Every skill taught on Smarter Parenting involves an element of Role-playing as practicing makes a behavior skill stick.
What is Role play? Role-playing is teaching your child what is expected of them and how you want them to behave in specific situations. Without guidance, children can have difficulty knowing how to handle situations they never encountered. Role-playing requires practicing the new behavior over and over again until your child has mastered how they would respond. You can Role-play almost any situation your child may encounter, both big and small. Parents can role-play saying no to drugs or alcohol, reporting self-harming behavior, or how to act when a parent asks them to do something.
How to Role-play?
Getting a child to Role-play can be tricky. Many children will think they don’t need to practice as they’ll know exactly what to do. Or, that practicing is for babies. It can be challenging to convince them they need to Role-play. When a child fights Role-playing, here are some things you can do.
1. Role-play during a neutral time. One of the best thing you can do to make Role-playing successful it to practice during a neutral time. If you do it when you or your child are tired, frustrated, or busy will set the Role-play up for failure and will discourage your child from practicing in the future. It’s ok to take a timeout when you or your child are frustrated and come back at a later time to Role-play. Role-playing when tired, frustrated, or angry will only make you and your child hate Role-playing.
2. Start with simple scenarios. Set your child up for success by starting with things that will be easy for them to do. If they feel like they were successful, they are more likely to be Role-play more challenging situations. On Smarter Parenting, you can find a list of easy, medium, and difficult topics for children and teens.
3. Offer a small reward for practicing. Giving an award is motiving for a child to continue to practice as they feel they are getting something out of the Role-play. Rewards don’t need to be monetary. Reduction in a chore, increased screen time, or choosing family activities can all be used as rewards. Just find something that is important to your child. Rewards don’t need to be given every time but are especially helpful in the beginning for child motivation.
4. Make it fun. Children are more likely to want to participate if it feels more like play and less like something they have to do. Voices, costumes, crazy situations, etc. are all ways to make it fun.
5. Be silly. Your child will be almost as silly you are. Being silly allows your child to have less fear about messing up.
Keep it short. Shorter, more frequent practices are better than long ones.
7. Give praise. Offer praise for effort even if it isn’t perfect. If your child feels like they are being recognized for what they are doing, they’ll be more likely to want to continue until they get it right.
8. Understand your child. Children with anxiety, ADHD, Autism, or other issues can find Role-playing challenging. Know your child’s limits and Role-play to their abilities.
As you and your child Role-play, you’ll notice that Role-playing will become a regular part of everyday life. Your child will begin Role-playing scenarios without your prompting or encouragement.
Visit Smarter Parenting for additional role play ideas for kids, including games and activities.