How to Teach Children to Sit Nicely?

Teaching ASD children learning how to learn behaviour aims to develop a good learning attitude so that they can learn skills more effectively.

There are many specific behavioral goals under the “learning how to learn” heading. Some therapists recommend that you first teach compliance. Some parents may prefer to work on eye contact first. Some teachers think the most important thing is to teach children to keep nice hands, not grab things and not push others.

I advocate that the children should first experience the benefits from sitting to enjoy the fun of sitting. Because this behavior is easier to control, it is easier for the children to learn, and after learning it, this can greatly help manage other “learning how to learn” behaviors.

There are two teaching methods: direct and indirect.

Direct way:

  1. Establish 10 to 15 preferred reinforcers, generally choose toys that children can play with while sitting down
  2. Put 3 to 5 reinforcers on the table and two chairs next to the table
  3. Hide the other toys in some boxes so that the children cannot see them
  4. Make sure there is nothing in the room that the children like very much
  5. Bring a child to the room. Since the most desired items are placed on the table, he is likely to spontaneously go to the table and play with toys.
  6. When the child stands by the table and plays with the toys, move a small chair behind him and gently press him down to encourage him to sit on the chair.
  7. Push all the toys towards the child immediately so that he/she does not have to stand up to reach for them.
  8. Play with the toys with other children. Parents or teachers can use different techniques to encourage them to enjoy playing with toys. For example, play with the toys in different ways, describe games using different tone of voice, use sound effects and add interactive elements.
  9. Praise the child for sitting nicely from time to time. In addition to using words, praise should also use gestures, such as pointing your finger at the child’s foot, or tapping his thigh with both hands while you verbalise the behavior, e.g. ‘nice sitting’.
  10. Carefully take the toy away from the child’s hand, praise him for sitting nicely, and then give him a new toy to help him understand that he is getting a toy because he is sitting nicely.
  11. If the child leaves the seat, he must immediately give back the toy, making him understand that if he doesn’t sit nicely, he cannot play with any toys. There is no need to blame him during the process.
  12. Since the most interesting toys are on the table, and there are no other things in the room that the child likes very much, he is likely to return to the seat. We can then immediately give him another toy, and let him know this is the benefit for sitting nicely.
  13. Changing reinforcers from time to time can maintain the child’s interest and ensure he is motivated to continue to sit at the table.

This method not only helps children learn to sit nicely, but also enhances the relationship between children and teachers or parents by playing with toys together. When children get used to and experience the benefits of sitting, toys are no longer needed to encourage them to sit nicely.

Chinese Version:Oh!爸媽 – 坐定定

Information provided by Raymond Fung

Raymond Fung
Behavioral Consultant, M.S. ABA, BCBA

Raymond is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with a Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis from St. Cloud State University, and currently pursuing his doctoral degree at the University of Bristol in education. Raymond is the conference chair of Hong Kong Association for Behaivor Analysis (HKABA), the member of Association for Behaivor Analysis International (ABAI) and the part-time lecturer of a master program of ASD in the Open University of Hong Kong. For over 18 years, Raymond has been teaching individuals with ASD of different ages and functioning levels in 1 on 1, group and school settings at Autism Partnership under the on-going training from Dr. Ron Leaf and his associates. Since 2004, he has been specializing in professional training for therapists, supervisors, schoolteachers, and parents internationally. He consults in China, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Korea, South Africa, and Russia. Currently, he is the behavioral consultant of AP Hong Kong, the clinical director of AP Philippines, and the voluntary consultant of AP Foundation. In 2014-15, Raymond developed 6 mobile applications for individuals with ASD. Raymond has been actively promoting autism awareness and effective treatment by conducting workshops, writing articles for his 2 columns, and hosting a radio program.

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