Putting the “PRIDE” in Play

Play is an important part of healthy child development, and one that is sometimes overlooked as families feel the pressure to push their children to achieve academic goals. Play is an activity that children (and adults) will usually engage in with little or no prompting. In my work with young children and families, I sometimes teach parents play therapy techniques they can try for themselves. Play Therapy is an evidence-based practice that helps children to safely explore scary topics, strengthen social-emotional engagement, practice self-regulatory skills, and improve specific competencies, among other things. As a therapist, I like using these techniques because doing “work” that children enjoy is a win-win situation!

A number of years ago, one of my supervisors taught me to use “P.R.I.D.E. skills to improve the relationship between child and parent, and I’m going to share them with you. These were developed by Sheila Eyberg as a component of Parent-Child-Interaction-Therapy, and were intended to be used during specially structured play time between child and parent. In this acronym, “P” stands for praise, “R” stands for reflection, “I” stands for imitation, “D” stands for description, and “E” stands for enthusiasm. Let’s look at each one of these. “Praise” can be given for any activity you would like to see repeated, such as an action (ex. “Good work stacking all those blocks”) or non-action (ex. “I like how you stayed calm when those blocks fell down!”). Praise should identify the child’s specific action and should be given as soon as possible after the action you are praising. “Reflection” is simply reflecting back the child’s statements during play and is an affirmation of the child’s play experience. (ex Child: “I’m building the castle”; Parent: “You are building that castle”). “Imitation” is about role reversal. In other words, observing your child’s play, and following their lead (ex. “You built a tower! I’m going to build one too”). “Description” is simply you providing an accurate narrative of the child’s actions, and is a demonstration of your attentiveness (ex. “Now you are putting the green block on the red block”). “Enthusiasm” is the vocal tone and affect that you use when communicating with your child, and helps to express emotional connection (ex. “Wow! You’re castle is getting sooooo high, it’s almost a skyscraper!”). When you use these 5 techniques frequently, they become more natural and can easily be adapted to other situations as well.

When used consistently, and in combination with other positive behavioral guidance techniques, these PRIDE skills can lead to fairly rapid improvements in the child’s behavior, and in the parent-child relationship. There is a lot more we could say about this exercise, but you can learn more just by checking it out for yourself! A link to the P.R.I.D.E skills can be found here.

Randy R. Ashford, MS, LMHC

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