Children are highly motivated to obtain or maintain access to objects or items. This can include toys, video games, clothes, and even snacks. Similar to attention, children often develop maladaptive short-cuts to get things that they want.
Consider this: A child is focused on building a lego tower and is approached by their sibling who wants to join. For a child who doesn’t want to share the toy, it is often far more immediately effective to hit or yell at their sibling, than to calmly tell them “no.” While we can agree that this is not the most appropriate response, it holds its weight in effectiveness because siblings will back up immediately.
What can we do about this? Remove access to the item. While this may feel self-explanatory, it’s important to keep in mind a few key pieces.
Verbalize Expected behavior - It’s important to provide a brief explanation of removing the toy (ex: “We do not hit our sibling, we are all done with the legos for today”)
Remove Object - place the toy in a place where the child cannot reach.
Remain firm and quiet - Typically, this is when parents feel compelled to provide a lecture on sharing and being kind, but this is not that time. Children will often use this opportunity to negotiate or argue with attempting to regain access to the toy.
Redirect - It is important to redirect the child to another activity and provide choices (ex: “Would you like to color or play Uno?”).
What about providing opportunities for correction?
I will always advocate for modeling corrective behaviors and allowing opportunities to practice. For example, if a child begins yelling for a snack, it is perfectly appropriate to provide corrective feedback and allow them an opportunity to try again before removing access to the snack. This may sound like, “That’s a loud voice, try again with an inside voice,” paired with you demonstrating an appropriate volume and immediate praise for change in behavior.