My 4 year old son doesn't like to play in his room by himself. He follows me around most of the time saying hes bored, and he also has a really nasty temper and breaks all of his toys. Any ideas on what I can do?
By Sara from Ontario, Canada
According to developmental scales (specifically I'm looking at the Hawaii Early Learning Profile, but they are all similar), children begin playing independently for 10 minutes sometime between their 4th and 5th birthdays. By the time they are 6, it goes up to 25 minutes. Between 5 1/2 and 6 1/2 years old, they begin to "play" alone for longer periods of time without disrupting others.
Expressing feelings in a controlled manner does not come until 5 years old, however, obeying rules starts at 4 years old, so he should not be breaking toys.
My suggestion would be to find out why he is breaking toys and why he "has a bad temper". Teach him what we call a "Functionally Equivalent Alternative Response" by teaching him how to get what he wants in an appropriate way. If he wants your attention, teach him to ask for it. When he asks nicely, give it to him.
Playing alone- find out how long he is currently playing alone (5 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes?). Reinforce him (hugs and 5 M&Ms?) for playing for that amount of time and slowly increase the amount of time you are having him play alone before he gets his reinforcement. Eventually he will be playing for long amounts of time :)
There is probably lots of information about this on the internet. Good luck :)