Little boys like to play rough (most of them, anyways). Let them play together outside and games involving zombies and superheroes are common, where they’re running at each other and pretending to shoot weapons at each other. Let them play with action figures and, unlike girls who sometimes “play house,” boys will often “fight” with the toys or engage in other aggressive play. Some blame tv and video games; I don’t really care what causes it, I just want to work on it!
Little boys seem to love Legos and really seem to enjoy building robots out of Legos. Of course, once the Legos are built, it’s typical for them to want to “fight” or “race.” So instead, I practice with them more prosocial interactions. This includes having our robots play nicely together, having the robots “high five” and “hug,” and also engaging in appropriate conversation between robot characters. Then we get to role-play those same skills, and discuss using them in the real world. It’s one of my favorite activities to use with kiddos who are having a hard time with boundaries and keeping their hands to themselves.
Almost every kiddo I’ve worked with has trouble accepting “no” for an answer. It’s like kids are allergic to hearing “no” and the reaction? Arguing, whining, and pouting.
Luckily, any board game can be used to practice asking permission and accepting “no” for an answer. I have Don’t Break the Ice, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, UNO, and Go Fish in my office, but really just about game where players take turns will work. How the practice works is that the kiddo must ask for permission before taking a turn. If I say “yes” (which I do about half of the time), they get to take their turn. If I say “no,” then the kiddo should say “ok” and keep their hands in their lap.
When they start to get good at it, I’ll say “no” a few times in a row, which usually leads to some frustration. At that point, I can practice calming strategies with them and provide them rationales for staying calm. If they kiddo can accept “no?” I give LOTS and LOTS of praise. If there’s any whining, arguing, or pouting? Consequence, then try again.
Typically, if you set a box of building blocks (Legos, K’Nex, waffle blocks, etc.) in front of a kid, they grab blocks and start building. Most don’t necessarily care what color of block they’re getting. When a kiddo wants to play with building blocks, it’s easy to turn it into a compliance activity. I have a Lego set with yellow, blue, green, and red Legos. I usually get some arguing and whining from children if I turn it into a compliance activity and tell them they can only use two colors. It’s a great way to practice following directions and following through, as it can be hard for the kiddo to accept.
I’ve gotten lots of great responses, such as:
- “Why?” (CLASSIC)
- “But can I just use this one red?”
- “But then I won’t be able to build it!”
- “How come you get to use those ones?”
If I tell a kiddo that he can only use yellow and blue and he starts whining? Consequence. When he finally says “Ok?” Praise, praise, praise! Then I’ll let him build for a few minutes before switching up the colors by saying, “Ok, now you can only use red and blue.” Repeat with consequence for whining/arguing/noncompliance and praise for accepting and following through. Easy!
The UNO card game is a great way to work with children on how to identify feelings and express them appropriately. I had a kiddo request to play UNO today, so I turned it into a therapeutic activity. Depending on the color of card he played, he had to tell me about a time that he felt a certain way. Yellow was “happy” and red was “angry” or “mad” – these colors just make sense to me, but can be changed. Yellow seems like a happy color and red seems like an angry color; of course, my perception may also be altered by the colors/characters in the Inside Out movie. 🙂
Every time the kiddo played a yellow card, he had to tell me about a time that he felt happy. And he had to use an “I feel” statement. I offer lots of praise when he gave me a situation that matched the feeling and when he used an “I feel” statement. If a kiddo were to tell me something didn’t match the feeling (e.g., “I feel happy when my grandma tells me ‘no.'”), then it’s a great opportunity for me to process it with them and help them match it with a more appropriate feeling.
To normalize feelings and model expressing them appropriately, I also follow the modified rules of the game, by sharing about times that I feel a certain way when it’s my turn.