that can occur both between individual children and between the children and the responsible adults .
Difficulties are reduced or minimised as the child, with time (and consistency on your part), comes to accept that it is not their behaviour that is controlling the situation but a pre-established system that dictates or indicates their access to an item or activity or whose turn it is etc. regardless of who puts up the biggest resistance or the most forcefull objections to the turn taking or sharing in question.
Below is an example of this simple turn taking strategy which aims to both help young children to better accept that taking turns and sharing is an inevitable part of life and also in the process hopefully give us adults a slightly more peacefull life to boot. I have seen this be very successful on many occasions including with my own children so i'm sharing it here with genuine faith in its effectiveness. I first used this with great and rapid success with my eldest daughter when she tried to assert her absolute control of the television as a toddler and would go into complete tantrum meltdown when it was time to turn off her favourite cartoon or show or even just a song she liked listening and dancing too.
The example below is based around sharing access to the TV as i believe this to be a common challenge that most families have experienced at some time particularly (although not exclusively) with young children. The same logic can be extended to sharing or turn taking in relation to most other items or activities.
Sharing/Turn Taking Strategy (e.g. TV)
- First you need to get some small pictures or images to represent the individuals involved.Each child should have an image that represents them.You needn't be too fussy here, if you don't have pictures you're happy to cut up just go online and print off some pictures that represent a little girl or boy, mammy and daddy etc. You may also include the child's name under the picture.
- Cut the pictures out, if you have access to a laminator you can laminate them for some added durability and then put a small piece of velcro on the back of each picture as well as onto the item being shared or used. In a fix i suppose you could use some type of tape or blue tac etc but the velcro works best and is really durable
- Note: In case you don't know velcro comes in two types - hooks and loops - don't worry they come together in strips when you buy velcro - you just need to remember to use the opposite types on the pictures and the items in order for them to stick together
- Initially it would be best to decide when to use this turn taking strategy or on set times for your child/each child to have access to/control of the TV etc. Later when your child understands how the system works you will be able to allow him or her unscheduled access to the TV by just informing or agreeing to him having access and then placing his symbol on the TV for instance
- When it is his time/turn you should inform him and place his picture or name card onto the corner of the TV or item of contention
- As an additional strategy to aid your child to transition you could, just before his time is up on the item or activity in question give him or her warnings that their TV time is coming to an end. Initially you could do this by providing 5, 3 and 1 minute warnings to allow them time to better accept this transition e.g. 5 minutes before his/her TV time is to end you should inform him/her by saying something like “Jamie, you have 5 minutes TV left” you could also show him a transition card with the no.5 on it as an additional visual cue. These additional cues can be very helpful for young children or children who are very absorbed in what they're doing. You would then proceed to provide the subsequent 3 and 1 minute warnings in the same manner .Use your own judgement here as maybe your child only needs to be told once (you can count yourself amongst the lucky ones)
- When the child’s allotted time is over his picture/name card should be removed and/or replaced and his control of the TV should be over immediately. It is quite likely that your child may object to this but it is critical that you are consistent with ending his TV time immediately according to the set time – DO NOT ALLOW an extra couple of minutes etc if the child protests for example. We are attempting to teach him that his access to the TV is dictated by a system and NOT controlled by his behaviour
- After introducing a new rule or system you may find that a child’s behaviour in relation to this new rule or system (i.e. the new TV strategy) worsens considerably for a period of time but this is normal and to be expected .With time and consistency on your part the child will learn that his behaviour has no effect on his access to the TV which is dictated and controlled solely by the TV strategy. This should then greatly reduce tantrum behaviours and confrontations in relation to the TV
- Whilst the child is protesting or having a tantrum do not engage him or talk to him. Aside from ensuring his safety and the safety of others you should not interact or attend to him whilst he is having a tantrum or engaging in any attention seeking behaviours. Remember to provide plenty of attention and social praise when the kids are behaving appropriately and/or following your instructions
Hopefully you can use this turn taking strategy can to help your kid's to better accept turn taking and sharing with others and make your own daily lives that little bit more peaceful in the process.
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