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Help your child to cooperate

How easy would the mornings be if your child would listen the first time you ask them to get dressed for school?

Wouldn't it feel nice for your child to go to bed when it is bed time?

Or for them to be able to play with other children without needing to control every aspect of the game?

Here is a 5-step guide to teach your child cooperation.

Let's say your child doesn't want to wear the warm winter boots appropriate for the current temperature. Your child insists on wearing their new spiderman shoes and refuses to wear anything else.

Here is how you would start slowly by having them wear their winter boots for just 1 second and take them off at a time when you don't need to go outside in freezing cold weather.

Define the Target Behavior: Clearly identify the specific cooperative behavior you want to teach your child. For example, it could be taking turns, following instructions, or sharing toys.

Graph explaining the 5 steps to teach cooperation

1.Give warning

  • Give a 1-5 min warning: "We will put our winter boots on in 5 minutes"

  • Use a timer

  • Immediately before the transition, do a 5 second count-down: "We will put our winter boots in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Ok, time to put the winter boots on".

  • Show a visual (First, Then) to help the child transition: "First, winter boots. Then, playing with trains."

2. Include Positives

  • Make the demand as positive as possible.

  • Allow the child to hold a preferred toy: You child could hold their spider man shoes while we put winter boots on.

  • Include songs or characters they like: You could sing their favorite song to redirect their attention or get a spider man toy to help them put their boots on.

3. Follow Through

  • Give visual, gestural or gentle physical prompt to guide the child to follow the instruction even for a short period of time.

  • Using clear and simple language is important to make sure your child understand the request. Take the "First, Then" example. It is better to say: "First, boots. Then, trains." than saying "First, you need to put your boots on. Then, you will be allowed to play with trains for 1 minute."

  • If your child responds to modelling then model the correct behavior. Demonstrate the desired cooperative behavior. Use role-playing or other interactive methods to show them how to engage in the target behavior. (I'm not sure where to put this in)

  • If your child doesn't respond to modelling, you can use other prompts including gentle physical guidance to follow through with the expectation.

4. Start easy, slowly increase

  • Break the skill down to the easiest step. Determine what your child can do and start there. E.g. start by just putting the winter boots on for 2 sec and then take them off immediately.

  • Prompt correct response.

  • Fade out your prompting: Eventually, your child will be able to go get their boots and put them by themself.

  • Once the skill is mastered, increase the expectation: Once they put their boots on for 2 seconds, increase the duration to 5 seconds, 10 seconds to eventually going outside with them.

5. Reinforce

  • Give a choice of reinforcer: the reinforcer must be relevant for them to be effective. It must be an item or activity that they can't always access and that attracts them. A reinforcer can be fun social activities such as being spun around or thrown onto the couch or squished with a cushion.

  • Limit specific items and use them to reinforce positive behaviors.

  • Reinforce your child's behavior immediately after they engaged in the desired behavior. Reinforce them even if they needed prompting or did the skill approximately.

  • Fade out reinforcement once your child starts to masters the skill.

To be successful, it is important to practice often and consistently. Starting with small manageable steps and giving positive praise along the way will help to keep your child motivated.

If you would like some guidance to teach your child cooperation , book your complimentary call with our Board Certified Behavior Analyst to develop a teaching plan and get a social story.

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