*This* is when it's important to interfere during a play date

Coach kids in private, and then act as a silent observer when they are putting their skills into practice.

when to interfere during a play date

You may have watched your child struggle during play dates, talking over their friend, laughing when the joke is no longer funny or becoming too upset over the littlest thing, and wondered when or if you should step in.

As a mama, coaching your child to improve their social skills is the best way to help them learn. Some kids need help developing social skills that will allow them to feel comfortable interacting with others. But when a football coach is watching a football game they do not suit up and take over. They make notes to give the players at half time.

The best thing you can do for your child is to coach them in private and then act as a silent observer when they are putting their skills into practice. Let your child take ownership over the skills and then you can discuss afterward how it felt.

Here are a few strategies to help you coach from the sidelines during play dates, mama:

1. The problem: The other child is being mean and not listening to your child's requests to play with certain toys.

Should you interfere: Yes

Reason: This is a great teachable moment. Being mean is never okay. Explain that everyone should be treated with respect.

What you can do: Ask the other child if there is something you can help with. Help the children problem solve and set expectations for things we can say or not say.

2. The problem You hear your child being rude and thoughtless.

Should you intervene: No

Reason: As long as your child is trying to practice his emerging skills, it is important for you not to interfere all the time. As long as your child or the playmate are not being mean or cruel, allowing your child and their playmate to work out sharing and meeting each other halfway is part of your child's growth. Additionally, feedback from other children help your child learn about social communication and its consequences—what's funny, what isn't, what keeps play going and what stops it. Any challenges are just showing you what you need to work on before your next play date.

What you can do: Employ a subtle cue or code word to remind your child of his mission like entering the room with snacks, suggesting a specific game or saying a code word like "popcorn."

3. The problem: The children are excited and implementing dangerous behavior.

Should you interfere: Yes

Reason: Whenever there is a safety issue you must jump in to make sure all children are safe. If children are playing with something dangerous, planning an adventure that will lead to safety issues, playing too rough or playing in a space that is not child friendly, jump in and make sure the children know what they are doing is unsafe and what your expectations are going forward.

What you can do: Reinforce safety rules. Create a space and situation where danger is removed and manage any behaviors that might cause harm.

4. The problem: A specific toy or activity is causing arguments between the playmates.

Should you interfere: Yes

Reason: This is a great opportunity to teach your child how to manage conflict.

What you can do: Limit your management of the situation by promoting problem-solving, suggesting that the children put the toy away and offer them a timer to promote turn-taking. After the play date, help your child formulate strategies to help your child learn to manage conflict with friends. The goal is to teach your child the skills to manage relationships without you.

5. The problem: Your child is being clingy and is coming to you to solve every problem.

Should you interfere: No

Reason: You want to help your child stop the clingy behavior rather than reinforcing the idea that they can constantly come back to you.

What can you do: When your child repeatedly approaches you, ask them to think about how they can handle the situation. Prompt them to problem solve, ask what is making them come back so often. Remind them of their mission. What can they do to have fun in the circumstances they're in? Explain that you expect them to try that before coming to get you.
Ultimately, your goal is to help your child generalize the new skills and behaviors—take them from the small stage of home practice to the larger one of a play date. To do so, your child needs to learn to recognize and address what's getting in the way.


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